Friday, November 30, 2012

Anime is not Japanese


I will preface this with I have watched my fair share of anime, and have gone to anime conventions in the States. I like things with sad endings, and anime is rife with sad endings. Here is a sad ending for any anime lover who dreams of a life in Japan.

Anime is not Japanese. Now, I don’t mean that it doesn’t come from Japan, I mean it is culturally not Japanese.

Sweet Hair Brah!
The people in the shows are not Japanese, physically or culturally. Men in anime have interesting hair, some of them have spiked up hair, some of them have have long flowing hair, in any case there is a large variety of hair styles and colors. Japanese men have short black hair, I would say that a fraction of 1 percent of the male population has anything other than short black hair. Middle school, high school, and public sector workers are not allowed to dye their hair (unless they are preventing grey hairs), men are required to keep their hair short enough that it does not cover any part of their ears, or eyes. There is very little variety in men’s hair styles. Japanese women are lovely, but not very busty unlike in anime. Japanese people have brown eyes, they usually have monolids, and their eyes are less round then most other races. Anime characters however have huge eyes, abnormally huge. Culturally the people in Animes are absolutely not Japanese. Japanese are a remarkably cohesive people, they are very shy, and work very long hours. Anime would never sell anywhere if this was how the anime characters acted. Japanese also have no interest in watching reality on their televisions, so the characters are always extremely... extreme.
Real life anime proportions

I think most people can easily concede that the characters in Japanese shows are not very Japanese, but there are other facets that make anime Japanese right?
Looks real to me
I’ve been working in a Japanese elementary school for the last 6 months, Ben has been working at the middle school, and we have friends that work at the high school, so I can confidently tell you what is true and false about the portrayal of schools in Japan. I am excited to tell you that the way they are drawn is usually very accurate. Big windows, long halls, one large communal teachers room, seats in neat rows, and large chalk boards at the front of the classroom. The one thing you will often see in animes, but rarely in real life is grass, real school grounds are dirt, dirt, and only dirt, no grass, rarely any trees. Here are a few things that seem like they could be true in animes, but I have never seen.
Anime taught me I should expect bento boxes, cute bento boxes, with octopus sausage. In reality, all the students eat the school lunch, which is served in plates and bowls on trays. I am the only person in my schools that brings my own lunch. Children in anime are allowed on the roof. Not a single school that I’ve heard of allows anyone, let alone students on the roof. Students are also required to wear school uniforms, so the kids look very homogenous. Japanese school girl skirts are also much longer then they are portrayed in anime, and are usually knee length, they are usually very dark colors, not the bright colors found in Anime.

Not even close
One of the funniest things to think about when I think of some poor sucker coming to Japan because of what they saw in anime is how sorely disappointed they will be about the technology. Japan is nowhere near a robot revolution, which might not be surprising, but would you believe me if I told you that America is way more technologically savvy? My work computer runs windows 95, and my primary method of communicating with my bosses is by fax machine. People only pay in cash, my bank doesn’t have an online banking option, and in order to withdraw money from the ATM, I use what looks like a check book. Not only is Japan not the technological wonderland that anime (and western news sources) makes it out to be, it is way less technological than America.
Still weird in Japan

Now you are most likely thinking, “So maybe nothing in Anime does not portray Japan. Doesn’t matter, at least people like it there.” At this I sigh an make a very sad face. I think this might be the saddest part for anime lovers. Anime is just as popular in the United States as it is in Japan. I’m very sorry to tell you that there is just as much of a stigma against anime lovers here as in any other country. The only anime I ever see on TV is what I would consider cartoons, like Anpanman, and Doraimon. There is an Anime channel for people with a premium television subscription, but it shows the same stuff as cartoon network back home; One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach.

Now trembling you may work up the nerve to ask “At least it’s easier to buy right?” If I wanted to buy Anime, I would have to travel into Tokyo. In a normal DVD shop, the Anime section would probably take up 1/15thof the collection, which from my experience is about the same as in The States. The price isn’t better either; actually, usually anime tends to be more expensive here. Online shops are definitely your best bet.

