What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?
Interviews

What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?

What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in China?

Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Japan? In our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy spoke with Darien Robertson and Jodi-Ann Robinson, who are Jamaicans living in Japan.

Xavier: What is it like being Jamaican in Japan? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com. And today with me I have two Jamaicans that live in Japan. I have Darien and I have Jodi-Ann. Hey Jodi-Ann, how are you?

Jodi-Ann: Hi, good morning from the Land of the Rising Sun. I am doing good this morning. How about you?

Xavier: Good. Good. And Darien. How are you doing, sir?

Darien: I’m quite good, quite good.

Xavier: Good. Good.

Darien: A little bit tired, but I’m good.

Xavier: So, I want to jump right into my first question. And the first question, starting with the lady, Jodi-Ann, which paat Jamaica yuh cum from? (Which part of Jamaica you are from?)

Jodi-Ann: I am from the best Parish in Jamaica, the Paradise Parish. I am from Portland, Jamaica.

Xavier: And Darien, where are you from, sir?

Darien: I am from St. Catherine. Portmore to be exact. I was going to argue about the best parish, but I cannot dispute that Portland is the best parish. Nah, I agree. So, you know, you can have that one.

Xavier: Portland is beautiful.

Jodi-Ann: So beautiful.

Xavier: I mean, going along that coast. Let’s not get in there. This is not about me and my visit to Portland or I’m bigging up one parish over the other. Let’s not go there. So, my next question is this. How did you end up, starting again with Jodi-Ann, how did you end up in Japan?

Jodi-Ann: Alright, so a friend of mine. No. About in 2012. A friend of mine told me about the JET Program. And I had gotten through for the JET Program. But at the time, I wasn’t convinced enough to come to Japan to visit. And in 2016, a friend of mine was living here, Kimberly Morris, she kept telling me about Japan. And one day she happened to meet the principal for my school. And you know, they were talking about a vacancy and such, and wanting a theater teacher as well, or somebody with a theatre background and somebody that had experienced teaching young learners. And I applied for the job. And they took me immediately. So, that’s where I got started.

Xavier: Okay, okay. And Darien, I am over to you. How did you end up in Japan?

Darien: Okay. Similar story in that I signed up on the JET Program. I used to work at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Jodi-Ann: Wow.

What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?

Darien: I decided, okay, let me try to travel a bit while still teaching. I wanted to know a bit of a change of pace. Signed up for the JET Program, and I got through. I was very elated. And that’s how it was for me. I just wanted to have a change of pace, change of scenery, and to work with a different age group. I enjoy teaching adults. And I just wanted to see what it was like working with kids. I come from a family of teachers. So, it’s something that we’ve all been doing for a long time. They’ve all wanted me to go into, you know, teaching K12. And, I said, okay, let me give it a shot. This is a good way to do it.

Xavier: Oh, that is great. I mean, let me tell you, I used to teach a little bit myself and the rewards a teaching is not a lot of money sometimes but the rewards of it is. Yeah, yeah. Can’t say enough.

Jodi-Ann: Can’t put a price on that.

Xavier: Can’t say enough. And one of the things I hear, so you guys can tell me about this, is teachers are so well honored, you know, in the Asian countries and in the Orient, you know, Any experience on that? Anybody want, you know, talk to me about that? You know, is that true? I’ll start with you Jodi-Ann.

Jodi-Ann: Okay. Alright, so I have never had the opportunity, unfortunately, of working in a traditional Japanese School. I work at an international school. I work at an Ikawa, so I work with a lot of foreigners and a few Japanese.

Xavier: Oh, I see.

Jodi-Ann: And my boss. He’s also a Canadian. I really wanted the opportunity of working in the traditional school. I didn’t get that chance as yet.

Xavier: Not yet.

Jodi-Ann: Not yet. Right. I’ve been working at this school since 2016. And the level of respect is just remarkable. When I say remarkable, I didn’t even have that experience or in Jamaica, you know. Not to say that Jamaicans, we respect our teachers, and we were appreciated. I was appreciated and so on at my school in Jamaica, of course. But the level of respect that the parents have for you here, and even the children in my school, as I said, I can’t speak for a traditional school, but I work at a really small, I’m in the Fukushima area. It’s really small. It’s countryside. And when I came, it was in 2016, after they had that 2011 natural, sorry, the disaster, and I was well received. They were so happy to have somebody, a foreigner, and as well as the first time having a black person as well, in their school. And I was really well received. And it was a good feeling. It was such a good feeling. And the children as well, they were so mannerable.

Xavier: And you Darien?

