“Globalization is making Japan a more open country, but I still believe Japan is a relatively conservative country.” Foreign exchange student Mizuki Ohmori sat down with me to share some of his insights on his home country of Japan.

Rice, as we all know, is the staple of Japanese cuisine. Most dishes are primarily rice, with a salty or spicy accompaniment. Cold green tea is the most popular drink by far. In terms of dessert, “anything green tea flavored, like ice cream, cakes and parfaits is popular,” said Ohmori.

In Japan, Buddhism and Shintoism are the most common religions. However, most people in Japan are not extremely religious — religion has become more ceremonial and less spiritual. “For example, many people go to the shrine at the beginning of the year to attain happiness for the rest of the year — it originates from Shintoism — but it has become more superficial,” said Ohmori.

Ohmori came to study abroad in the United States because he wanted to learn about different cultures — and what better place to do that than here! Ohmori was born in a rural area about an hour train ride from Tokyo and felt like he was accustomed only to East Asian and Japanese cultures.

“I really wanted to change my viewpoint. I felt that if I stayed in Japan, I would be more close minded, so I wanted to change myself and experience something new and become a more active person,” said Mizuki.  He also really wanted to improve his English, which is another reason he chose the United States as his destination.

Ohmori’s American experience thus far has been a good one, and he is enjoying it here. Although there are some differences between college life in Japan and in America-there are more dance parties here.

“Usually in Japan, a party just means people drinking together,” said Ohmori. Also, in Japan, students usually get a job after graduating college whereas in the states many people go on to graduate programs. “In Japan finding a job is a higher priority than academics,” Ohmori said.

Ohmori’s favorite aspect of life in America is the rich cultural diversity. What he doesn’t really like is the much larger food portions.

We had an interesting discussion about history and the way it is taught in Japan. I was particularly interested in how Japan portrays World War II in its classrooms. “

The World War II taught in Japan is from a more neutral standpoint — they don’t incorporate bias. The difficulty arises in the relationship between China and Japan. The Japanese atrocities in China are a major issue. In China it is taught that the Japanese were very brutal and cruel, but in Japan this is not discussed as much. The situation with Korea is similar. In Japan they don’t go into very much detail on the atrocities committed against China and Korea,” Ohmori said.

Ohmori also added that he felt like “most people have forgotten about the earthquake and the tsunami in the past year. But there are many people that are still suffering and many cities that still need reconstruction.  Many people still don’t have houses, and they’re living in temporary quarters provided by the government. Also, the radiation problem isn’t helping. I want students here to know that Japanese people are still struggling and making efforts to recover from this situation.”


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