Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: email@example.com
Lyle Warren (Australia)
Manager of homestay company
(He’s been in Japan since 2002)
A wonderful guy from Australia. He has been in Japan for four years and works every day very hard. He is the manager of a home-stay company, an English teacher for Japanese business persons and a science teacher for kids. He doesn’t stay at one place. He always moves around Tokyo. Now he might be in your town!
*Interview in Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku
I don’t even know what the “Japanese way of life” is
I was an exchange student in the United States. On the way there and on the way back, I stopped over in Japan. When I was in the U.S., I made a lot of friends who are from Japan. They told me a lot about Japan and got me interested in Japanese culture like pop culture, music and manga (comic books). That was what probably started me getting interested in Japan.
After I finished studying in America, I went back to Australia and finished my university degree. My plan was to go back to America and start working. But at that time when I was studying, the terrorist attacks happened in New York. So I kind of decided not to go back. The economy wasn’t very good. People were losing their jobs and my parents didn’t want me to go there.
So I decided that I would try Japan for just six months on a working holiday. Actually I did it and I really liked Japan. So I came back here on the working visa after I went home once.
I don’t even know what the Japanese way of life is. I don’t know what it means. I have many Japanese friends and they all live a very different kind of life. So I don’t understand the Japanese way of life. My Japanese friends are like my Australian friends. Lots of different kinds of people.
Crazy trains go
In japan, there are a lot of people in a small area. So everything looks smaller. Also food is a lot smaller than what I got in Australia. That’s something I had to adjust to.
Crowded trains in Tokyo are bad. I haven’t experienced trains like that in Sydney. It’s really horrible. Especially when I was living in the suburb area, it was so horrible. I had to move to Tokyo. I couldn’t catch the train for 20 or 25 minutes like that anymore. Because stuck in the place with lots and lots of people squashed in really tight. I wonder if that is related to all those people who are jumping from the trains in the morning, I can’t understand. I would never do that but I can understand that would contribute to someone being depressed.
A lot of apartments don’t like foreigners living there
The only other thing that I didn’t like is when it comes to come to renting an apartment. A lot of places don’t like foreigners living there. It’s a very strong institutionalized racism in the country. That’s a big shock for someone who lives in Australia.
I remember when I went to Shibuya and I was looking through some places. One place had like a category. You can have pets, or it has air-conditioning. One of the categories was, “Foreigners allowed/Yes or No?” and that one had “No”. What the f**k’s that! If it was in Australia, that would be completely illegal and the person would be in trouble. Australia has people from a lot of different countries so we can’t have that kind of thing. It’s illegal. I grew up in that environment so it was very shocking for me.
I still have that problem because I’m still a foreigner. I can’t change that. So if I go to rent an apartment, I still have the same problem because I’ll always be a foreigner. I am not Japanese. I can’ t control that. And obviously this is the way the country is, though.
I was going to meet my ex-girlfriend’s parents in Aomori, northern area of Japan. We got to the station and her mom came to pick us up and drove us to the house.
And I met her dad for the first time and I said, “Ohayo gozaimasu (Good morning)” It was 11PM. Moreover I walked into the house with my shoes on. Everyone was freaking out but I didn’t know why. Three or four yeas ago.
BTW, my ex-girlfriend was a woman who wouldn’t say she wanted something. If she wanted it, I’d have to guess if she wanted something.
For example, we have two glasses here. One’s got tea and one’s got grape juice. If I said, “Do you want that tea?”, she would say “no” even if she wanted it. So I took it. That’s what we would normally do.
But later I would learn that she would say, “No” to be nice. That’s a big difference between Australian and Japanese cultures.
It was really difficult for me to understand what she wanted because she would expect me to “guess”. Even if I directly asked for something, she would kind of say the opposite of what actually she wanted. I was really confused.
I don’t think I get older in Japan
I always miss my home so I go back to Sydney a couple of times a year. But when I’m there, I get bored and I want to come back here.
I think I have already stayed here for a long time in my mind. I would always like to have some kind of connection to Japan and be able to come here often.
But I’m not sure if I can just live here, just in Japan for another four years. I always wanna come back to Japan, Tokyo. I don’t want to ever be in situation where I always away from here for a long time. For now I live here. But I don’t think I get older here. When I retire, I will probably be in Sydney.
Sometimes I would like to speak to my family when it’s a kind of inconvenient time. But I don’t really feel that lonely because I’ve got my Japanese friends and foreign friends who live here, but I guess they are very different to my family.
*Photos by T.Y.
What is Tokyo to you?
It’s my second home.
I wouldn’t say it’s good or bad place because I’m so comfortable here. I can’t really judge because I have lived here for so long. I’m very comfortable here. Exciting, interesting, always something new to see every week. I see something that makes me go, “Wow!” For example, people, the way they dress. Something they do. Some new shop, or something’s changed.
Things change here a lot. Things change quite frequently.