Darien: Yeah, I work in a mostly traditional Japanese High School. And yeah, teachers here are revered. It’s a case where all throughout society, once you’re a teacher, you’re seen as just this very high level person because of the level to which they value education, not just in respect and lip service, but financially as well. Teachers are fairly well paid. But yeah, it’s just amazing to see how even. I’ve seen people meet their former teachers, adults meet their former teachers, and they will stop and it’s a whole, Oh, Sensei, you know.

Jodi-Ann: Yes.

Xavier: Master and all of the honorifics, even though they’re both now adults.

Jodi-Ann: Yes.

Xavier: They’re still defer to that person as if they are a child again, and this person is their teacher. And it could be that it was their teacher back in grade one in Primary School or Elementary School. It’s the same level of respect, and it is really wonderful to see. I mean, I know that in Jamaica, we do respect our teachers, as Jodi-Ann said. And you know, you see yuh old grade one teacher and say oh Miss so and so and, you know, you make small talk and stuff, but it’s a lot less formal than what you would see happen here.

Jodi-Ann: In Japan.

Xavier: It’s really wonderful to see.

Jodi-Ann: It’s a high level of respect. Very, very remarkable. I’ve seen or been in situations where the teacher was in the wrong and you know, you have parents apologizing to the teacher, even though the teacher. Yeah. That was a shock for me, because we already know, you know, how the situation would have gone. And it was quite surprising parents are bowing down to you, and they’re apologizing to you, because you’re giving this service to their child that they probably can’t even give to their child, you know.

Xavier: I see. I see. Well, my next question is this. What do you love about Japan? And I’m gonna start with Darien this time, what do you love about Japan?

What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in China?

Darien: The thing I would say I love the most, that stood out to me the most when I came here, the safety. Japan is just wonderfully safe. And I know that it’s not the same for everyone. But I remember the first time I traveled into a city close by on my own, and it was about 11 o’clock at night. And I was walking on the street saying, Okay, I need to hurry up and find an ATM and get to where I’m going. And then I realized people are just, just like as if it were daytime walking around and talking, hanging out, and just sitting on the street side. And this isn’t just in a small town. This is in the big city. Suh, wait, hang on. I can just walk around at literally any time of day or night and I just don’t have to really worry about anything. I know mileage may vary, especially for women, but in general, in the general sense, it’s very safe, very clean as well. So, it was just a breath of fresh air, almost literally.

Xavier: For you Jodi-Ann?

Jodi-Ann: Two things, safety as Darien stated, and the people. The hospitality of the Japanese people is almost perfect and their customer service. I have never experienced such customer service. I’ve traveled to a few countries and the level of customer service. I mean, you don’t have to go to a five-star hotel or a premium resort to get this customer service. You can also have this service at a convenience store. People are bowing down to you, they’re smiling, they’re paying attention to you, they’re listening to you. You are the queen or the king basically, because you’re their customer. They take pride in their customer service. And when it comes on to the hospitality, a Japanese person, which can be good and can be bad, a Japanese person will probably never tell you no. They will do it. They will. Whatever it is that they can do to help you, they will. They will go out of their way to help you.
I’ve been in situations where my friends and I have traveled to outside towns and such, and I remember one Saturday when we went shopping in Sendai, that’s like one hour from Fukushima. And we somewhat forgot where we parked our car and or phone batteries had died. And we saw two, we saw a few persons, but I think it was a couple. Yes, a couple. We stopped them, we spoke to them, and we explained, you know, we couldn’t find the car and such. And they stopped what they were doing and they walked with us and they helped us and stayed with us, which was some, I think probably it was about 10 o’clock at night. Yeah. And they walked with us and ensured that we got to our car and ensure that we were okay.

Xavier: That’s pretty amazing and nice.

Jodi-Ann: Yeah.

Xavier: You know.

Jodi-Ann: I mean, they went out of their way. Like, obviously, they were going somewhere. But they wanted to ensure that, you know, we got to where we were going safely. They made it their point of duty. And for that, you know, that’s such an experience.

Xavier: Yes, yeah. I was talking to Darien earlier, and I said I visited Japan. And my experience there was great. People are friendly. And, you know, I had some ex-coworkers from years ago, years ago. And when they heard I was coming, I kept in touch with them. They were just elated. They took me everywhere. They basically took me around, you know. And I was like, wow, this is really great, you know. So, my next question is this one. What is the thing you least like about Japan? Y’all know that was coming. Y’all know that was coming.

Jodi-Ann: Yes. Of course.

Xavier: I’ll start with you Jodi-Ann.

Jodi-Ann: People always ask that one. People always ask that one.