For any anime lover that mustered up the courage to read to this point, and can still see through the twin waterfalls pouring down their face, I offer you a tasty morsel of hope. There is a place, where the people look and act like anime characters, the café girls are cute, high tech gadgetry dazzles, and anime is cheap and plentiful! It’s called Akihabara, a small district of Tokyo. It is what an Anime dreamed up, and is a fascinating place to visit.
Anime Mecca

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dishes

One of the greatest things that living in Japan (or perhaps from living on a tight budget), is when you don't have much, you enjoy what you have. Our house back in The States was full to bursting, and as I try to think of what it was full of, I can't remember much. I don't miss my stuff, and frankly dread having to unpack it all from storage.

Ben and I know that we'll only be here till April, and we'll only get to take home a handful of things, so we buy things with much more thought and care.

When I was in Russia, I got to eat dinner at a few Russian homes. My favorite thing about the meals was the dishes. At a dinner set for eight, no two people had the same dish. Each dish was beautiful, and the owners of the dishes could tell me the story of each and every one. The overall feel was a bit eclectic, but reminded you that you were in someones home, not at a restaurant, the dishes invited you to learn about your host. The families told me that each dish represented a time in their life, or a place they had been, set around the table was the story of their lives.  I loved this tradition and really wanted to make it one of my own.

Here in Japan, Ben and I have very few dishes 4 bowls, 9 plates, 8 cups. We've bought each one as we found a new dish we really liked, and now when we set the table for ourselves the setting is dynamic, and representing of our lives here in Japan. Someday, I hope we will welcome a guest to our dinner table, and they will see our lives before their very eyes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Farts

I walked down the hall and a foul smell hit my nose.
"Please let it be poop, please let it be poop." I thought to my self. I looked around, alas there was no bathroom near me, someone had farted. Fear surged through me, for I knew what was to come. The school was about to become a toxic stink house, and I was trapped inside. How did I know this was my fate? 600 kids had just eaten the same lunch. Where there's one fart hundreds will follow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Japan's Internet Piracy Laws

1
A new law in Japan makes downloading copyrighted music and video punishable by up to two years in prison, and a penalty of up to 2,000,000 yen.
News articles talk about how the new law has hurt the music industry. Japanese people are buying less music now.
The goal of the law was to reduce illegal circulation, and increase legitimate purchases  but some studies show that the law has reduced revenue even further.
According to BBC news a group of 80 masked protesters, wearing masks associated with the hacker group Anonymous, picked up trash in Shibuya for about an hour as a means of protest.
Japan passed the law as part of an international push to reduce online pirating, and though similar laws drafted in the US failed to pass legislation, the new Japanese law went into effect on October 1st.

So what have Ben and I seen as an effect from this new law?
Old fashioned forms of piracy are back in full swing. Remember lending your CD to a friend, so they could put it on their computer, or better yet, burning someone a copy? People are bypassing the laws by cutting out the online medium.

People are going retro. When I asked my friends what they thought of the new law, they said they thought it was overboard. They also said they had no interest in buying new CD's, and would instead just download old or foreign music. I'm not sure about the letter of the law, but it seams that people believe the penalties only apply when downloading Japanese music. Foreign music, they believe is still fair game.

What's the most noticeable change since the new law? Businesses in our town no longer play Japanese music. Most of the music they do play is 10 years out of date in the US. I have re-memorized most of the lyrics to the Back Street Boys Millennium album, and am likely to smack my head on a wall the next time I hear "What I Got" by Sublime.

Further reading:
Article by CNN
Article by BBC
Article by Rocket News

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Birthday!

Today is my birthday!
Ben treated me to a special dinner of Yakiniku, which is like korean barbecue. The restaurant owners were really nice, and made me a special fried rice for my birthday with extra spice in it. Yakiniku is a full sensory type of experience, you feel the heat, smell the food cooking, hear the meat sizzling on the grill, see burning coals, and of coarse taste the food seared perfectly to your own preferences. You're doing most of the cooking, but it never feels like work. It reminds me of cooking over a campfire.

I baked Ben and I each a delicious chocolate cake, and we lit candles.

