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Japan: Open Arms or Closed Doors? Japan is really a fascinating nation, whichever way you look at it.

The much more you uncover the more you would like to continue your quest of discovery. During the Edo or Tokugawa era it was a country sealed off from the rest of the globe. It was totally self-reliant, foreigners had been not allowed to enter, the Japanese forbidden from travelling, and trade with other countries (if any) was restricted to a choose few. As such, for centuries Japan demurred as a peaceful, socially structured nation mired in its own culture and traditions. The two century lengthy period is also referred to sakoku jidai literally translated as closed-door or (national) isolation period. Consequently its only fairly recently that Japan has had contact with the outside, and in particular, the western world. An open-door Japan might be a contradiction in terms, however. Whilst it is instantly obvious that the bigger cities have welcomed, if not embraced, the western influences when it comes to fast food chains, clothing stores and cinema multiplexes, Japan still cautiously guards its cultural heritage and its language. Indeed, even though numerous signs, menus, directions etc. are written in English or a minimum of Romaji (transliteration in Roman script of Japanese words) these are purely for the benefit of visitors. The Japanese are more than content material, and, indeed, fiercely proud of their language. Whereas it might appear that Japan and its people do tolerate and appreciate foreign influences, its becoming increasingly obvious that at some point within the not too distant future they might turn round and say enough is enough. This really is more than likely to happen in dietary terms; with among the longest life-spans in the globe, the healthy lifestyle and diet are being battered (pardon the pun) by the fatty convenience foods typical to the US and also the UK. But also in linguistic terms; the encroachment of katakana [script utilized for foreign loan words] into texts of all kinds is on the rise. Even though katakana words may be the friend with the Japanese language learner (particularly on restaurant menus) I cant assist but really feel they detract from the beauty of Japanese hiragana script and kanji. Sufficient of food, nevertheless, and back to language matters. Living in Japan for 12 months in the outskirts of Kyoto in 2004 was a massive culture shock. A couple of stock words and phrases were laughingly inadequate for linguistic survival. Everything was in Japanese! It took a whilst to obtain used to the lack of recognisable signs, labels and menus and by the finish most (or at least a chunk of these) became decipherable. Returning 6 years later, I was astonished within the marked boost in writing in English. Advertisements and station names, in specific, stood out as being more accessible to non-Japanese speakers. Whats more, when attempting to converse with Japanese restaurant owners, which had previously been a lot of enjoyable, we had been greeted with English responses. Have the Japanese, in fact, opened their arms wider to

their foreign visitors? It may be the case that the Japanese are much more accepting of their foreign buddies, but fewer young people are studying English (outside of the school environment) and fewer students are choosing to study abroad (unlike the Chinese). Maybe Japan, which was so used to being self-dependent during the Tokugawa period, cant bring itself to fully open its doors. Its citizens really feel comfortable, supported and confident in their cultural surroundings. Why would they then choose to leave the country, or in fact jeopardise their homeland in becoming totally accepting, to throw themselves into cultures which are infinitely much more uncomfortable? By on Japan