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OPINION: Traveling to Japan showed me a different way of living

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Creative Commons | The Daily Wildcat

Traveling to Japan shows Americans a new way of life. "IMG_2568 Kyoto Japan" by rurinoshima/Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I was sad when I learned of the news that possibly no foreign fans would be allowed in the country of Japan to watch the Tokyo Olympics. I understand that Japan has had recent COVID-19 surges, so I am by no means advocating putting people in danger.

I am merely saying that I hope things clear up soon so people can go, because Japan is an amazing country. I visited Tokyo back in 2016, and I must tell you it is an amazing place.

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Funny story, me going to Japan was not planned or thought out that much. This is how the conversation took place.

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“Hey Dad, Japan would be a cool country to go to,” I said. “Do you want to go?”

“Sure, why not,” my dad said. Before I knew it, I bought a book to read up on the customs of the country and we were off to Japan. At first, I figured I was just going to another country to have fun. I had no idea I was going to learn some very important life lessons. 

The first thing I noticed when we landed was how clean everything was. The airport was spotless, no trash can was overflowing and there was no litter on the streets. Everywhere my dad and I walked everything was polished and shiny. It was beautiful to see how well the people took care of their city. In Japan, 84% of the plastic gathered is recycled. Compare that to just around 9% for the United States. It is no wonder Japan can keep its streets clean. It showed me that recycling is possible and that it is not as difficult as people say it is. 

Speaking of the people, everybody there was so nice. The first interaction I had with a Japanese person was their version of TSA. They asked why we were visiting, and when we told them they smiled and wished us a wonderful time in the country. I did not meet one rude person my entire time there. The folks at the hotel were so nice that they gave us free breakfast every day, even though we were not staying there long enough to qualify. In Japan, people are raised to put more value on the "group" rather than the "individual." Children are taught at a young age they need to be responsible members of their families and society. I feel that kids in the United States are raised on cell phones and social media, because nobody seems to care about each other anymore. We are so selfish as Americans and most of the time we only think of ourselves. I feel like I can guarantee that I would never be shown the hospitality in America that I was shown in Japan. 

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After my wonderful experience in the hotel, I was off to explore the city. Everything was so colorful and bright. One color I remember seeing a lot was pink, and I loved it. It added a nice touch, especially when it would rain. It was like a scene right out of a movie. I was able to enjoy all these beautiful sights because I felt safe walking around Japan at night. It ranks in the top 10 of the global peace index, whereas the United States does not. According to that same global peace index, America sits at 128 in the world. It is a shame that I had to travel halfway around the world to feel safe, but I was thankful that Japan would do its best to protect me.

One thing that also shocked me was that nobody anywhere was on their phones. With Japan being such a tech savvy nation, I was under the impression that they would be on their phones all the time like us. I was so wrong. Only 19% of people in Japan use their phones 2-3 hours a day. It was so refreshing to see people talk to each other and have genuine interactions. One I will never forget was a father and his young son just talking as they were eating McDonalds. It was so beautiful because I feel we have lost a lot of that in America. The average American spends over five hours on their phone every day. What is even worse is that 13% of millennials spend over 12 hours on their phones each day! It is no wonder kids in America scream at their parents if they interrupt them in the middle of a pointless game of Fortnite. 

What started as a fun trip ended in a very valuable lesson. The United States still has a lot to learn. No country is perfect, of course, but Japan is taking a lot of steps in the right direction.


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 Sean (he/him) is a business administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time. 


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (5/7)
271 1 0.4%
Total (8/4)
266,976 4,348 1.6%
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated May 7, 2021