More strange Japanese customs

Posted on July 05, 2008 | evankirby

Strange Japanese customs 2

At long last, a follow-up to our year-old post on strange Japanese customs. To recap, we put a blank sheet of paper on the wall and asked students to write any strange customs or cultural things they noticed in Japan on that paper. Last year we gave you numbers 1 to 20. This year, numbers 21 to 46:

21: Japanese gear shift! (We don’t know exactly what the student was surprised about – are they very different from those in other countries? Almost all cars in Japan are automatic, but also allow manual switching.)
22: Traditional Japanese bath (You are expected to wash your body before you get in the bath, and everyone shares the same water.)
23: Japan is the #1 importer of reggae. (It’s true that reggae, and hip-hop, are very popular in Japan – there are always posters and fliers around the downtown area for concerts.)
24: Girls stopping dead in their tracks to yell かわいい! (“kawaii”, or “cute”)
25: Overly complicated toilets (Many Western-style toilets in Japan include heated seats with temperature control, adjustable bidet functions, sound effects, and more.)
26: Customs has a mascot. (Sometimes it seems like almost all companies and offices have a cute cartoon mascot – even the tax office puts little animals on their documents…)
27: Everyone assumes I’m American. (Japanese people do have an unfortunate tendency to ask foreigners “Are you American?” This can be very annoying for non-US people.)
28: Bus drivers turn off the bus during red lights. (This is most likely to help reduce pollution. There is a fairly large campaign called “Stop the idling”.)
29: and my friend told me there’s a sign on the bus saying that the exhaust is good for the environment!
30: People saying えええええええええええええええ (“eeeeeeeeeeeeee”, an expression of surprise. Usually said with a rising intonation).
31: Public buses have no priority over other cars, and no separate lanes.
32: No napkins even in good restaurants. (Although, to be fair, they do give you a wet towel instead.)
33: I went to a Japanese party and they were separated into 先輩 (“senpai”, senior) and 後輩 (“kouhai”, junior).
34: Bike riders wear gloves to protect themselves from the sun, but no helmets!
35: Why do so many people hand out packets of tissues but it is rude to blow your nose in public?
36: Hand basin on top of toilet cistern. (This is often considered a case of good design – the clean water going into the toilet cistern can be used to wash your hands after using the toilet.)
37: Little flashing lights on kerbs and junctions at night.
38: Riding bikes with high heels.
39: Look! There’s another 外人 (“gaijin”, foreigner)! (Yes, foreigners are still somewhat rare in Fukuoka, but the number is increasing all the time!)
40: No laughing in the movie theater. (This might be because subtitles aren’t as funny as the original movie, but in general Japanese people are pretty quiet at movies – even scary ones.)
41: Swatting flies by clapping your hands.
42: Girls shave their arms and eyebrows as well as their legs.
43: There’s two settings on the toilet handle, 小 (“shou”, small) and 大 (“dai”, big).
44: The public transport system – it works!
45: There are billions of vending machines!
46: My host father took off his pants after dinner because he was too hot! (We’ve seen this in several places, actually, including teachers at a high school unzipping their pants when hot.)