Arthur:So Stephen where you from
Steven: originally from Southern California near San Diego. A very small town that people have never heard of
Arthur: San Diego, really? It’s not that small.
Steven: No, a small town new San Diego. I say because
Anna: Tula Vesa?
Steven: No, good for you! Not too far from Tula Vesa. A small town called Valley Center. Now it’ll be on the internet so hopefully people can find it, so. Unfortunately the fires are very close.
Arthur: I remember seeing on Facebook, like, they said, there was a guy on the highway and then the mountain was just all in flames. That was surreal, man.
Steven: But yeah I think these are the worst ones we’ve had in about ten years and, yeah, ten years ago actually I left San Diego went to San Francisco which was a nice little escape and you know you just kind of hope for the best.
Arthur: You know, they seem to be happening kind of more frequently.
Steven: Yeah I think the last couple ones, I mean to be honest I haven’t actually been in the area with a fire in a while now. The last one I was actually a part of was like 2007 where like you know college got shut down for a week. It was funny, as I was talking to my mom about this the good part about that is I had my hardest class ever like in my entire life that semester it was like one last week of material which is like a super slacker thing to say but there’s one of the things I was kind of thankful for, but funny funny Japan connection: that was the first week I had sushi
Arthur:That was the first week you had sushi? in 2007?
Steven:Yeah so I mean it wasn’t until college actually until I had sushi. I come from a bit of a smaller area so we didn’t have as many like diverse restaurants and that kind of thing.
Arthur: It’s good to know and so 2007 you have sushi for the first time and then when you when did you come to Japan?
Steven: Came to Japan in, well for the first time it was at the very end of 2013? yeah wow, 2013, and then I moved out here actually in summer of 2015.
Arthur: So what made you come to Japan that first time?
Steven: the first time actually bunch of my friends were coming here on a missions trip and it was a musician’s trip and so I asked if they had a bass player because I played bass and they said no and so then on the first time I met everyone actually three bass players showed up at the same time so it’s kind of funny splitting bass duties but at the time they didn’t so yeah
Arthur: so OK so at that time where did you go in Japan
Steven: at that time yeah we came in we were staying in Akasaka the B Akasaka in case anyone heard of that and then from there we kind of were playing on the streets mostly Shibuya but we also played in a couple other locations whose names I have long since forgotten. But yeah you know mostly on central Tokyo we also played in like Ueno
Arthur: Wow, that is cool and so when you came that first time what do you think of Japan? Or I should say Tokyo what do you think of Tokyo?
Steven: Right? very different from the rest of your family at least from what I’ve heard. It was just interesting because you know, yeah you see maybe movies there and it may or something like that and you know when when you export your culture in such a way like you do you kind of show the rest of the world what it’s about kind of where you’re from like even if it’s not on purpose you know the things you see in your everyday life is the stuff that you’ll tend to like write about or draw about and so kind of seeing what I had seen I guess on the screen in real life was actually really interesting and then you know just seeing all the characters that you have no idea what anything is happening actually before coming I learned all of hiragana and katakana and so I mean hiragana was useless because I didn’t learn any of the language but for Katakana I still remember like walking up to a machine and being like “ko…ko”. Guys it’s Hot Cocoa! you know turning to my friends and yeah we all bought hot cocoa it was very exciting.
Arthur: No, it’s cool like when you finally like “I read something!” it’s like an amazing feeling you know? Man, “ko..ko” I thought you were going to say “kola” or something like that
Steven: Cola’s not exciting. Haha!
Arthur: You know it’s funny whenever I go back to the States I feel like the McDonald’s sizes are getting bigger.
Steven: For me one of the things that’s a little bit hard about Japan is the sizes are smaller and so I usually have to order like twice as much or that kind of thing yeah. Yes I have to eat more a lot more than most people I think it’s unfortunate but I get through.
Arthur: I mean you’re still really skinny so….
Steven: Yeah, I don’t know what’s happening to my body.
Arthur: We’ll cut that out of the podcast Haha! So going back, so you, um. No, it’s totally fine.
Steven: I’m pointing at someone but you can’t see her.
Arthur: Haha no that’s fine. No no, leave that in! Because the people will be like. Yeah, dude… I’m so tired of this please explain to me your background in learning Japanese foreigner. Like I don’t want to do something like that you know. OK yeah but it’s oh so you came in two thousand and three
Steven: two thousand and thirteen
Arthur: Yeah two thousand thirteen and then two years later you came to stay so what happened with that
Steven: yeah so. A lot of life changes happened in the meantime I left my Then Job went to grad school finished grad school and then came out here actually so it’s a rather busy season that’s what Yeah one things I’m hoping to do actually is stay here longer because yeah I’d love to actually put my roots down rather than just kind of keep popping around plus yeah found some great community here in some other great things in Japan is awesome so
but yeah the thing that actually initially brought me out here was yeah for me the biggest decision in my life was actually like following God and so I know that a lot of people out here actually don’t have necessarily the opportunity to hear about that so I was hoping to actually be able to share that opportunity with them which is yes why am I here and why I’m learning the language and why I’m having fun making mistakes
Arthur: it’s cool I noticed talking with you you’re very like outgoing trying to like meet new people and I think that’s really good because you get to share stuff that comes from your heart you know and a lot of times it was a lot of people too you know. But also because you know like one of the reasons I invited you on this podcast Like I said is because I feel like you’re just more you’re shy but you’re also more outgoing and a lot of other people youre I feel like in you there’s more of a burden to go out and like to talk to people.