I was born on thanksgiving, and so I would like to spend a moment to give thanks.

Thank you Ben's grandma for the wonderful tatting, it really warms up our home. I also really like the ducky card, it makes me giggle every time I catch it in the corner of my eye.

Thank you Grandma for the hot water bottles and covers. I sleep great now that my feet are warm.

Thank you to Ben's parents for the beautiful scarf.

Thank you mom and dad for the new sweaters.

Thank you to all my family and friends who love and miss me while I am away. I am so lucky to have so many people in my life who are incredibly supportive, and who I know will love me even if I am far away. Thank you, to all you who find my blog interesting enough to keep coming back, you've done terrible things for my ego, and may never think my life is boring again. Thank you all very much! I love you!
-Katie

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mom's Visit: Ryokan





We stayed at Seigaku hotel in Kawaguchiko. The hotel has a spectacular view of the lake, at night the lights from the hotels around the lake reflected beautifully on the lakes surface. Our room had beautiful green tatami mats on the floor, and had a very pleasing minimalistic appearance.

The meals were very nice, we had our own private dinning room which was nice.






The best part of the hotel experience was the baths accompanying. There were two female baths, on indoor, and one outdoor. The baths were beautiful, and completely empty on a monday night. It offered a perfect and relaxing evening.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mom's Visit: Mt. Fuji



I was so glad to hear that my mom slept well her first night in Japan. It doesn’t feel right making your mom sleep on a futon on the floor, but that’s what we had in Japan so we had to make due. We had a leisurely morning, and around 11:00 am we headed out.

We got in my tiny car, and headed to Mt. Fuji. I really tried hard not to show how stressed out I was about driving all the way out to Mt. Fuji without a navigator. Usually I drive, and Ben tells me where to go. This is an ideal system because I don’t read much Japanese, and Japanese don’t label streets, so Ben usually stares at his phone and gives me directions like, “turn left at the light, but the middle left one not the left, left one.” I miss the grid system from back home.

The fall foliage is still spectacular, and the drive was just as beautiful as the first time Ben and I did it a few weeks ago. When we first saw Mt. Fuji, there were little clouds, like a belt around her middle. It must have snowed a few times in the last month, because the snowcap now went two thirds down the mountain. Mt. Fuji was once again stunning, the snow shimmered in the sunlight, and clouds danced around her like little birds.

My plan was to go to one of the less urbanized lakes with a view of Mt. Fuji, but I got lost. We found ourselves on the southwest shore of lake Kawaguchiko, which is beautiful, but Mt. Fuji is not visible. We drove around the south side of the lake until we reached the east shore, this is the tourist trap zone, but there were beautiful views of Mt. Fuji, as well as beautiful trees.

We made our way to the Ropeway that goes up from lake Kawaguchiko to the top of Mt. Kachi Kachi. The view from the top of Mt. Kachi Kachi was spectacular, it offered an unobstructed view of the mountain, which was breathtaking. It was my favorite view of Mt. Fuji.

We ate hoto noodles at a small restaurant with a beautiful view of the mountain across the lake. After lunch we drove around in the forests at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It was fun to watch the mountain peak in out behind thick trees. The fall foliage was amazing, but there was still green everywhere. The rocks were covered in moss, the evergreens were lush, and the grounds were alive with grass and mushrooms. I forget how alive places get when there is abundant rain. We kept driving until it started to get dark, and then we headed to our hotel.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mom's Arrival


Mom’s flight got in around 4pm, Ben and I were going to meet her at Nippori station at 6pm (it’s an hour train ride from the train station, and we figured it would take a while for her to get to the train station after landing). The plan was to meet her at the transfer gate from Skyliner, to the JR station line. We had sent her a map before she left, and had chosen Nippori station because it has very few exits, and is a very small station. We thought this would give us a fool proof plan, we did not however account for the confusion that follows 24 hours of no sleep.

Ben and I got to the station at 5:50, and waited at the largest exit, the one with a giant signs over it, with a huge Welcome sign written in half a dozen languages on it. A dozen other people were waiting in the same spot hoping to see loved ones and friends, and large groups of people flooded out of that gate to greet the friends they had been missing. It was the one exit you had to walk past to get to all the other exits, so when I got a call at 6:20 from my mom on a kind strangers cell phone, I was really quite amused that she hadn’t found us.

