I’m very often asked by Japanese people:
“Why did you come to Japan? What is your interest in Japan?”
There’s this documentation (interviews with people living in Japan) called “A Life in Japan”.
In the beginning various people tell us their reason(s) for coming to Japan.
The movie then moves on to many other aspects of life in Japan as well.
I might use what the people say in this movie for future reference when comparing it to my own experience.
Back to today’s question:
So, why did I come to Japan?
I guess everybody has unique and individual reasons for coming, but there are some things you’ll hear often such as:
- anime / manga
- Japanese women
- studying Japanese
Before I tell you my initial motivation, I want to know from you why you moved or would want to move to Japan:
So, back to my personal motivation to move to Japan.
Actually I first came into touch with Japan when I practiced Karate in my early elementary school days.
Back then I learned to count in Japanese and also a few Japanese terms and Japanese discipline. I really liked it and practiced it for many, many years!
I also got in touch with a few anime in the mid-80s.
At that time I didn’t know they were Japanese anime. I just noticed that there were a few series I liked more than others and funnily enough the ones I liked where Japanese anime and the ones that were somewhat ok were American or whatever (like He-Man, She-Ra, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and whatnot).
When I was a teenager in the mid-90s I was a huge “Attack No.1” fan and after the 100th re-run, they unfortunately replaced it by a series I’ve never heard of before.
The name of the series was “Sailor Moon” and right after the first episode I totally fell in love with it.
I got so interested that I researched a little and found out that it was a Japanese animation series.
At that time, it was tough to be an anime / manga fan in Germany.
For whatever reason we were behind most other “major” European countries. Almost no manga were on the market yet – and only very few anime were broadcasted on TV.
A few years later Dragonball and Pokémon finally made it to Germany.
In my high school and early university years I was such a huge Dragonball fan!
Slowly some more manga came out, but we still didn’t even have Dragonball Z on TV! I was freaking out especially after visiting Italy and saw how much stuff they had available!
Dark times. We had to get very creative!
Just one example: Back then I was able to receive a Japanese channel on TV, but only the audio, no picture. Luckily they had Sailor Moon and Dragonball and I immediately recognized it.
What I did was, I used the previously recorded episodes (on German TV) on VHS video cassette, turned off the German audio and put on the Japanese audio from the Japanese TV channel. With that I was suddenly able to watch anime in Japanese!!!
Oh, the crazy old times!
Shortly after that the internet spread and most people had an internet connection at home.
And so did I. It opened a whole new world to me! I got access to a lot of information and also met people with the same interests.
I think younger people often forget that just a few years ago things were much more complicated!
They should be happy about their lucky situation nowadays! (I sound like a grandma, huh?)
In the years after 2000 anime and manga finally grew BIG in Germany (mainly thanks to the broadcasting of Dragonball Z) and more and more series became available. Thus, in the following years more and more people became fans.
I studied a bit of basic Japanese (apart from the stuff I learned during my Karate time in the mid-80s) in 1998.
After graduating from high school I was thinking about taking Japanese as a major, but then again I didn’t want to make my hobby my profession and so I decided to go a different path.
In 2002 I took some basic Japanese lessons that were offered at my university.
I didn’t really learn that much and I also didn’t have so much time to spend on studying Japanese although I really wanted to.
Around that time I also discovered Japanese dramas and my interests slowly shifted from anime / manga a bit more to dramas.
During my whole university time I never lost interest in Japan. Through the dramas I got to learn a lot more about life in Japan, Japanese customs and culture and wanted to visit the country in the future to see some of the places I saw in the dramas, to hear Japanese spoken in real life and to buy tons of anime / manga merchandising.
I also saw a lot of delicious food in said dramas and couldn’t wait to taste it myself.
That was my motivation at that time.
However, being a university student, I didn’t have any money and no free time as my vacation time was spent earning money.
Right after graduation (and I mean THE DAY AFTER IT) I was sitting in a plane to Japan. My long-awaited 3-week vacation started. That was in 2007.
I began my journey in Kyoto with day trips to Osaka and Himeji. After 1 week I was off to Tokyo for 2 weeks with day trips to e.g. Hakone, Kamakura and Enoshima.
While in Japan I learned so many things I didn’t know yet.
I wasn’t disappointed. It was even better than I imagined it to be. However, there were also things I didn’t like … and I was kind of happy to be able to go back home after a few weeks.
Back home I missed Japan, though. I was just so curious what else there was to see and experience. I just strongly felt that those 3 weeks weren’t enough.
Shortly after that I decided to move to Japan.
I had nothing to lose. I just graduated from university.
I got the working holiday visa and was off to Japan in early 2008 – just a few months later after my return from my short vacation.
You can read more about how I got a job in Japan here: “How I made it to Japan”
I still remember how much I enjoyed my first year in Japan.
There was so much food I wanted to try – and I did. All the snacks and weird drinks were also very interesting.
I became super serious about studying Japanese and I taught myself so much in such a short time that nowadays I can hardly believe it.
I bought tons of anime / manga related merchandising, doujinshi, figures and whatnot within the first few weeks.
I sat in front of the TV, squealing like a little kid when my favorite drama was on.
I took photos of everyone and everything.
The “honeymoon phase” was really like paradise!
Then, my first vacation since moving took place. It was only 1 week, but I thought I should go somewhere.
And that’s when my travel history really started.
I enjoyed exploring Japan through my trips more than I had ever expected.
From that time onwards I tried to use every single day of my short vacation time (only 3 weeks per year, oh Japan!) to travel to places that sounded interesting.
The more I travelled the more I found out about further worthy places I could visit next time.
I can’t remember when or how exactly it happened but within a few years my interests COMPLETELY changed!!!
Until the end of 2010 I was obsessed with studying Japanese and I reached quite a high level. Through all this time I kept travelling, but from then on I got more and more serious about it.
It was the thing that suddenly interested me the most and I also enjoyed it too much!
I didn’t have time to care about anime / manga or dramas anymore.
I still watch a drama every now and then, but my true interest is traveling and through that getting to know Japanese culture more.
Slowly I also discovered my love for Japanese castles.
Soon I’ll reach my goal of visiting all Japanese prefectures. Meanwhile I did. I went to all 47 prefectures as of December 2012.
By reading this blog you can clearly see what my interests and motivation to stay nowadays are.
I think the shifting was great.
I could get anime and manga even back home, but experiencing Japanese culture and traveling around like that is only possible while I’m in Japan.
Now, I’m curious about you!
Why are you interested in Japan?
If you moved to Japan, did your interests change after a while?
I’d love to hear about your experience!
Thanks for reading.