Xavier: I’m going to start with you.

Jodi-Ann: All right, so I love, love, love, love the Japanese people. But I also, I think one of my least favorite things about Japan is the lack of individualism. Now, what I mean by this is Japan is really big on group or working together in one accord and stuff like that, which is really good, you know. It has its place and so on. But they are not really cultured, they are not cultured too much to have an individual opinion. Or to be an individual or just stand out. You need to fit into this group, you need to be a part of it, you need to have the same answer, you should think the same way. It is done in one way and only one way. One approach. And wow.

Xavier: You don’t have to get deeper into that. You don’t have to get deep into that because.

What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?

Jodi-Ann: While it is important for you to be able to work in a group and you know, community definitely, as I said, serves its purpose and such, you have to first be an individual. You have to feed that individual. Yes?

Xavier: Yeah, I’m gonna say something and, you know, as I said, I worked in a company that we had, you know, a Japanese office and every decision, a decision was never made. Because the decision was always made with the consensus of the group.

Jodi-Ann: Yes.

Xavier: It was, I always have to go back to the group and you had to work in such a way that you know, that they were going to go back to the group. So, don’t expect to come to a meeting and a decision is made. And it’s good and it’s bad, you know. I saw it as, you know, it’s a way of honoring the group and collectively doing it. And I think we in the West are coming from and we as Jamaicans are —

Jodi-Ann: Coming from a different culture.

Xavier: Very individualistic, you know. So, I going punch this one over to you, the same question over to you, Darien, and if you have any comments on this collective, please add. You know, you can start with it or end with it. But, you know, I don’t want take away from your question is what you don’t like, but if you want add to the collective, please do.

Darien: It’s funny because my thing that I don’t like, it feeds into the same thing, the level of collectivism and red tape sometimes. And I don’t just mean on, say a bureaucratic level or government level. I mean, just even say, if you go to a small shop, and there is a selection of items in one color, and they have a few in another color, and it might be possible to mix them. Say you’re buying a slushy. There’s a blue slushy and a red slushy. And you ask the person, the clerk, oh, can I mix the blue slushy and the red slushy? And if they were not trained to say, yes, you can mix these two flavors, they might start panicking a bit.

Jodi-Ann: Yes.

Darien: And wondering, Oh, wait, um.

Jodi-Ann: Yes.

Darien: [speaking Japanese] And then they will leave to go and find somebody who is in charge to give them permission to mix the blue slushy with the red slushy.

Jodi-Ann: Yes.

Darien: And that’s the kind of thing where it can be good. But a lot of times, I guess, for me as someone who is not a part of, you know, the culture, it can feel a bit annoying, where, you know, if you’re in Jamaica, somebody might just say, Oh, yeah man, me’ll mix them fi yuh man. Nuh worry. Nuh worry man. Me’ll mix them man. And they’ll do it for you. Over here, they will go and find whoever’s in charge. They have to get permission before they can do something that you might see as simple.

Jodi-Ann: Yeah.

Darien: It’s right there. Why can’t you just do it? It’s not going to hurt the other products. It’s not going to cause any problems just to do this thing. And they might say [speaking Japanese]. One moment. And then they go to find whoever’s in charge to give you permission to do something. It’s a very permission-based society. There’s no do first and then ask for forgiveness.

Jodi-Ann: Yeah.

Darien: later.

Jodi-Ann: Is true.

What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in China?

Darien: Yeah, trying to use, you know, the own mindset or let me go off the path and do this on my own and sort this out. It’s always a collective thinking. It’s very homogeneous.

Jodi-Ann: Yeah.

Xavier: Okay. All right. So, my next question is this one. Everybody probably has this when they travel, you know, you’re abroad. You’re Jamaican and somebody finds out you’re Jamaican, or you know, you wearing the Jamaica shirt or something. So, give me that moment. The funniest one or the most interesting one where somebody finds out you’re Jamaican? And what comes after?

Jodi-Ann: Okay. You can go ahead.

Xavier: Jodi-Ann.

Jodi-Ann: All right. So, as I stated earlier on, it was the first time that my school was having a Jamaican and also a black person at that. And then there was one student who found out I’m from Jamaica and the first thing he came up to me and he was, he came up to me and he was saying, Do you know Usain Bolt? Usain Bolt? And he started to do the, you know, that the move and dancing and stuff. Or trying to dance. Trying to dance. He was trying to dance, and he was so excited, and he was asking me, you know, if I know Usain Bolt, if I have Usain Bolt’s number, you know, all of those things. And I was talking to him, you know, as best as I could, because he speaks little bit of English. And I know basic Japanese at that time, still basic with the Japanese and I kept telling him for the entire time that he saw me, you know, when I just got here, he kept asking me about Usain Bolt. He was just so excited. And most of the children were like that when I just came. Because you know, of course, that’s what they know. A few of the older students, they asked about Bob Marley and the adults asked about Bob Marley

Xavier: Darien?

