Hello everyone, its been a while since I put out any blogs. As you may know, I’m currently studying abroad in Japan as an exchange student, and today, I’d thought I’d share what it is like to be an Indian person in Japan.
First of all, I love Japanese food, but man, do I miss my mom’s food. I mean, there are actually quite a few Indian restaurants around here, and I actually made friend’s with one of the uncle’s who runs a place in my area, but North Indian food just isn’t the same. I love naan and curry and all that jazz, but as a girl who is highly lactose intolerant, naan slathered with butter and creamy curry kind of destroys my stomach. Man, what I would do for a dosa right now!
Also, continuing on the topic of food, if you are a vegetarian, or like me, you don’t eat red meat, things may be a bit tough in Japan, especially if you can’t read Japanese. If someone out there is a vegetarian or has some sort of dietary restrictions when it comes to meat, here are some useful characters that might help some of you out:
牛(gyuu) – cow, beef 鶏(tori) – chicken 魚(sakana) – fish 豚(buta) – pig, pork 肉(niku) – meat 卵(tamago) – egg
And for those of you who are lactose intolerant like me:
乳(nyuu) – milk 牛乳(gyuu nyuu)- cow’s milk (specifically) 豆乳(tou nyuu) – soy milk (very useful and delicious!)
From experience, I know just how hard it is to be in a different country when you have dietary restrictions. People have various allergies here, but lactose intolerance is rather rare. Regionally speaking, people of Indian origin are very likely to have lactose intolerance, like me, because it is in our genes.
Just remember, if your vegetarian, vegan, or whatever, people may not understand what it is that you can and can’t eat, so my advice would be to stay calm and patiently explain it to others. After I told people that I don’t eat pork or beef, many people, even those close to me, have a hard time understanding that yes, I don’t eat hamburgers, but no, it isn’t a shame because I honestly don’t really want to.
Another part about being in Japan is that not many people can tell what race I am. Most people can guess that I’m Indian, or at least believe them when I say so, but I often get things like “so…your dad is Indian, but what is your mom?”. Maybe I just don’t look classically Indian, but I do certainly feel more exotic here. I always get stares from people in the train or just while I’m walking around, and I can here them saying things like “I wonder where she is from” or “she looks quite unusual” or something like that. It is a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve definitely gotten more used to it.
Finally, being an Indian in Nagoya (in Tokyo you probably won’t feel like this as much) makes me a bit lonely. I’ve met people from Indonesia, Thailand, Sweden, France – all around the world, but there aren’t many Indian people here. The Indians who do live in my area are all older men and women mostly from Tamil Nadu, but because a majority are Christian/affiliated with the Catholic church, I have no one to share my faith with. Also, since none of them (by them I mean the 7 Indian people that I have met) are my age, so there is a sense of loneliness in a way.
Although there have been quite a few uncomfortable moments, one thing that is important to consider is because there aren’t many Indian people here, it provides a chance for one to share Indian culture with other people. Japanese people are very interesting in hearing about other cultures, so whether you are Indian, Chinese, American, or whatever, just come to Japan with an open mind and a willingness to teach and you will have a great time.