A Practical Guide to Working as a Scientist in Japan

Robert W. Ridge


If any country can be called enigmatic, Japan is so. When you walk down an ordinary street in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine (except for the signs) that you are not in any ordinary Western country in Europe. But there the similarity ends. Beneath this facade is a very complex and ancient culture that I am still discovering, and hopefully will for the rest of my life. Culture in Japan pervades all aspects of life. The honorifics that Japanese people use so naturally in speech are but one reflection of their vast cultural heritage, a heritage all too easily missed by the foreigner, hidden as it is beneath the modern exterior that the Japanese show to each other and the world.

The Japanese are generally very kind, exceptionally generous, gentle, fun-loving, unassuming, bright and considerate. It may seem that they are a bit unaware of the stranger in the street, but if you meet or are introduced, they open up as a flower in Spring. I entreat you to delve as deeply as you can into the Japanese way of life. You may never be able to understand how they think, but a glimpse into their inner being is richly rewarding indeed. Please learn as much of the language as you can, because this is a very valuable aid in interacting on your travels and making friendships. A little language goes a long way in Japan.