Darien: Okay, I’ve had a similar experience in class where you know, the younger students, they always ask about Usain Bolt or Usain Bolto and the adults will ask about Bob Marley. But for me, the funniest experience I had was in 2019. Last year, I went to Iki island, which is a very small island off the coast of Nagasaki. And I went there for a camping trip for two days, and there was a food truck. And when I went over, I realized, wait, this person is selling, you know, jerk chicken. And they had a Jamaican flag. So, I wondered, Oh, did I find a Jamaican way out here? And it wasn’t. It was a Japanese guy who.

Jodi-Ann: Always.

Darien: Oh, he lived in Jamaica for a year and he loves Jamaica so much. And he has a dancehall CD. He has a dancehall mixtape with Masika. Like, wait, what? And he took out a CD. And sure enough, that was him and Masika, and I wish I could remember his name.

Jodi-Ann: Wow. Wow.

Darien: He had this whole album with Mas–. When would you have found time to go to Jamaica for the first time and cut a whole record with a dancehall artist?

Jodi-Ann: Wow.

Darien: And then get it published and put out. Like what?

Jodi-Ann: Wow.

Darien: And we spent the rest of the evening talking about dancehall music and it was the funniest thing because it’s just Iki island is a very tiny island and it’s super Inaka as they would say like, country. Country, country, you know.

Xavier: Bush. A bush.

Darien: It was just so surprising the middle of nowhere I can find a random Japanese person who is in love with dancehall and it was just the most interesting and funny thing to me.

Xavier: Suh, Dancehall in Japan and the, you know, we’ve seen the videos. We’ve seen the, you know, we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it on YouTube and all over the place that, you know, there are clubs. There are places that Jamaican dancehall is pretty big. Have you experienced? I mean, I know you guys are in the country. But you know, any experience with any of that, or just what you’ve kind of seen. You’ve had your experience here Darien. Any experience anywhere else with that?

Darien: Yeah, actually. So, I live in Fukuoka Prefecture in the countryside, but I go into the city sometimes, you know. I do a bit of clubbing every now and again. And there are a few clubs that will play a lot of Jamaican music, or even have specific nights every month that cater spec– just Jamaican music only. And I’ve been to maybe two or three of them. And it’s always a good time. Because the DJs, they will try to DJ the way that we do. So, they’re talking over the track and doing the whole voice, you know, the throaty, shouting thing. And it’s so funny, because if you’re not listening to the language, you might, you know, just a bit it sounds like home. And suh (so), they’ll be playing, you know. At the start of the dance, they’re playing some Celine Dion, or some old school reggae, and then they build up and start playing dancehall. And then you’ll run into people who are actual dancers, like they’re professional dancers. Dancehall dancers, they call them or reggae dancers. And they’ll have performances for a part of the night where they clear the dance floor, and they clear the stage at the front of the club. And then they go up and perform to a few songs. And sometimes you’ll find people who can dance better than you. Like they know all a di Jamaican dance dem (them). I have two left foot.

Jodi-Ann: That’s true. That’s true.

Darien: Mi can help miself, but mi (I can help myself, but I) have two left foot and you’ll find people just. I’m there thinking I’m doing pretty well because I might be one of the few black people, the only Jamaican, so I’m the star of the show. And then somebody else will come along, a Japanese person, and do the dance better than mi. I just like have to creep into the background. Like mi caan (I can’t) manage this.

Xavier: Oh man.

Darien: It’s fun though.

Xavier: I can imagine that experience. You know, Jodi-Ann, you have had a unique experience yourself. And I wanted to ask you about that. You have had a child. I don’t know how old your daughter is. Daughter, right?

Jodi-Ann: I have a daughter. Yes. She’s my daughter.

Xavier: You had a baby in Japan!

Jodi-Ann: I did.

Xavier: How was that experience?

Jodi-Ann: It was an experience within an experience. But I wanted to add to what Darien was saying about the dancehall scene a bit. Are you hearing me?

Xavier: Yes, we’re hearing you.

