By Jess Evora | Photos: R. Rocha
Ryan Rocha was born and raised in Providence, RI. However, if you’re looking for Ryan today, you’ll have to hop on a flight to Tokyo, Japan, where Ryan has been happily living his best life for the past 18 months. His YouTube channel, MindYourWorld captures it all so beautifully. So, of course, we decided to catch up with Ryan to learn about his experience as a Rhode Islander in Tokyo!
In his fascinating interview with us, Ryan shared with us that there is a Cape Verdean community in Japan, that we as Americans can learn a whole lot about manners through Japanese culture, and that living in a different country for sure helps you grow as a person.
Ryan also shared that he loves showing people around Japan, and that he will welcome any Rhode Islanders and any Cabo Verdeans with open arms!
Check out our interview with Ryan below for the full story on his adventures in Japan thus far.
What sparked your decision to move to Japan?
Ryan: “I studied Japanese for a year at URI. I came here post graduation for two weeks and traveled throughout the country to experience a new life and culture. At the time, I was in the U.S. working a job that was not fulfilling my life purpose. In my free time, I would look for ways to come back to Japan and then I found it with my current job. Life has been amazing ever since.”
“At this moment, I am an English Instructor for a major corporation in Japan, teaching one-on-one lessons, as well as group lessons,” Ryan said. “I also run a vlog called MindYourWorld, where I document and present life in Asia for myself and others.”
Overall, how would you describe your experience in Tokyo thus far?
Ryan: “Life in Japan has been amazing. I haven’t had a bad day yet and I don’t plan on having one overall. It’s been a major learning experience since I moved here back in September of 2017.
“Sometimes it can be hard for a person of color in Japan, but as long as you can understand the culture and move correctly, then there will never be an issue,” Ryan said. “Japan has its long standing rules, and it is hard to change their mindset on certain things, but I feel that with the conversations I have with people I do change some aspects in their life, whether with new information or recommendations.”
What has it been like to be in Japan as a Cabo Verdean?
Ryan: “Being Cape Verdean in Japan is just like being a Cape Verdean where there are none. What I mean by that is, CV culture is unheard of in Japan just like how it would be if it was in Texas, per say. It is something that I included in my profile at work just to spread the knowledge of Cape Verde.”
“I’ve always been a top promoter of Cape Verdean culture and anytime that I get a chance to educate someone on CV life, I do. I love my country, and I wear my pride on my sleeve, so wherever I go, I bring along my culture and my history.”
Have you met any other Cabo Verdeans or Rhode Islanders in Japan?
Ryan: “Believe it or not, I am a part of a group called Criolas Na Japão (Cape Verdeans in Japan). There’s about 15 of us living here now, and so far I’ve met four of them. I plan to meet them all in time but it gets kind of hard when we’re all spread out in Japan. As far as Rhode Islanders, I have yet to meet any, however I did meet a guy from Boston once (close enough I guess!).
How do you think you’ve changed as a person since moving to Japan?
Ryan: “This is a hard question to answer because self-analyzation can be biased at times. But when reflecting on my experience in Japan, I’ve realized that I’ve become more polite with my mannerisms, gestures and overall attitude.”
“One thing that the Japanese people have taught me is how to be more courteous and respectful towards others,” Ryan said. “There is a high value of customer service when coming to Japan, and when I visited America in 2018, I realized that America lacks that simplistic quality.”
“I’ve also become more mindful/appreciative of my surroundings as well as being more punctual with my timing. There’s a lot happening in Japan, and to quote the great Ferris Bueller, ‘Life moves pretty fast. [especially in Japan] If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’”
What has been your biggest challenge thus far?
Ryan: “The biggest challenge has been learning the language. I can hold my own when it comes to a beginning of a conversation and making simple requests, but after that I’m like a turtle on its back.”
What has been your greatest life lesson thus far?
Ryan: “The biggest life lesson so far has been just to appreciate and be grateful ofthe small things in life. Appreciating my parents, family, friends, or even my environment is what Japan has taught me. There is a high value on the relations you keep, and how you show respect to those relationships.”
What has been your most memorable experience in Japan?
Ryan: “At this point, so many things have happened so far that it’s hard to say which experience was the most memorable because I’ve had so many. The one that sticks out to me was when I finally reached the top of Mt.Fuji.
“The first time I came to Japan, I wanted to climb it, but my teacher advised against it and recommended to see it at a distance,” Ryan said. “Unbeknownst to me, you can rarely see Mt.Fuji from a distance in the humid summer time.”
“Once I returned back home, I made it my mission to come back to Japan in order for me to climb the glorious mountain,” Ryan said. “In August of 2018, I fulfilled my dream and crossed it off my bucket list. It took me about 8 hours to climb and every step was worth it. I might just climb it again.”
How much longer do you plan on staying in Japan?
Ryan: “I’ve been living in Japan since September of 2017, which makes it about a year and a half since I first moved to Japan. My visa is good until September 2020, so originally I was considering to stay until then, but if the right opportunity comes my way, maybe I’ll stay a bit longer.
Have you had any visitors from Rhode Island?
Ryan: “So far, I’ve had about 10 Rhode Islanders come visit Japan, three of them being Cape Verdean. I’ve showed them where to go and have fun, as well as what to do in Japan.”
“If any of my brothers or sisters from Cape Verde would like to contact me if they are coming to Tokyo, or even if they have questions, I will welcome them with open arms,” Ryan said. “The same goes for Rhode Islanders as well.”
“I love showing people around Tokyo and being the guide they need for getting around,” Ryan said. “I’ve got a bunch of recommendations and I’m always open to sharing them. I look forward to the many others who will come to this gorgeous and magnificent country.”
Thank you Ryan for taking the time to share your experience with us and for representing Rhode Island & Cabo Verdeans so well in Japan!! Best of luck with all your future endeavors.
Check out Ryan’s amazing YouTube channel, MindYourWorld, where he shares stories about his experience in Japan, as well as his travels to other Asian countries.
And Follow the Instagram Account! @MINDYOURWORLD
7 Tips on Surviving Japan
From Ryan’s YouTube Channel “MindYourWorld”
DID YOU KNOW?
A few Rhode Island Facts about Ryan:
1. Childhood Ryan was born and raised in Providence, RI, but moved to Riverside, East Providence at 16-years-old.
2. Education Ryan attended Classical High School in Providence (Class of 2010, One- Oh!). He also attended the University of Rhode Island (URI), where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies & Public Relations, as well as a minor in Business.
3. Involvement While he was a student at URI, Ryan was involved in many multicultural organizations, such as BOND (Brothers On a New Direction), CVSA (Cape Verdean Student Association), Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, and DRIVE (Diversifying Recruiting Inspiring Volunteering Educating).
US & OUR CULTURE
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“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
– African Proverb