Tokyo Interview #12 Dan Zuckerman

Tokyo Interview

I'm really happy to see you.

September 2 (Sun), 2007

#12 Dan Zuckerman

Israeli restaurant "David's Deli” manager

Japan is very safe.
But you have to sacrifice yourself to be in
a safe society.

Today's talk is with Dan Zuckerman, a manager of "David's Deli". Dan is from Tel Aviv, Israel and he is enjoying his daily life in Japan now.
But he has faced difficulties, especially in communication with Japanese. He says Japanese has a unique way of communication.

*Interview at David's Deli (Shirokane-takanawa)

Click here and get to know more about his restaurant!

I fell in love with Japan.

I came here for the first time in 1985. I was traveling India, Nepal and Thailand. I have travelled for eight months. Then I went to Japan.
I remember that a lady was rushing into the subway and she dropped a jar of jam on the floor. It became dirty but he wipe it off and she got on the train. I was really impressed by that.
The second thing I remember is sento (bathhouse). It was so nice! After a long trip around Asian countries, I felt all the dirt was wiped out.
While I was in Japan, I went to Hokkaido (the northern island of Japan) and worked at a youth hostel near a lake as a volunteer. I stayed there for about four months. Altogether I was in Japan for 6 months.
I thought I would stay here for a short time and go to California. But I really "fell in love" with this country and its culture. So I stayed. After I went back home, I felt I wanted to come back to Japan again.

I prefer Japanese traditional things to modern ones.

When I was 24, I was serving time in the army. Israelis join the army for three years and most of us go out to travel for about one year after that. Because you want to be free from much stress. In my case, I came here.
I went back to Israel to go to the university. I studied Japanese for one year there. But I couldn't improve my Japanese skills enough, so I decided to come to Kyoto.
I stayed there for two years and studied Japanese language more at school. I chose Kyoto because I was interested in traditional culture. I prefer samurai in Edo Period and Japanese gardens to modern things. But two years later, I felt I would have to be in a more international big city. So I moved to Tokyo.
I stayed in Tokyo for three years until 1990. Then I went to England and stayed there for four years until 1994. I went to college there and then I went back to Israel. I was there for three years. Then I came back to Japan in 1997.

Earthquakes are much more dangerous than suicide bombings.

Japan is very safe. But you have to sacrifice yourself to be in a safe society. There are many rules in Japan. Everybody keeps rules.
News footages of suicide bombings in Israel don't tell you the truth. It's not the real fact. Especially the center of Israel is very safe. The chance of encountering suicide bombs is low. One suicide bombing kills 20 people at most. No, it rarely kills as many as 20.
I think earthquakes in Japan are much more dangerous. When I experienced it for the first time, I was in Kyoto and it was very frightening. I didn't know what to do. The whole building was shaking. Also the earthquake in Kobe and vicinity (Great Hanshin Earthquake) killed more than 6,000 people at one time.
I've never experienced an earthquake in Israel. It occured in Israel maybe once every 50 years. Nobody dies because of earthquake in my country.
The image of our country is very bad because news shows tell people only bad news. Israel is a nice country. it's true. Tel Aviv, Eilat, Jerusalem... Very nice. Food is very good. People are generally very happy.

If a train is supposed to arrive at 10:32, it would arrive at 11:32.

There are many people in Tokyo. When I went to Shinjuku Station for the first time, I was so surprised. I went there in the rush hour. It was 8AM. I couldn't believe that many black heads were walking. They were indistinctive.
But it's amazing how everything works. In Israel, even though there are not so many people, so many problems happen with transportation. On the other hand, in Japan, no problem happens with transportation even though there are so many people. Trains arrive on time, everything is on time.
Japanese people think it's natural. If a train is supposed to arrive at 10:32, it arrives exactly at 10:32 in Japan. But in Israel, it would arrive at 11:32.
So Japan is great in that respect. But sometimes I feel sorry for Japanese because people seem to lose their naturalness. It's a pity, but Japan is still a great country.

Appearance and reality.

At the beginning in Japan, I liked everything. But gradually I felt what Japanese people think and what they say is different. I got shocked. I think it happens to most foreigners.
Israeli people are very honest. What we say is usually what we think.
It happens to even us. After two years in Japan, I went to visit Israel. It was difficult for me to communicate with Israelis because Japanese way to communicate is different from ours. If I became like Japanese, it would be very difficult to be international. I'm OK now because I got used to and learned that situation.
I tried to become Japanese as much as possible at the beginning. So I threw away my culture. But It was a big mistake because I'm not Japanese. I cannot become like Japanese so I had very difficult time.

Saying what you think is very important.

Japanese people don't say what they think. So you have to think many times before you talk. If you want to say something to someone, it would be very difficult.
My wife is Japanese, but she talks. When she is not happy, she talks. That's why our marriage is going OK. If she didn't talk, we couldn't live together.
At my workplace, it was very difficult for the first few months because people didn't say anything to me very much. Whether you do something good or something bad, they don't say a word. You become crazy because you don't know what they're thinking. Then small things light the fuse and explode. You should say something before the explosion happens.
I've learned how to communicate with them and they also found out how to communicate with me. I always brought Israeli custom into this workplace but it didn't work here. So I also do things in their way.We work together so the situation is quite nice now.
I have to accept Japanese way. Otherwise I can not live here. It's fine. Now everything is almost going smoothly.

I don't lose myself. Otherwise I become nobody.

I live in Japan so I have to behave like Japanese. But I don't lose myself. Otherwise I become nobody.
I always try to think which the best way is to act in certain situations. I think Japanese society is being under pressure. All the time you have to behave properly. I often find mothers say, "Don't do that!" to their children. In Israel, that kind of thing never happens. But in Japan, everybody say, Don't do that!". Then you can't learn what to do correctly.
But I think I'll stay here for a long time. I have already led my life here. Everything I built is here. People I know are here and my family is here.

IMGP4925.jpg *Photos by Misato Kawasaki

What is Tokyo to you?

Tokyo is an amazing city.

I recommend everyone to visit here. To live here is not easy because there are so many people. And it's very hot in summer. But this is a great city to visit.

I love it. Food is great.

Dan's Link

David's Deli:

*Click here and get to know more about his restaurant!

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