FOCUS – “I Keep Moving Forward”

Swedish girl in Kyoto

Interviewee  –  Alex from Sweden, 20, living in Kyoto city



How Did You End Up Living In Japan?


I got interested in Japan originally because I liked watching anime/listening to Japanese music when I was small. Through that, I got generally interested in culture and history. And I’ve decided to make that dream come true to go to Japan and study there. I was only 18 years old, just after graduating from high school when I came here. My parents were also interested in Japan. They weren’t surprised about the fact that I wanted to go, and they were extremely supportive, like encouraging me to go for it.




What Surprised You In Japan?


The first thing that surprised me was the toilet lol Even at the airport, it can even sing you a song. I’ve never seen that before. Other than that, definitely the kindness of the Japanese people. Even my parents came and visited me shortly after.  So I didn’t know much about anything as well and was still insecure. We were doing some sightseeing and people were coming up to us to help. They even called a taxi for us.

まずはトイレね(笑)  空港もそうだけどトイレが歌まで歌ってくれたの。そんなの見たこともなかった。 それ以外は日本人の優しさじゃないかしら。まだ来日して間もないころに両親が遊びに来たんだけど、私も全然まだ日本に慣れてなかったから大変だったの。そんな時に日本人が話しかけてくれてタクシーを呼んでくれたりしたわ。



What Disappointed You In Japan?


There are only several small things but the biggest thing is “how stuck in rules Japanese people are”. They need to stick to rules like 100%, no other way than one simple way. They are very narrow-minded in my opinion. You can see it so clearly at work.  For example; at my part-time job we close the basement at 45 mins, and it can’t be at 44 or 46. Otherwise, the owner will be super mad.



Japanese people are also being pressured to be at school. For example, there is a friend of mine who studies 9 hours a day 365 days at Kyoto University. I can’t believe it, 30 minutes is even hard for me to keep up. I wonder if that’s natural and usual for him.

それから学校で勉強させられすぎてるわね。例えば1年中毎日9時間勉強してる京大の友達がいるけど信じられない。私は30分勉強するだけで充分疲れるのに。 9時間も一日勉強できる人はそれが自然なのかどうか気になる。





What Do You Like About Japan The Most?


Food for sure, and the kindness of people as I said. It’s a typical thing but I really like the architecture. It’s amazing to just walk around. We don’t really have interesting buildings in Sweden, they all look like shoe boxes lol.






What Is The Most Important Thing In Your Life?


To keep moving forward. If I stop, bad things are gonna catch up. By keep moving, I do something that has meaning to it. Also, it’s a thing like I keep feeling the pressure that I need to enter university and get an education. That’s also what I mean by like keep moving. I can’t just stop. Keep accomplishing things that I want to do. Doesn’t need to be a huge accomplishment, it can be like eating in a vegan restaurant for the first time.






– What is it for you, NOT moving forward then?
– 逆に前に進んでない状態とは?


It just feels empty. Because if I don’t accomplish things I want to do, then there is still a desire in myself which makes me feel bad. Me being in Japan is also not moving forward in a sense.  Because I took a detour to go to Japan immediately after graduating from high school. Being here is a great experience but in this kind of sense, I’m not continuing my main thing.



Like everybody from my school is already gonna graduate from university soon while I’m stuck. It’s not a negative thing that way but it’s just kind of pressure from my parents, to be honest. My parents are really old. That’s why I need to keep moving forward, I just need to be done with things that I have to do in life. Accomplishment is the most important thing right now while I get supported by my parents financially.






What Is Your Impression Of Minimalism?


Umm, it’s greedy people keeping their belongings tidy and clean. In one way I kind of associate it with perfectionism. The reason I’m saying greedy is that in my opinion, I feel like it’s just over-exaggerated need for having things perfect. Although, I feel like it’s structured and planned.  It’s also my little inside joke, just when I hear minimalism, it was the first thing popped up in my head as a joke. I probably don’t understand what minimalism is for 100 % but my definition is that it’s just people having the things they actually need, not wasting space, money or things.




It’s all about “prioritizing” in my opinion. Everybody has different priorities, just as they have different limits. So it depends on what you prioritize and what your limit is.  For example; specifically “stress-wise” if you have a very stressful life, it’s ok for people who can handle it but if you are unlucky to not be able to handle it, stress affects your well being very poorly which then make you prioritize. So it could come down to the tiny things, such as simply have their own room clean or this kind of stuff. Human relationships as well, too many connections with people would make these people tired if they can’t manage them all, just like objects they own.





Most Important Thing in Your Life?


It sounds cheesy but a pen and a paper. Logically it’s a phone in today’s society. But, I love to draw and it brings back my memories.





What is art for you then? In one word.








Any Tips to Be Happy?


Prioritize.  I get tired of handling people, socializing. I sometimes need to be alone to regain energy. I have friends who are so social; too many friends without any meaning.  It’s a bit like minimalism when I speak of prioritizing, but I don’t like labeling myself or other aspects of life.











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