So. Right changing gears though so what. You talked about. One thing that’s difficult is like the small size and small portions of stuff but what’s something that you really like about living here in Tokyo
Steven: Yeah I mean there is there’s a lot of little things I think one thing that I would point out that maybe not everyone has noticed is that as you’re walking around there’s always something aesthetically pleasing so kind of no matter where you are if you just kind of stop and look around you’ll see something beautiful like sometimes you even have to kind of stop and actually just look at your feet and there’s some intricate carving that you would not have noticed had you just been kind of going about your day little things like that are kind of nice because you know just in your day to day life having little beautiful things is just kind of something that makes you a bit happier
you know that even even though yes you know I’m working in ginza right. Walking down a busy street you know showa doori for anyone who knows it and you know but then just seeing like little potted flowers is kind of like oh you know as I breathe in these fumes of all these cars going by like OK that’s that’s not as exciting but you know seeing like the flowers going like oh, it was just a little nice thing as you’re kind of going along
Arthur: have you seen like the manholes that they have that have like beautiful like illustrations on it and they’re painted and stuff?
Steven: No, I’ve seen nice ones not like painted ones
Arthur: yeah so actually you can there’s a guy who actually feature that on colossal like an art design blog and it was like that manhole covers of Japanand then they just had like beautiful like depending on the city and stuff like they had it in like three colors or something like that is really cool yeah oh yeah but I remember when I started like oh I saw this online!
This is, it’s beautiful but I really feel the same way too at first I was like why do they have to make everything look so cute like who cares let’s just let’s use it but once you get over that and I think when you start living in the now versus living in the future those things become more enjoyable to you I think for me I was super focused and I just cared about the utility of something for the future but I really thought one of things I love about living here is I mean thinking about the future is important too but I feel like some people a lot of people here know how to enjoy the moment too I mean some people work like crazy but especially younger people are I don’t know do you know what I’m trying to say
Steven: yeah well I mean even something that I’ve learned just from being out here and like no one taught me but you just see it so many times actually like when you’re making food how you like put it down and present it which is super funny because my I still remember my mom coming out last year earlier earlier this year that’s right it’s still December and yeah just like yeah just making a little bit of food for her and then just kind of the way that I presented it she even made a comment about it which made me laugh because I’m like actually when I was putting it down I was thinking about how it’s how it’s put down in restaurants
I’m like you know it just looks nicer kind of that way because before I would just said like who cares you’re just going to eat it’s going to your stomach like if it gets mixed up like it’s going to get mixed up later anyways like what does it matter but yeah just kind of taking taking into account the little things is kind of more important than I would have thought
Arthur: That’s cool, that’s cool. What is something difficult for you about living here I guess more based on relationships with with people here.
Steven: Trying to think. to be honest Unfortunately my language skills do keep things a little bit more difficult in that department I’ve actually made quite a bit of quite a few friends with people from different countries aside from Japan but with respect to Japan in particular I think there’s a lot of good intention even with a lack of communication so even though maybe you’re not getting as close to the person mostly because of the lack of language ability you’re still able to kind of have that friendship and it’s actually for me like a pretty big encouragement to keep studying the language because like even as I’m talking with friends you know every couple months you know as we’re talking you know maybe they just can’t say it in English so they just say in Japanese because like everything they can say it and they’re surprised at how much of what they said I could understand and they like you understood that I said yeah and then really like to keep going with the conversation
so it’s really encouraging too you know just like I’m thinking of one friend they are walking down the street and she’s telling me I think about her job being a little bit rough and I was like oh man and just being able to go on or even just having like lunch with another friend and she saying something and I didn’t quite get every word but based on the context you could understand enough and I had just learned like two of the words she used that week before so I was able to fully understand and answer back and then another friend was just like you know getting ready to translate and then I had already answered her question is kind of like a surprise for her.
Arthur: That feeling is so good. So how are you learning Japanese right now?
Steven: So I am in a very fortunate position actually so yeah when I came out here when my friends back in California hit up her good friend and said hey one of my friends is moving out can you help him move into a place and so she’s actually helped me quite a bit she’s one of two people who basically just set up my life for me out here. She’s becoming an English teacher actually And so I want to learn Japanese She wants to learn English better and so we just have a language exchange once a week where we meet together and then on my own I’m using you know Anki or a textbook or whatever.
