And so I moved to a new city for the start of a new life as a salaryman in Nagoya. Perhaps I have gotten too used to the Japan-originated English phrase “salaryman” that I have forgotten how hilarious this phrase is. Ironically, it actually depicts pretty accurately, what we otherwise call “office worker”, and what they do- to get salary.
Most people who have not lived in Japan would probably not know much about Nagoya, and so I’m going to provide some background knowledge and interesting trivia about this place I’m becoming a resident of.
Nagoya is part of Aichi prefecture and is actually the 4th most populated city in Japan, after Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka, yet its name is somehow always left out when foreigners talk about Japan. Well, who can blame them, when Nagoya lacks the bright neon lights, bustling city streets, perpetually on-going fashion parade on the streets in Tokyo, the breathtaking night sceneries and long trade history of Yokohama, and the mouth-watering street food and outspoken and loud language and attitude of the people in Osaka.
To make the explanation simple, Nagoya is somewhere in between Tokyo and Osaka, both in terms of geography and culture. Maybe it is because of this, that the “Nagoyans” find themselves stuck in limbo and in the midst of an identity crisis. To witness this for yourself, just go to the train station. In Tokyo, people stand on the left on the escalator, whereas in Osaka, it is the opposite. When I arrived at Nagoya a few days ago, I found myself amused when I saw people standing on both sides of the escalator. Oh yes, this is Nagoya. The people from the West will never give in to the people from the East, and Nagoya is right in the middle.
However, Nagoya is not without its attractions. Probably because Nagoya is stuck in the middle, it kind of constructs its own unique identity that is different from Tokyo and Osaka, the representatives from East and West Japan. Take its food culture for example. Not in any other part of Japan would you find fried prawns with curry rice, cold ice cream on top of danish bread, or any other food you never thought was “Japanese”. Well, other Japanese probably never knew those were “Japanese food” too.
“Morning service” is one of the best “services” in Nagoya. Enter a coffee shop in the morning and order a cup of coffee. Do not doubt your eyes when you see a hard boiled egg and some toasts served to you in addition to the cup of coffee you just ordered, and it comes at no cost at all.
Last but not least, I, having only lived in Singapore and Tokyo prior to Nagoya, am probably too used to the convenient city life. In my old house in Tokyo, I just had to get out of my house and walk for 5 minutes in any direction to get to a convenience store. In fact, without a hint of exaggeration, I can probably find 10 convenience stores, 2 train stations and 100 people within 1km radius from my old house in Tokyo. In comparison, I had to walk 10 minutes to get to the nearest convenience store, and walk 30 minutes to the nearest station in my new home in Nagoya. As I ventured out to explore my neighborhood today under the (still) hot sun, I was astonished to find that I was the only person walking on the streets. Everyone else was either on a bicycle or in a car.
And so, even within the same country, I was in for a few culture shocks, but I’m looking forward to more! Work starts next week for me, and come visit me in Nagoya!