In Japan, when meeting others for the first time, it’s customary to say “初めまして” (pronounced ha-ji-mei-maash-te) – which means something like “nice to meet you” – and to then tell the other person a little bit about yourself. So, class, 初めまして – my name is Josh Hunt, and I’m very glad to meet you.
I’m a college student at Portland State University, where I study both communication studies and Japanese language and literature. I spent last year working as the editor-in-chief for Portland State’s student-run newspaper, but just over a week ago I left my old job and my life in Portland behind. For the next year, I’ll be living on the other side of the world in Tokyo, Japan.
I’m studying abroad at Waseda University on a foreign exchange program. I have been studying the Japanese language for three years, but for the next year things are going to be very different: Each day I’ll be practicing in real life what I learn in the classroom, every time I speak to someone. I’ll also be trying to learn more about how the Japanese newspaper industry works, because I eventually want to work as a foreign correspondent reporter in Japan. But for now, I’m working as a foreign correspondent for all of you.
This is my first time visiting Japan, and I’ve only been here for a week and a half, but I’ve already gone to a sumo wrestling match, eaten many traditional Japanese meals, gone to a Japanese video game arcade, and had many other great adventures with my new Japanese friends.
Japan is very fun, but part of the reason that I’m able to have so much fun is because I’ve worked very hard studying the language and culture of this country for the past couple of years. We all know that learning other languages is important if we want to explore the world, but it’s also important to explore other cultures. In Japan, communication doesn’t happen without an understanding of both language and culture, and without communication we’re all alone – which isn’t very fun.
So what do I mean when I talk about culture? Well, culture can refer to anything from the language, clothing and customs of a society, to the art, literature and media that they produce.
For example, the fact that Americans eat most meals with a fork and a spoon has an element of cultural value. We don’t think very much about it, until, of course, we go out to eat at a restaurant where we eat with chopsticks. When we eat at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant and use chopsticks, we’re also experiencing an aspect of culture. In Japan, I am living with a very nice Japanese host family for the next year, and we eat every single meal with chopsticks and nothing else.
Chopsticks, forks and spoons are tools for eating, but also signifiers of culture. For the next ten weeks, I’m going to be introducing you to Japan and its culture by sharing my adventures with you, and sharing with you the tools to understand a little more about this interesting and beautiful nation.
But this blog isn’t just about me: I’m here to share my experiences in Japan with you, and also to answer any questions that you have about this fascinating country. If a picture that I post on the blog makes you curious, please ask me about it. If you want to know more about something that I write about, ask about that also. I’m going to read your comments each week, and respond to them. Just think of me as your own personal 新聞医者 (pronounced shinboon keyshya) or newspaper reporter.
Each week I’ll write about what I’ve learned, introduce you to people, customs, and important places in Japan, and whenever possible, I’ll include photographs and video as well. Among other things, we’ll explore transportation, entertainment, food, education, and many other important aspects of society and culture here in Tokyo.
Welcome to Reporting Live! I look forward to working with all of you for the next ten weeks – and remember, this blog is just as much yours as it is mine. We’re in this together, so don’t forget to think hard about your comments, suggestions, and questions.