Arthur: Yeah I think you know talking with people is a really good thing and I think for me when I, that was one thing that really helped me to speak Japanese better. But then afterwards I realized like yeah I have to get used to talking with strangers. I need to get used to people in business I need to get to the next level but having that conversation partner and like people friends would talk to me was the thing that built my foundation you know
Steven: Well one of the nice things too is like luckily with my friend she corrects me that’s one of the best things I know certain people don’t necessarily like being corrected but for me it’s like I’m out here trying to learn the language and so it’s like Oh man if you can help me learn that I’m so thankful you know and you know when it comes to the other one I usually I just kind of repeat what they say you know if they say something incorrectly I’ll be like Oh and I’ll confirm it but using my proper grammar proper vocabulary kind of a thing but for some people I will ask as I get closer friends with them like would you like me to help you actually speak like properly and most of the time it’s like a yes so it’s like OK cool and then you know especially I should say while chatting at work you know sometimes we’ll be chatting to me and I’ll be like actually this way will sound more natural and sometimes I’ll talk to them in Japanese and they’ll be like oh you should say this instead and so it’s yeah just everybody kind of helping each other out a little bit you know
Arthur: so it’s kind of interesting So you’re here learning Japanese and you want to get better at Japanese How do you feel when a Japanese person tries to talk to you because you’re white they try to talk to in English
Steven: It really doesn’t bother me because like from my point of view like people are people If you want to be friends cool if that’s one of the reasons cool but yeah hopefully also we can like talk about other stuff that you know
Arthur: I don’t mean like talk to you in order to practice English with you but I mean like when you go to a store or something and they just talk to you in English because they assume you don’t speak Japanese
Steven: it’s a good assumption let me tell you that.
Arthur: I’m actually OK this was not planned but I’m really glad you said that because actually one of the biggest fears that a lot of my students have is like so oh. If I talk this person in English won’t be get angry at me for not speaking to them in Japanese because they want to practice please you know and there are a lot of people especially Americans who get angry at that and as I actually do like a lesson, a group lesson with some people just before this and I had to talk about this topic for like fifteen minutes just to help them like you know understand that it’s OK you know but
so a lot of people when they see you just walking around like man I want to get to know this guy I want to talk to you know it’s true like like you know it’s amazing me doing my job here I’ve never seen people who are just so honestly interested in you know other people. Really wanting to connect with people and I think part of that has to do with they think oh. Going abroad is my ticket to experiencing the rest of the world and so like maybe I can leave Japan and like find out who I really am by talking to people from other countries but more than anywhere else like people are learning Japanese here because they want to talk to foreigners and when they see foreigners they’re always thinking man I wish I could talk to that guy but I can’t I’m not good enough or like I’m not good at speaking or if I talk to them it’s going to make me He’s going to get frustrated at me or I’m going to make a mistake he’s going to think I’m weird you know like hearing that how do you make you feel.
Steven: Umm. I don’t know, even if, I’m trying to just kind of put myself in a situation right, like if I’m walking to work so I just randomly comes up and starts talking to me I mean well first of all like the English versus Japanese thing I guess you could just start in Japanese but try something basic and see how far we go because I mean
I remember this one time I was eating at a park and a guy came up to compliment me on my chopsticks skills. And so after he said that then he then he’s like do you speak Japanese? And I could I could hardly understand but someone else was there and so they kind of took over from that point but.
I think just starting easy and being willing to switch I mean yeah I do know probably a couple people who would prefer to speak in Japanese but in that case they’ll just reply in Japanese it’s not necessarily like yeah like a good bad thing but with respect to someone just walking up I think it would only be hard if like if you are going to work and I need to get something done then you know you don’t have time but it’s like if it’s on the weekend or something I’m out and someone just walks up and starts talking and actually I think I have had that happen to me but just kind of a fun thing you know because it’s like oh random new person we might not necessarily see each other again but at least it is kind of like a cool fun thing you know and yeah I think from a foreigner point of view it’s kind of like it’s interesting right like someone just walked up and start talking with you like you’re going to learn something maybe about their culture maybe they’ll learn something about yours have just a fun conversation end it there and kind of keep going on with life you know.
Arthur: That’s cool that’s cool. So if someone actually wanted to like get to know you and maybe start a friendship with you what is something they should try to do first you think?
Steven: That’s a good question hello is definitely a great place to start. Konnichiwa Maybe. No but. I don’t know I think it’s just very normal because like at the end of the day we’re all people you know and so it’s kind of like I dunno, just walk up start talking you know you’re just like oh man it’s cold out isn’t it if you like yeah “samui desu ne” you know kind of thing like that’s fine and then just like ask them questions even if it’s just like I mean even yeah, just meeting Anna earlier today right like the first two questions that we always get right like oh where are you from oh hello you’ve been here oh why did you come what do you like about Japan you know it’s like those are the common questions and I’ve seen some people who are who aren’t as happy with that but at the same time like if you can read them and you know that they’re answering short or something like that then maybe switch topics like oh what’s something cool that happened in the last week.
Arthur: Cool man, Well this is been talking with you and actually you did give answers that basically mirror exactly what I’m teaching so I bet you some people are going to think I paid you or something to do this interview
Steven; I’m not getting paid?! Cut the film! Cut the film.
Arthur: But I mean, aw dude, I’m just really happy you got on and yeah let’s try to work out something where maybe we can use this as a way to like build Relationships like get you connected with other people. Sounds good. Ok, thanks man.