Jodi-Ann: Yeah, I had a little experience of the dancehall in Tokyo, when I used to live in Tokyo. And I think something that marveled me is that I saw somebody selling like callaloo and stuff like that in the party. Selling peanuts and selling callaloo in the party. And I was like wow. I don’t know if it can get any more Jamaican than that. That’s how pat they had the culture down. Listen, it wasn’t even the dancing for me, it wasn’t even the selectors. The selectors are really good. If Japanese people, Japanese people can replicate somebody’s culture very, very well. They’re very good at that. It’s true. Very good. But I said when I saw that man and he was selling the callaloo and selling peanuts and you know if you go to parties and so in Jamaica, there’s always somebody, there is always somebody selling and especially selling peanuts. And the callaloo, wow! It was my first time meant as well seeing callaloo in Japan. That for me is something that I will always remember.

Xavier: So, tell us about having a child in Japan.

Jodi-Ann: My experience giving birth in Japan. Wow! Firstly, I will say that if I should give birth again, Japan would be my first choice. First thing is that no matter your insurance, the care and so on is the same right across the board. Which you don’t get in comparison to some Western countries and such. You’re not going to get that service, that level or that quality of service. Japan, when it comes on to the healthcare system, when it comes on to the healthcare system, I have nothing negative at all to say about their healthcare system; very good quality. And, what should I say? One thing though, that I should make mention of is that the Japanese are not cultured on using the pain relief, or epidural as we call it. They will not encourage you to use it. They believe in natural birth. They believe in natural birth. They believe that this is the way that you will transition into becoming a mother. Unless you are a C-section or you have an emergency delivery, they will not, they will not encourage you to use an epidural. So, that for me was quite shocking. Also, at 10 weeks old, you have to, you are informed to reserve a hospital or a clinic, a practice where you want to deliver the baby. So, they’re very formal in these aspects in where you have to prepare bus, have to prepare a taxi, if you don’t drive. There has to be a taxi registered to come and pick you up. And also you have to register as well for a midwife.

Xavier: That sounds like everything.

Jodi-Ann: Go ahead.

Xavier: No, I was saying everything sounds like it’s planned out to the last detail on what is going to happen, which is great. Which is great. This conversation, as we said, this conversation has been really good. I’ve actually gone over my typical time.

Jodi-Ann: Oh, wow. Oh wow.

Xavier: It’s really good and interesting. And, you know, wow, what a culture. What, you know, just learning. But I have a question for you, Darien. Now, in China, I visited China. I haven’t experienced this. I didn’t experience this in Japan. I know you’re in the countryside. And I know you are also Jodi-Ann.

Jodi-Ann: I’m also in the countryside in Fukushima. Yes.

Xavier: Have you experience any real curiosity in terms of you’re a black man?

Jodi-Ann: Okay.

Xavier: And someone coming up to you, Darien, and saying, you know, can I touch your hair? Or can I, you know, any of that? Have you experienced any of that?

Darien: I actually have not. Not in terms, not like that, per se. In my town, I live in a very tiny town, there is one other black person who lives there; one other black man. And we live on like, opposite sides of the town, so we don’t see each other very often. But people already kind of had an experience of saying, oh, a black man. So, small children will stop and look at me sometimes. But otherwise, people will just, you know, very polite. The closest to that experience I’ve had was actually closer to the city. I was on a train. And a group of high school students came up to me. And they were so fascinated. They were just saying, oh, you know. They’re trying their best to speak English. So, “oh, hello, sir. How are you?” And then they might default the Japanese [speaking Japanese]. And then they asked to take pictures. Now, generally, I don’t like when someone comes up to me and they’re asking, oh, can I take a picture of you? I don’t like that.
That happened once before. And it feels a bit, you know, like, almost I mean, a zoo. You want to take a picture of me. It kinda (kind of) shaky as you’d say. But he wanted to take a picture with me and try to do a video of him trying to talk to me saying that he’s practicing English. So, I felt it was fairly harmless and it’s a kid, so alright. And he was elated. I know, a whole bunch of them were so happy. And say, oh we’re happy to try English. So, that was very nice. I always like when, it doesn’t have to be my students, I love when students or people overall will step out of their comfort zone. And it’s one of the reasons why even me I tried to use Japanese when I can, because I feel like it’s only right. You know, I’m in their country. So, let me try it. So, for someone to try to speak English to me, even though they don’t have to, they just really love the language and want to do their best. I thought it was really good. And yeah, so he was also trying to ask me about, what was it? I think it was rap music. And so that felt kind of shaky at that point. I was like, okay, because I’m black you’re asking me about rap music. But I do know a bit about rap music. So, okay. And he was trying to have a conversation with me. So, that was my, I guess, my black experience. But otherwise, Fukuoka has a very large population of Africans.

Xavier: Okay.