Mom had found herself at the small gate, and the one and only gate that was not visible to us from our vantage point. She had been quite sly, and I really think that she did it on purpose to test the true nature of the Japanese. Mom was not disappointed, and after we found her, she told us how nice and helpful everyone had been. One of the station workers was holding on to her bags, and had apparently been trying to best to help a lost woman who did not speak a word of Japanese. Ben and I thanked the man profusely, and began our journey to food, and home.

It might sound like I am belittling my mom, but in all honesty, she had made it to the right station and found us relatively quickly. For any of you who have not done the flight from Colorado to Japan, it is a 24 hour time commitment. Ben and I did much, much worse, and made many more mistakes on our arrival in Japan, and we had the advantage of 2 people, one of which speaks Japanese.

Our trip home meant a transfer in Shinjuku Station (the worlds busiest station), and then 3 transfers after that. We decided to eat dinner in Shinjuku at Ben and my favorite dumpling place. I wanted to show my mom Shinjuku because it is busy, chaotic, and a great representation of Tokyo (it was also on the way home). It was great hearing my mom’s comments as we walked through the area, it reminded me of how strange Japan seamed when I first got here. It also showed me all the rules of society that I now follow without any thought, but had difficulty with when I first arrived. You stand on the left side of an escalator, and walk on the right. You stand to the sides of the train doors when the train arrives to let people off, and then once they have exited you get on. They all come naturally to me now, but I know that I messed up when I first arrived as well.

I was so excited to see my mom. The hardest thing about moving to Japan has been how much I miss my family and friends. It was weird because mom had stepped into my world. I am used to the role of mom as teacher, mom as guide, so to reverse the roles felt very strange, my mom still seems unfazed by this, and doesn’t seem bothered by letting Ben and I be the expert, but it is a very strange feeling as a daughter.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Green Tea


Green tea is frequently associated with Asia back home. At some point you’re your life you have probably heard about its amazing powers as an antioxidant, how it’s great for weight loss, and how it is attributed in part to the longevity of the Japanese people. So how much green tea to Japanese people really drink?
Bucket loads!

I probably drink about 6 cups of green tea a day, and will probably drink more now that it is really cold. Every vending machine has a variety of green teas to choose from, including both hot and cold selections. My biggest school has 50 teachers, and during a typical work day the office goes through about 3 pots of coffee, and about 15 pots of green tea. You will rarely see a teacher at their desk without a cup of green tea.

Before coming to Japan, I didn’t like green tea. I thought it smelled like grass, and had no flavor. I still think it smells like grass, and has very little flavor, but for some reason I like it now. I know that it has helped my health, because it has replaced many much less healthy alternatives. In the states I use to drink a tall cup of juice at breakfast, I would drink water throughout the day, and then at dinner I would usually have a glass of lemonade in the evening. I was doing pretty well beverage-wise by American standards, but when you break it down, that is a lot of sugar. All American drinks have sugar in them, and it seems like the average break down is about 110 calories per 8 oz  (240 mL) serving. On a normal day I will usually only drink water and green tea, which means that I have cut out at least 300 (nearly empty) calories. So green tea has helped me lose weight in that respect.

I don’t miss juice or lemonade, when I was in the states for the summer; I bought what used to be my favorite lemonade, and hated it. I couldn’t stand how sweet it was. My tastes have changed here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Persimmons

I had never had a persimmon before coming to Japan, so the first time bought one I had no idea what to do with it. I actually really enjoyed trying to deduce how you eat them, I felt like a monkey.
Persimmons are bright orange, so my first thought was that I should eat it like an orange. I dug my fingernail into the side, and tried to peel it. That only resulted in me geting persimmon  stuck under my fingernail. The outside feels really smooth and waxy, kinda like a watermelon, so I thought I should cut it open. To my surprise the fruit is the same texture and consistency all the way through, so I figured just take a bite... and I hated it. 

