Uninteresting Fukuoka

Hello Jinhan,

This is with regards to the recent Fukuoka post you blogged. I wanted to post this in the comment section but apparently it was marked as spam.

Anyway, I have been to Fukuoka, it didn’t seemed like there was a very interesting city. There’s canal city which is a big shopping mall (but SG has a lot of shopping malls alrdy), Ohori park(Japan in general has a lot of parks, Ohori didn’t felt any special), Gion Yamakasa (which takes place once a year only) and Yatai (well it’s fun to go there once or twice until the novelty wears off).

I am currently an undergraduate business student who would like to head to Japan for exchange in 2019. I am looking at Keio and universities in the capital in general since there are lots of things to do in Tokyo, not to mention there is a annual career forum for exchange students (I never know if I want to work in Japan). I briefly explored Osaka because reddit said the people there were very friendly but in general I think you attract the kind of person you are so I wouldn’t be too worried about that. Kyoto was also another option because I liked the historical architecture but there didn’t seem to be much to do.

There is also the choice of Kyushu university (one of the N7 universities) which I wouldn’t have bat a second eyelid if it were not for the fact you mention in one of your past blog posts that you would someday like to live in and work in Fukuoka. So may I know what is it about Fukuoka that makes you want to live there?  Because I can’t seem to find anything good about the place.

And secondly, if I decide to work in Japan’s financial industry someday (since I am a business student), do you have any knowledge on how is the industry over there like?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Appreciate it.

Hi W,

I kinda feel that this is going to be a short response to your mail, but that does not mean I care less about your questions. But again, I may end up writing more than I think I would. In any case, I hope my response would be satisfactory.

Fukuoka was the place that made me first decide to live in Japan. At 20, my first trip to Japan included Tokyo and Fukuoka. Tokyo was fun, but that only made me think I want to visit it again. Unlike Tokyo, Fukuoka was amazing.

What was so amazing?

I don’t know but I felt right being there.

To each their own. I’ve got a friend from Singapore who thinks like you. He hates the countryside and his dream had always been to live in Tokyo. A dream he has fulfilled. He had always wanted to drive a BMW and he owns one now. He’s always wanted to buy a house in Tokyo and he lives in a house of his own now.

When you attempt to convince me how Fukuoka is not interesting, you mentioned its shopping mall, park, festival, and street food stalls that are either not frequent enough or are similar to what we can find in Singapore. And based on that, I can see where you place your values. Again, to each their own. You have your own measurement of “interesting” that could be similar to some and different than others, just like how some people place importance in money but I don’t. I’ve said it to death, but the decisions I’ve made in life so far has mostly been unrelated to money or anything tangible (i.e. number of things to do).

When I decided to abandon JC life for polytechnic, relatives thought I made a bad decision. They couldn’t understand why I would go for polytechnic when JC was all the hype and the route to a brighter future and higher salary. When I enrolled for NUS, I’ve never thought about how it could benefit my career and give me a higher starting salary. My sole purpose was to be eligible to apply for the Japanese Monbukagakusho scholarship open to Japanese Studies majors at NUS because I wanted to live in Japan and my family couldn’t afford to send me here. Although I eventually switched majors because I didn’t like studying what I don’t enjoy.

I don’t plan what to do to get somewhere. To the contrary, I set clear goals for what I want to do and the steps to get there just fall into place. That makes my journey more flexible. To put it more simply, when opportunities appear in front of me, I don’t turn them away just because they aren’t in my plans. I think about whether they could get me to my goal and then decide whether or not to take it. That’s why I don’t decide on my next step, but when I see a step, I know if it can take me to the next level.

After graduating from university, my aunt asked if I regretted spending an extra year in polytechnic when all my friends graduated a year earlier. But as things turned out, I only spent an extra year (actually only 6 months due to credit transfers from poly) and I have a Diploma in Internet Computing and a BA in Linguistics. All my friends graduated 6 months earlier but all they have is their BA or BSc. Those who spent an extra year getting their Honors graduated later than I did but an Honors degree has no value for me, which is why I didn’t do it.

In 2010, when China was hot on the heels of Japan about to overtake the latter as the world’s second largest economy, I decided to move to Japan and Dad was against it. He suggested I move to China because it’s got more prospect. Without my knowledge, he told a wealthy distant relative about my decision and the relative who owns a few English language schools in China asked if I was interested to teach at their new school about to open in China at that time. I said no.

Pardon the long story, but my point is, my view is different than others. Same way your view is different than mine. Looking at your basis for your choices (i.e. to choose Tokyo over Kyoto), I see that having lots of things to do at a place is important for you. That makes things interesting for you. I respect that. I don’t see the need to convince you otherwise because our values are different. If you don’t find anything that makes Fukuoka good enough for you to want to live there, then go ahead and choose somewhere that suits you. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. My love of Fukuoka cannot be explained in words. Even when I tell Japanese people that I love Fukuoka, their reactions would be, “Oh yeah, the food is so great!” I know immediately we don’t share the same values because the food isn’t even in my equation. I love the people and environment and just being there makes me feel so comfortable for reasons I cannot tell. Same as when I exited Nagasaki airport, I was in love with the prefecture immediately despite not having seen anything else.

A lot of arguments in the world happen because people try to explain others’ actions based on their own values. It’s like wondering why the monkey is swinging on trees all the time when you’re a dolphin and being able to swim makes more sense for you. But if you look at their decisions based on their values instead of your own, you would realize a lot of decisions would make sense.

So, to sum up my grandfather story in one sentence:

No, I don’t know how to make Fukuoka interesting for you if having lots of things to do is important to you, because I agree with you that there isn’t much to do in Fukuoka.

Regarding your second question on the financial industry here, I’m not so sure what you mean by how it’s like. My impression of Japanese banks in general are very rigid and traditional so depending on what is important to you in a career, you may or may not like it. Most other people I know in the financial industry here all work for foreign MNCs like Barclays and they basically don’t require any Japanese language skills since everyone there speaks English. Since many also deal with overseas counterparts, the work hours can go late into the night or start really early in the morning especially if you need to have meetings with partners in New York, for example.

Regardless of whether you end up in Tokyo or Fukuoka or anywhere else for that matter, I hope Japan treats you well and you find joy in whatever means something to you.

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