Darien: A lot of people from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya. So, if you go to the city, it’s very likely that every now and again you spot a black person out and about. And because we’re so close to Nagasaki, the naval base, a lot of people, including black people, will come over from the base into the city. So, I want to say, I guess they’re kind of used to black people.

Xavier: Okay. Okay. Good.

Darien: That’s my experience.

Xavier: So, my last question to you guys, is this one. Food? What is your favorite Japanese food? A going with Jodi-Ann.

Japanese chicken grill or yakitori serve in restourant set on Japanese style dish with flash lighting.

Jodi-Ann: Alright, so of course, my favorite, favorite, favorite Japanese food is yakitori. Now, yakitori is simply chicken on the grill. And it’s done like shredded chicken on the grill. And they put soy sauce on it. And they have them in different variations. You have beef. You have it in liver. You have it in different variations and such. And yakitori is readily available. It’s a street food as well. They have it at festivals. You can easily get it in the supermarket, as well as in the convenience store. And it’s sometimes before I learned that there was a Jamaican restaurant, two Jamaican restaurants here, you know, when I felt for jerk chicken, or when I didn’t want to cook your chicken, I would sometimes go out just to have that grilled chicken and so on; just to have that kind of, it was the closest thing I would say to jerk chicken. You know, it might not be the chicken parts and so. It’s only the chicken breasts. That’s another interesting thing as well. Japanese people aren’t big on eating the entire chicken or all the parts of the chicken. They’re very specific because they have a very healthy diet. So, they’re very specific on the meat parts that they eat. Or they’re very limited to what you will find in the supermarket. So, that’s my favorite food. I would say the yakitori.

Xavier: Darien.

Raw beef and pork slice on grille for barbecue or Japanese style yakiniku

Darien: For me, it’s a bit of a toss-up. But in general, I love yakiniku, which is just grilled meat. So, every now and again, there’s a restaurant that in the, one town over, the closest I can get to, you know, a big town experience. But there’s a yakiniku restaurant and what that is, you go you have a grill in the middle of your dining table. And so you order meats, different meats from the menu, and they give you the meats that’s seasoned the way that, how they season it. Which is usually just a bit of sauce, but you grill it yourself at the table. And I always find that really enjoyable. You can just get meats, vegetables, and maybe you pay a certain amount and it’s all you can eat for an hour and a half. So, you just order as much as you want.

Jodi-Ann: And beer as well.

Darien: Right.

Jodi-Ann: And you get nuff (a lot of) beer.

Darien: I am fond of Japanese beer.

Jodi-Ann: Okay.

Darien: I love Japanese beer.

Jodi-Ann: I’m not really a drinker.

Xavier: So, I have another question I got to ask in regards to food. And you Jodi-Ann seem to have found a place that you’re going to need to tell Darien about because you said there’s some Jamaican thing there and maybe his jerk guy. Maybe he’s a jerk guy that he saw playing Dancehall is a good jerk guy too. So, maybe you’ll two need to trade that. But what do you miss the most, whether it be food or anything? What do you miss the most about Jamaica? What do you miss the most?

Jodi-Ann: I miss my.

Xavier: Starting with you Jodi-Ann. Go ahead, Jodi-Ann.

Jodi-Ann: Okay, so I miss my people, every day. I miss my people, every single day, especially now that I’m doing a live story time every two weeks for children and families, I miss my language so much. And that un-filteredness of the Jamaican people and that warmth, our charismatic nature. I miss that so much. And I just miss the culture overall, you know. That is what I miss the most about my country.

Xavier: Darien, what you miss the most?

Darien: The exact same thing I was going to say. The people, the warmth of the people. Because as much as Japanese people are incredibly friendly, if you meet a random Japanese person, they’re very likely going to be more friendly than a random Jamaican person. But there’s this natural warmth that Jamaican people have, where if dem spirit tek yuh, then yuh just know seh, you know, yuh (their spirit take to you then you just know that you) good, you know. You and them will get along no matter what. Whereas with Japanese people, even if someone doesn’t really like you, they’ll still be there, you know, smiling with you and talking to you out of politeness. And with a Jamaican, it’s just, if someone doesn’t like you, you know. But when you and somebody really click, it’s just great or just in general. An example I like to give is, when I walk around, I do not hear any music played in the streets, you know. You don’t hear a random person whistling or singing or anything like that. It’s very static in a sense. One thing I used to miss is when you wake up on a Saturday morning, you open a window, you don’t hear any music. Yuh nuh hear nuh (you don’t hear no) Grace Thrillers a play while somebody a clean dem (their) house.

