KYOTO, JAPAN: Over a three-day weekend in September, members of API AJET residing in Shiga, Kyoto, and Hyogo all gathered together for the first Block 6 API meet and greet. While it was an intimate affair, we all got a chance to meet and talk about some of the things that we all had encountered. Some of us had been in Japan for only a few months, others had been in Japan for a few years, and some alumni came who have moved onto bigger things.
After some introductions, the attendees found that while growing up, we were fortunate to have experience with Asian culture, so interesting conversations sprouted up about the stories and “compliments” we had all received from our teachers and other Japanese people about using chopsticks or how each individual piece of sashimi was explained to us at enkais. We all were able to laugh about it, because of our experience using and eating these things prior to coming to Japan, but we all did note the kind of balancing act of wanting to be polite, but also trying to figure out how to say we have eaten, used, or seen these things before. It was noted that perhaps this is the easiest way for Japanese people to easily start small talk with us.
We discussed how questions and reactions from Japanese people can be handled and in the end it comes down to the perspective you want to take. It’s similar to when a Japanese person was to visit another country and be asked multiple questions about things they eat and don’t eat. The response from anyone in the world living in a new country comes down to how you want to see it, positively or not. As API, we talked about these things along with working to try and remove some of the stereotypes that society has.
In the end, despite being a short meet and greet, it was wonderful to be surrounded by such positive people. We kicked a soccer ball around, enjoyed some snacks, and just got gathered as any group of people would. We talked about work and some of the crazy stories we all had. We laughed about dealing with the winter (most of us have or had not dealt with snow before coming to Japan). And we talked about what it was like being an API. The best thing to see may have been how cheerful everyone was and how we take these challenges (some related to API and some not) in stride with a smile on our face…unless you have to walk to work in the snow of course, then you may shed a few frozen tears. But that’s a story for another time. ◆