Persimmons are delicious, my monkey brain just had not thought that the fruit might not be ripe. 

If you ever get a chance to eat a persimmon, make sure it is ripe, it should be slightly squishy. Cut it up and let it oxidize before you eat it, this brings out the sweetness. You will know that it is ready when there is a sticky jelly on the surfaces of the persimmon. The entire thing is edible, and there are no seeds. I really recommend trying one if you get the chance.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Language Development


There is a general progression most people go through when learning a language by way of emersion. Language learning is difficult, but I really enjoy it. It feels good for my brain.

Here are the stages I have mastered in Japanese

1.     Getting the feel for the language
(ア)   When you are first immersed in a foreign language your brain has to first recognize the basic sounds of the language, prior to this stage, the language is really just white noise and chatter
2.     Recognizing the Melody
(ア)   Every language has its own eb and flow. Some languages lift at the end of the sentence to indicate a question (English) some lower at the end (Russian). Some languages put stress within words by lengthening the syllable (Most western languages) others stress syllables by pitch (Japanese/Chinese) (video)
3.     Sound units
(ア)   Before you start to pick up words, you pick up sound units, Japanese is actually really easy in this respect because it has a very limited set of sound units. For example the word Happiness would be broken into Ha Pi Ness.

These first three stages really only take about a week, but they are very important for learning to speak a language. Even if you have studied a language prior to coming to the country, if you have only done so in an academic setting you will go through this stage. It is absolutely crucial for developing organic speech patterns.

4.     Recognizing words
(ア)   After understanding sound units, you will start to notice sound unit groups. These are words (or phrses). You will also start parroting (either in your head or out loud)
(イ)   This stage will continue for the entire duration of you language abilities. I come home to Ben nearly every day with a word (or phrase) stuck in my head, and even though I have no idea what it means, I can say it perfectly

Up till now, language really follows a singular track, your mind develops in this order, but once you have gotten to the point of being able to recognize words your mind becomes amazingly capable of absorbing the language, many things start happening simultaneously in what I like to refer to as the “Early language comprehension explosion”
This stage is amazing and highly satisfying, I would say that it usually happens between the 1st or 2nd week, till about 1 to 5 months in. There are many facets to this stage.
 Here is an outstanding film of what a foreign language sounds like at this stage (warning there is some swearing) How American English sounds to Foreigners

5.     Early language comprehension explosion
(ア)   Overall: there will be an explosion in how much you can understand. But you will not be able to respond. It takes a lot longer to be able to recall words to respond to people
(イ)   Parrot
       You will develop the ability to repeat words and phrases back to people, (with or without understanding the meaning). It will be just like a baby, You will be proficient at babbling back at people.
(ウ)   Word meaning
       You will start to learn the meaning of many of the words you recognize. You will understand them when they are said to you, but it will be very difficult to respond.
       You will be able to say a few words that have stuck in your mind, but you will have no semblance of grammar.
(エ)   Grammar parts
       You will start being able to recognize that certain sounds are grammer indicators. Some examples in English would be sounds like ing, ly, the, s. These are the sounds that you hear frequently, but are attached to other words you recognize. In Japanese the ones you start to notice off the bat are masu, desu, o, wa. Your mind ends up categorizing them into a folder in your mind that tells you that these will be useful to recognize and use later in your language development, but for now your mind will just gloss over them.
(オ)   Verb, noun, or adjective
       Without actually retaining any form of grammar recognition your mind will start to categorize different words into verb, noun, or adjective. You will hear so many words every day, your mind has an amazing ability to retain what kind of word something is (but only if it is one of those 3 types other word types tend to thrown out in your mind as filler sounds that are too difficult to deal with now).
(カ)   Daily phrase mastery
       You will master the phrases and dialogs that occur every day. These are things like in English Hello, how are you? Good, how are you? Good….

At the end of this stage you will get the gist of most conversations. You will not however understand specifics or be able to produce any language in the new language You will nearly always be able to answer the question “What are they talking about?”