Jodi-Ann: You don’t hear the rooster. You don’t hear any rooster crowing.

Darien: So, just the sounds as well, you know. In Jamaica, you driving along, and especially at night, you might pass two or three corner bar, you hear music just playing out of the bars, or you might pass a dance pon (on) the street, or just hear people talking loudly and laughing.

Jodi-Ann: And the patios.

Darien: A lot of that. Yes.

Jodi-Ann: The patois man. It’s just something about our patois language that is just matchless. You know, you’re at work all day. It’s a Japanese particular way and after all of that you want to hear your language, you want to be yourself, you want to communicate with somebody that understands what you’re saying, you know, so.

Xavier: Well, that’s great. Great stuff. So, is there somewhere. I’m rounding up. I know I said last question before. Is there somewhere that if someone from Jamaica was to come and visit that you say, Listen, you must go see this? You have to go see this. Tell me what is it. It could be that you have to try this restaurant, or you have to try all you can eat. Or have to try karaoke. Anything. It could be anything. But what would you say? Because I know y’all are you know, it’s not like in, you know, in a major town. But you have experienced the culture. What is it that you’d say, hey, you have to try this? And I start with you again Jodi-Ann.

What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in China?

Japanese Bath house

Jodi-Ann: Alright. Something that I love and something that I recommend that you must try when you come to Japan is the Onsen. You should try the Onsen. Now, Onsens are hot bathhouses, natural springs. Some are outside. Some are indoors, where you go to relax and take a hot bath and some of them offer massages as well. And Japanese people tend to spend like all day when they go there to just relax and also bond with their family members. I would say this is something that you need to experience because this is a traditional Japanese practice, and this is something that is going to make you feel well. I mean, for me personally, I would not mind going to an Onsen like every weekend to just relax and you know be at one with nature as well. So, this is something that I would definitely recommend that you try out. Oh, and I must include that when you’re in the hot bathhouse, you have to be completely naked.

Xavier: Darien, what do you have for us there? What is, you know, you have to go do this.

Darien: Okay, for me, it’s much more simplistic for me. I haven’t been to an Onsen yet, but I plan to.

Jodi-Ann: Really?!

What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?

Darien: Yeah, it’s very simplistic, but just traveling on the bullet train. It is such, or it was such an experience for me. I’m only 30. So, I never had the experience of traveling on trains in Jamaica. And the train, in general, it’s pretty nice. I was like, Oh, this is nice, this is cool. But on a bullet train, it’s like you’re in this flying metal tube, and you feel the vibration on the tracks sometimes, and you just go and you’re looking out the window. It’s like the whole world is whipping past you. And very often what you can do is pay for a train pass that allows you to ride the bullet train, let’s say, I live on the island of Kyushu, which is the second biggest Japanese island. And you can ride it from one end to the other. It’s about four times, three or four times the size of Jamaica. So, riding the bullet train, to just stop off in different prefectures. And it’s just an amazing experience and a great way to travel around. You get a day pass for tourists, and you’re just riding the train. Riding around to all the different places. I’m not sure if they do it in all parts of the country as well, but it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful.

Xavier: Well, guys, listen, I appreciate you all getting up early, and doing this with us and telling your story and telling Jamaicans about, just about Japan and how it compares, you know, different culture-wise. Any closing thoughts on Japan. It could be an expression that, you know, say, Listen, this is it. Any closing thoughts? Any words of advice? I’ll start out with you. And I’ll let Jodi-Ann have the last word. So, Darien, any closing thoughts? Any advice? It couldn’t be anything. It could be, you know, anything.

Darien: Okay, well, if you’re looking to come to Japan, first of all, [speaking Japanese], you know, good luck. But I would recommend try studying a little bit of Japanese at least so you can have an easier time transitioning. But don’t be afraid to try it. It is an amazing experience. For the most part, you know, Japanese people love Jamaicans. You will be well received. And no matter how you get across here, whether you visited on your own whether you join the JET Program, which I recommend. You know, I’m advertising for them, I recommend the JET Program. Or Interact or any other dispatch company, or you’re coming for school. In general, you’re going to have a great time. So, just enjoy it. Take your time to really take it in. You know, when I just came, I was kind of so harried that I didn’t experience it the way I wanted to. Take it slow. Take it easy. Walk around a bit, look around and meet people. And it’s just a great time.

Xavier: Good advice. Good advice. Jodi-Ann?

