Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s 23 “special wards” and is home to the busiest train station in the entire world. Most of Tokyo’s citizens rely on trains and subways to get to work, school, and social engagements.

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.

This sumo wrestler finished his match early in the day, and left out the front door of the stadium, walking to the train station in his traditional kimono. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in their nice kimono on occasion, even in modern Tokyo.

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.

My friends Sasha and Leo are using their chopsticks to eat at this “yaki-niku” restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo. At yaki-niku restaurants, raw meet and vegetables are ordered, and customers cook their own food over hot coals that are brought to their table, in a special container.

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.

Most of Tokyo’s residents rely on trains (電車 “denshya”) and subways (地下鉄 “chikatetsu”) to get to work, school, and everywhere else. Tokyo has the largest and most reliable train system on Earth.

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.

About Josh

Part-time journalist & student of communication studies.
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231 Responses to 初めまして!

  1. Youki says:

    um, i believe we are supposed to say similarities/differences between our government and Japan’s government, so I guess some are that we both have a capitol, but one of us has a president and one of us has an Emperor. Have you heard the story of why Japanese roofs are/were slanted and curved?

  2. Shock000 (Gabe) says:

    I like cheese!

  3. Shock000 (Gabe) says:

    Also a diference is haveing a president
    They are both “rulers”

  4. Elise says:

    I think it’s interesting that Japan has a constitution and a emperor, while here in america, we just have a constitution. How long did you know that for?

  5. Ashok says:

    Our government and Japan’s are very different. Even though Japan does have a two-house legislature, it has 242 people it it’s version of the Senate (called the House of Councillors) and 480 in it’s House of Representatives. That’s 722 people in it’s legislature, compared to 535 in America’s. Also, Japan’s legal origin system is based off of German civil law, while America’s is based on English civil law. And while in the US the President is both the Head of State and Head of Government, in Japan the Prime Minister is the Head of Government, and the Emperor is the Head of State. And finally, the Prime Minister’s cabinet is smaller than our President’s cabinet.

  6. Ashok says:

    Question for you, Josh. How are the local governments run? Is it through a council, or a mayor, or something else?

  7. rowan132 says:

    You gets a lot of American candy or is there American candy with Japanese characters on it.

  8. Youki says:

    My family celebrations are either a group gathering at a restaurant, or everybody getting together at someone’s house for a party, to talk and have fun. not too different from japanese birthdays.

  9. Ashok says:

    There are many celebrations and festivals that I take part in. Not only do I celebrate the American holidays, I also celebrate the Hindu holidays. Remember when I told you about Navaratri? It means “nine nights”, and it is currently going on. The gollu are up at my house! To see them, click on http://gollu.webs.com/ . Also, like I said in one of my other comments, when we celebrate holidays, we do it as we would in India. But for American holidays, it is a different matter. Our homeowners association have celebrations for Independence day, Halloween, Christmas, and an International day, and we take part in them.

  10. Giovanni says:

    One of the relationships my family has with an owner of a barber is that he lives in the same apartment as me. he often gives us a good deal on the hair he cuts, also, I have an awesome friendship with his son.

  11. Youki IImori says:

    I think that japan should defenitly preserve its traditions, but it wouldn’t be super bad to become slightly westernized. I don’t think that the americans talk about that though, even when they are electing.

    • Sameer says:

      Japan’s government has its similarities and differences. Japan has a Prime Minister and an Emperor, whereas the USA has only a president (you could argue about Congress and the Supreme Court, I guess.) Japan’s power is more divided to multiple people.

  12. Youki IImori says:

    To me, Oregon is like a giant forest with stores. It has really fresh air, and a lot of trees. I also think of it as the “city of books and games”, obviously for its giant powells, and the gamestops and card shacks. My friends are scattered all around town, so chances are you can find one. My home is in the Beaverton area, and my favorite locations in the Portland.

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