Interviewed by Isao Tokuhashi
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Daniel Snowden (UK)
Today we introduce you to one of frequent visitors to Japan – Daniel Snowden from the United Kingdom.
When we held a small drinking party in Roppongi, one of its attendees joined us with him. Fortunately all of our attendees could speak English, so he seemed to enjoy talking to local Japanese people and sharing his ideas with them.
We’ve met him almost every time he came to Tokyo so far. Therefore we came up with an idea of interviewing him to return his attachment to our country.
This is a must-read interview for anyone who are planning to visit Japan!
*Interview in Akihabara
I love the country where is NOT a place to work
I work in Leeds now, but actually I did look at job openings in Japan for a while because I love Japan and I’ve been here many times. However I gave it up when I heard about Karoshi (過労死, literally “overwork death” in Japanese). I’m not thinking of working in Japan for now, but it’s something I might be considering future depending on how their working culture may change.
I love anime, but I started to discover it when I was in my 20s, not so long ago. I remember that the first anime I really got into was “The Super Dimension Fortress Macross”, which was originally run in 1982 in Japan. I happened to find it on the Internet when I was in the UK around 10 years ago. Then I started to watch more anime works such as Mushi-Shi (蟲師) and Erased, and some Japanese live action movies as well, such as “Ring” and “Ju-on (呪怨, The Grudge)”.
First visit to Asia, first visit to Japan
I’ve been to Japan 9 times since February 2012. I’ve been to a lot of places besides Tokyo area, such as Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kure (Visiting Maritime Museum), Miyajima Island and Sapporo (For Snow Festival). I went to Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture and Mt. Asama, Gunma Prefecture this time. Also I remember that the previous year I did visit the Space Center in Tsukuba. I haven’t really seen that much of areas in Japan other than those places.
I remember that I felt very excited when I very first arrived. Because Japan was a part of the world I’d never been to before. But I did get a little culture shock when I arrived at Narita Airport because Japan was different from where I had been to before. I’d been to the US a few times when I was younger, and I travelled a little bit in Europe. That was my first visit to Asia. Japanese alphabets and Chinese characters written on signs were so impressive, but fortunately I could read some of them because I was a little bit learning the Japanese language.
I initially came here with my friend. He was my old friend who was studying about Japanese culture and Japanese society at that time. Actually I got interested in Japan a few years before my first visit to Japan because of him. I’ve been curious about Japan and Japanese culture for quite a long time. Later my friend started to work here as an ALT, which meant it was easy to come to Japan for me because I could stay with him who knows about Japan very much. Then I started to come here very often. Also I have some friends in places such as Tokyo, Hiroshima and Sapporo. That’s also the reason I visit Japan frequently.
Exploring “Everyday Japan”
Every time I come here, I realize that Japan is definitely getting ready for the 2020 Olympics. And I feel that even here Akihabara, one of my favorite towns in Tokyo, is also changing. When I first visited this town back in 2012, there were a lot more shops selling things like dojinshi (同人誌, self-published works, usually magazines, manga or novels). But not so as many as now. There are a lot more electric shops and definitely tax-free shops for foreign tourists. But there are still shops selling things like model figures, so I’m quite happy with that!
I love Japanese pop culture, but I’m also interested in the traditional side of Japan. So I’ll also find a place like Kanda Shrine nearby if I visit Akihabara. Yesterday I went to Omiya Park to visit a museum of bonsai art. I’ve been seen obvious tourist places around Tokyo, so I started to visit more of the places such as Omiya (Saitama Prefecture) and Kashiwa (Chiba Prefecture), which are described as “Everyday Japan” in recent years. Those might not be so attractive for tourists, but I enjoy wandering around the train stations and seeing what kind of shops or restaurants people may go to. Also it’s interesting to see large shopping malls or restaurants attached to large railway stations because we don’t see that as much in UK.
What I want to do in Japan is to travel throughout the country. Also I want to visit places where I’ve been to before such as Kyoto, where I spent only one day before, and see more temples, shrines and castles. I’ve seen a lot of places in Kanto region, so I’ll explore the Kansai Region next time.
What is Japan to you?
It’s the “Land of Contradiction”.
I’ve noticed many things in Japan which are more advanced and more hi-tech than elsewhere. Then you’ll notice another that there are also a lot of things which are still kind of old-fashioned. For example, they are still using FAX machines and bank books. That’s interesting for me. I think the contradiction which exists in Japan is the balance of tradition and modernity.
The rest of the world is influencing Japan, but also Japan is helping to influence the rest of the world. For example, “Kanban” (Just-in-time manufacturing), Toyota’s production method, is now very popular in manufacturing companies in the West. I think Japan and the West should utilize the best parts of each other’s working practices.
But I don’t want Japan to change to be a lot more familiar to me or comfortable for me. Because I’m always interested in understanding how and why the country is the way it is.
I’d like Japan to appreciate their culture and society rather than want Japan to change to the particular way. I always want it to be a unique and fascinating country.