For a little while you will ride high on your own satisfaction in language development. It feels great. It feels great in your mind, and you feel like a genius. Then you’ll hit a slump, where you start realize, you have nothing to show for it. During this phase you will be remarkably in-communicative. People will ask you questions in the new language, and you will only be able to respond in either your native language, or with gestures. Basic language skills will utterly elude you.

This will kick start what I would refer to as the grind, a horrible stage in language development that is bewilderingly frustrating. During this phase, it never feels like you are developing any skills, it is only once you have moved onto the stage after the grind that you can recognize how much you have learned.

6.     The grind
(ア)   Knowing words
       You will start to actually learn words, you will be able to produce them in the new language, recognize them in a slew of other words, and you will understand them.
(イ)   Understanding
       You will start to really understand what people are saying, and will be able to follow commands. You will be able to explain in your own language the general opinion of the topic you are listening to.

The grind is all about learning words, it is the most frustrating, least satisfying, and tedious phase to be in.

At some point you will realize you are in the phase after the grind, I would refer to this as the Language butchering phase. This is the phase I am in right now, and it is a lot more satisfying.

7.     Language butchering
(ア)   At this point you know a lot of words, and your mind has generously sorted them into noun, adjective, and verb. You have not however retained any grammar. You will now be able to respond to people by rattling off combinations of noun adjectives and verbs.
(イ)   Grammar recognition
       You will start to get an idea of how grammar works, Just like how you started learning words by fist learning sounds, then units, then meaning. You will start by recognizing modifiers, word order, then sentence structure. You will not however be able to produce any grammar
(ウ)   Pseudo conversations
       You will sort of be able to have conversations with people at this point. You will be able to respond to people by saying words to them, but they will have to be very creative in order to understand what you have said. I can have conversations with people who are patient and creative enough to bridge the gaps of my language skills. A sample dialog would be:
Native: Did you go anywhere this weekend?
Me: Mt. Fuji, drive, pretty red trees.
                       
I have a long way to go before I can speak the language, but I am learning, and I am getting better. Japanese is harder for me than other languages because of the writing system. I rely only on developing language from listening to people here, kanji is far too difficult. In other countries I was able to develop language skills by reading and writing, which accelerated my learning. I think that by April, (The likely end of my stay in Japan) I will have developed enough skills to have basic conversations, and be able to define words in Japanese using Japanese.

Yesterday I understood, and laughed at my first Joke in Japanese. It was a land mark moment for me because I would not have been able to understand even just a few months ago. It really showed me how far I have come in Japanese. It won’t translate well but here it is
Santa wa nan sai desu ka? (translation How old is Santa?)
San( )to san wa Roku (Santa is 6/ 3+3 is 6)
Explanation: Sanmeans 3, to means and, or Santo-san sounds like Santa-san which means (Mr.) Santa, wa roku means is 6.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Those Words are Absurd

When you listen to a foreign language  words are first just sounds. When compared to your own language, some words just sound absurd.
Here are a few words in Japanese that sound so absurd I can't take them seriously when I hear them.

Fufu-
means married. Ben and I are fufu. Men already think getting married is emasculating  calling it fufu, is just adding insult to injury.

Niau- 
means it suits you, or it looks nice on you. Whenever people say this word they sound like they are trying to imitate a cat

Moshi Moshi
means Hello (esp. on the phone). It sounds like a sound a DJ would make with a record.

Waku Waku
means I'm excited. I like this word, because it sounds like the noise an excited penguin would make.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MacArthur


When talking about America and Japan at the end of World War II, most Americans feel guilt. We think of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, two of the greatest atrocities ever performed by America. Most Japanese respect America, and in general have high opinions of our nation as a whole. Japanese who speak with me generally respect me, and my origins, and so the idea of insulting the place I call home is against their very nature. When the topic of Nagasaki and Hiroshima come up, Japanese people will generally say something along the lines of “War is a terrible thing, atrocities were done by both sides.” It’s not a topic that is comfortable between an American and a Japanese, so the topic usually shifts to what happened after that.

I never really paid attention in history class when I was in elementary through high school (I actually really regret that now), so I don’t remember what we learned about after the war, and how both sides came to peaceful agreements. As I remember Americans went from WWII to being in a cold war with communist nations. Post WWII however was a reformative time in Japanese history; their entire ruling system was completely redefined. Most Japanese people can remember what they learned about the end of WWII, and when they do they remember MacArthur.