Jodi-Ann: So, my advice is similar to Darien’s advice. I would say, definitely visit Japan or definitely experience Japan, especially with your children or with toddlers. Japan is very safe. Japan is very convenient. And they have some of the best facilities for children and young children especially, and most of these facilities are free of cost. So, you have safety, you have the convenience, you have that free resource. You definitely should take advantage of this. And the food. There’s a big diversity of food for everybody. There’s something here for everyone. So, definitely visit and enjoy and immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.

Xavier: And I know I keep saying last question, but Jodi-Ann.

Jodi-Ann: Oh my gosh.

Xavier: Is your daughter learning Patois, English, and Japanese?

Jodi-Ann: And to be honest with you, she is. She started Hoikuen which is the daycare or nursery. She’s the only black child. She is their first black child. And she speaks more Japanese than English. I teach her English. Yeah. I’m sure that she’s going to be more fluent than I am. I am very sure. I’ve heard her like most times, and sometimes when we take the taxis when it’s raining, I don’t drive, so when it’s raining, I take the taxi and some days, she just says a Japanese word to the taxi driver. She’s gonna be two years old and I’m like, where did you learn that word? You know.

Xavier: So, Darien, I’m going to ask you, you know, you sound like you’re using a couple. Like, I know Jodi-Ann know, you know. How has the language been for you?

Jodi-Ann: It’s been a challenge for me. Because prior to coming to Japan I had no knowledge whatsoever on the language and I found it a little bit difficult to learn because there are three alphabets. There are three alphabets.

What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?

Xavier: You can’t stop right there. That’s enough right there. And Darien, on your end, learning the language, how’s it been for you?

Darien: Yeah, it has been a bit slow going because the structure of the language is just completely different, you know. Subject, object verb, as opposed to subject-verb-object that we have in English. So, learning.

Xavier: And sum a we still nuh get dat dey (and some of us still don’t get that there)

Darien: So, things I switched around; the three alphabets; the Kanji, which not even Japanese people know all the Kanji. It’s a massive thing. But once you get the structure of it down, it can be so simplistic in a sense. I don’t want to get too deep into it but like the combination of the verbs and thing. Very similar across the board. So, once you can focus, it’s great to learn. Not necessarily maybe for learning on your own, if you like a classroom setting.

Xavier: I think we have to come there to be immersed to learn.

Jodi-Ann: I think to be really fluent in the language it is good to have Japanese friends. And it is also good to let them speak. A big mistake that we make as foreigners is that the Japanese people are always trying to speak English to us. So, if we spend more time speaking English to them and they learn English from us, and we speak less Japanese. So, that’s a big thing. A big mistake that we make when you come here is that we keep speaking the English and they’re trying and we don’t speak, we don’t practice enough Japanese when we come. When you arrive in Japan, that moment when you arrive, start learning the language right away. There are a lot of free classes.

Xavier: And on that note, that’s a good tip. But on that note, what is bye-bye in Japanese? So, you know, I’ve gone way over I typically. But this was a very good conversation.

What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in China?

Jodi-Ann: I enjoyed it.

Xavier: So, is moshi-moshi hello or moshi-moshi bye-bye?

Jodi-Ann: Moshi-moshi is hello when you answer the phone.

Xavier: Okay.

Jodi-Ann: I’m going to give you a little joke before I go. The first time I heard mohi-moshi when I came here, my boss answered the phone. He doesn’t normally answer the phone in the staff room. So, he said moshi-moshi. So, I said oh, wow, that must be his wife calling on the phone because just the way he answered it was just sounding so nice. And I said wow, and he was on the phone long. And every time I heard people answering the phone and they said moshi-moshi. So, I said, no, that can’t be. Definitely, that can’t be. But it sounded so, you know, it sounded so nice and such. No, moshi-moshi is hello.

Xavier: It sounded like something like we woulda seh (would have said), like you know yuh (your) sweetie or your cutie or whatever.

Jodi-Ann: Yes, that’s how it sounded to me.

Xavier: How do we say the informal bye-bye because we have run over? How do you say?

What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Japan?

Jodi-Ann: Sayonara. I think in any way, whether formally. Am I correct, Darien? Whether formal or informal you say Sayonara.

Darien: Sayonara is more farewell, when’s the last time you’re likely going to see somebody. So, it’s very you know, Sayonara, like goodbye, like, final. But a more casual way, ja ne, so talk to you later. Je ne — Bye-bye. Like literally bye-bye. They say bye-bye.

Xavier: Alright guys, thank you again. Thank you for providing this great information and for telling your story. All the best as you continue to live in Japan.

Darien: Yeah, thank you for having us. It was wonderful.

Jodi-Ann: Thank you so much for having us. It was a pleasure to be here and you know to just add and to share our stories.

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About the author

Xavier Murphy