My Japanese Senior In Tokyo Who Was My Mentor, Teacher, And Friend

She realized I was shy and finding it hard to make friends. If not for her, I may have quit my job within a month.

When I joined my company in Tokyo, I had no friends. Though my team was an all-Japanese team, there were some Indians working in other departments. But, most were already part of closed groups. I was still getting used to my Japanese team and their unique work culture and was quite honestly feeling lost and lonely. I wasn’t used to eating by myself and there were indeed days when I felt like crying.

She made it better for me

It was my Japanese colleague, my senior at work, who invited me to have lunch with her. She taught me how things worked in Japanese teams, she taught me Excel hacks, and Japanese slang. She even helped me shop for cosmetics. She made me feel comfortable and welcome in a new environment.

Even after all these years, I am still in touch with her. I wasn’t part of any “mentorship” program in my company and my colleague need not have bothered with me at all. But she realized I was shy and finding it hard to make friends. In Japanese, “senpai” means “senior”. There is a lot of respect attached to this word, as a senior, typically, takes care of his juniors and shows them the way. If not for her, I may have quit my job within a month.

Even after I left, I am in touch

When I left Japan, she invited me over to her house and cooked such a lovely vegetarian spread for my sake. I was truly touched. Later when I visited Japan for a holiday, she took me out for lunch. There is no way I am going to be able to repay the kindness that she showed to me.

I later made many friends and my Japanese teacher too became like family. Even so, it my “sempai” to whom I will forever remain indebted for making those difficult days, a little bearable.

Image source: KOBU agency on Unsplash

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About the Author


I am a Japanese language trainer with over 10 years of experience in teaching and mentoring students. I have lived in Japan for many years and enjoy sharing insights from my experience in the areas read more...

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