I don’t remember a thing about MacArthur from history class. I had to look up who he was after the first time I heard his name here in Japan. I didn’t really believe what I heard about him in Japan: an American General who ruled Japan after WWII, helped bring food to the people, and paved the way for Japan to become a self reliant and prosperous nation. I feel ignorant and bigoted when I think of how much this rattled my entire belief system around American Military, post-war Japan, and Japanese-American relations.

Until very recently I assumed that Japanese and Germans must harbor lasting resentment towards America due to WWII. My logic was, Americans still view Japan and Germany as the people who were their enemies during WWII. Americans still seem to associate Germans with Nazis, and Americans still associate Japan with Kamikaze and Pearl Harbor. I was sure that there would be a similar reaction from people of these countries towards America, they would have some reason to dislike America as a residual effect of their loss during WWII. I was narrow minded, and am now ashamed of the assumptions I made regarding this topic.
I will not speak of my newfound knowledge regarding German sentiments on post-war international relations, because although I have had enough conversations with Germans to change my perspective, I have never experienced German culture first hand. However, I do feel confident to speak on Japanese sentiments towards Americans, and Japanese opinions of how Americans handled the occupation of Japan. I have spoken to quite a few Japanese on this topic, some more in depth than others. I will write below to the best of my abilities what Japanese have to say on the topic:

When Japan surrendered, it was a different country then it is today. Years of war had devastated the people, and many people were starving. If Japan had not been aided, countless lives would have been lost due to starvation. At this time the Americans had very low opinions of the people of Japan. The countries had just spent such a long time at war, and for war you must learn to hate your enemy. Americans were not entirely wrong, Japan had done a lot of bad things, and it had lost the war. Japan was at the mercy of America. America could have ruined Japan, and in fact if it had been left up to the American president, Japan would have paid in many ways for what it had done during and before the war. MacArthur however knew the Japanese people, and made sure Japan got what was best. 

When MacArthur was young he did a home stay in Japan. This shaped his view of the Japanese people, and helped him truly know what was best for post war Japan. Even during the war MacArthur would not react to Japan’s advances in anger, he would always devise a plan that would minimize casualties, but also destroy Japan’s grip in the Pacific Islands. When the war was over, MacArthur was put in charge of reforming Japan, and he did so with respect towards the Japanese people, and with foresight. He truly helped shape Japan into the peaceful, prosperous nation it is today.

MacArthur had the power to change Japan in whatever way he saw fit. He received a lot of pressure from the American government and people, but he always consulted with Japanese officials so that the reforms were always constructed in a way that was best for the Japanese people. His very first priority when he came to Japan was to feed the Japanese people. He changed land ownership laws, so that the Japanese people could be more productive, and he asked the American people to send aid. He worked on a new constitution in Japan, in it Japan was to renounce war and was forbidden to have its own military, and power was taken from the emperor and the nation was now a democracy. MacArthur made many changes, and still today his policies help make Japan the powerful and prosperous place it is today.

Since speaking with so many Japanese I have done a bit of my own research on him. He spent billions of dollars in food aid for the Japanese immediately after the war. He did not hold the emperor accountable for war crimes, and did not strip him of all his power. He looked at how the Japanese function, and how hierarchies worked within their society, and used that to build a constitution and ruling system that would function without foreign interference.  MacArthur is a remarkable man for how he handled post war Japan.

“The Japanese people, since the war, have undergone the greatest reformation recorded in modern history. With a commendable will, eagerness to learn, and marked capacity to understand, they have, from the ashes left in war's wake, erected in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy of individual liberty and personal dignity; and in the ensuing process there has been created a truly representative government committed to the advance of political morality, freedom of economic enterprise, and social justice. Politically, economically, and socially Japan is now abreast of many free nations of the earth and will not again fail the universal trust... I know of no nation more serene, orderly, and industrious, nor in which higher hopes can be entertained for future constructive service in the advance of the human race.”
-MacArthur 1952