Tag Archives: 1990 Japan

It’s Been 18 Years!

17 Oct

Today is October 17, 2008.
I came to Japan on October 17, 1990…eighteen years ago today! Almost half my life.

When I came to Japan in 1990, I was twenty years old and knew basically nothing about this country.
When I first stepped foot alone off of that airplane when it landed at 成田空港 (Narita Airport, just outside of Tokyo), and I suddenly couldn’t understand even one written or spoken word…the culture shock began.

The food, the fashion, the trains, the language, the general atmosphere…everything was so different from what I was used to at that time.

But it wasn’t long before I became accustomed to Japan and began to feel at home here.

Alot has changed in Tokyo during these past eighteen years. Some of the differences between Tokyo then and Tokyo now:

When I came to Japan in 1990, there were no IC Cards, like SUICA, for the trains and buses (see my post about SUICA here).

And signs in Japan, even at the train stations, didn’t have any English written on them. I couldn’t read Japanese back then, so I would have to ask the train station staff how much the fare was and how many stops to the station I wanted to go to.
Ironically, now the signs with the train station names are written in both Japanese and the English alphabet…but I don’t need the English anymore.

The train stations in Japan didn’t have elevators or escalators…only stairs. When our kids were small and we used strollers to take them out, I had to carry the strollers up and down the stairs everytime we’d change trains or exit or enter a train station!
Parents of babies today don’t realize how lucky they are…there are escalators and elevators all over Japan!

The automatic ticket gates at train stations (that you put your train ticket into) didn’t exist when I first came to Japan either.
The stations had attendants who sold the train tickets and attendants at the gates with hole-punchers to punch the train tickets of everyone entering the station…and they collected the tickets from the people when they exited the station.
If someone’s ticket wasn’t enough to cover the fare, they’d stop them and tell them how much was owed…they were able to do this even during Tokyo’s rush hour!

Of course, there were no 携帯電話 (cellular phones) back then…so there were payphones everywhere. And most everyone had a phone card in their wallet.
If an announcement came on at a train station that said the trains were delayed, everyone would rush over to a payphone and stand in line to use the phone to call their boss!

Payphones and phone cards were so popular that it was common to see people (often illegal immigrants) selling unofficial (illegal) phone cards at a discount.
Everyone has a 携帯電話 (cellular phone) now so payphones aren’t all over like they used to be and phone cards don’t sell as well as they used to.

A few other changes I’ve seen are many banks have merged and changed names, イトーヨーカドー (Ito-Yokado stores) changed the logo on their signs, Halloween is becoming more popular (read my post about Halloween here), and the number of foreign visitors to Japan has increased alot.

Everything in Japan is just normal to me now. It has become home.