according to the author Amy Trubek it was once normal in Europe too that an apprenticeship could take up to nine years.
When I was an apprentice in Germany we were always told French and Italian cooks had a kind of patriotic attitude. We were explained that would be good for us because German cooks are in comparison very open-minded and eclectic. They deliver whatever they are asked to produce, no matter whether the recipes are French or Italian (or Japanese).
I never considered to go to Japan because firstly there's a language barrier and secondly the market for Japanese dishes in Europe and the USA is somewhat limited. Still I respect the skills of Japanese cooks very much although I am not keen on sushi or blowfish. The way they handle their knives is more than just impressive!
I am not a number.