Japan vs. US

April 27, 2010 at 4:22 am (Food for Thought, traveling)

So as you may or may not know, I just spent a couple weeks in Japan traveling the country via JR railpass and visiting family and old friends. There were a lot of things I began to notice that was…unique about Japan. Some I have known about for a long time, some were new discoveries. Japan is my second home besides the Bay Area (London is my third home), and I felt that I should share some of the Japanese customs that makes Japan different. Here we go! (in no particular order)

Things interesting/different about Japan:

  1. smoking rooms at restaurants. when you enter a restaurant, they may ask you “smoking or non-smoking?”  it’s weird to me that smoking in public restaurants is still allowed, but i guess this just comes with a strong smoking culture.
  2. Mos Burger.  It’s supposed to be the higher quality burger joint in Japan, but to foreigners who would want to go to a place called Mos Burger…it sounds like ‘moss’ and that’s nasty on something I’m supposed to eat.  Same goes for Calpis. Super yummy beverage, but to Americans it sounds like “cow piss”…who in their right mind will buy and drink something that sounds like “cow piss”? So what did the Japanese do? Renamed it to Calpico. Much better. 🙂
  3. Driving = scary. The lanes are so narrow, you question that it was even meant to be a two-way street. Not to mention that they are driving on the wrong side of the road (but that’s just me being American).
  4. They have our classic musicals like CATS!, Wicked, Lion King, etc playing in Japan…I wonder what the songs are like. Did they change these classic songs into Japanese lyrics?
  5. All of the trains are ON TIME or EARLY. Japan’s transportation system is by far the most sophisticated system I’ve EVER experienced throughout all of my many travels.  There are SO many extensive lines, yet they have progressed to immaculate accuracy.  of course, this doesn’t help me who counts on the possibility that they will wait for me (i’m always rushing to catch my train), but it does wonders for everyone else.
  6. drinking in the Yanaka cemetary… yes, people were actually sitting under cherry blossom trees and drinking beer, sake, etc with friends and having a merry ol time. a bit weird..
  7. Shinkansen and other trains are so smooth I can’t feel it moving! Sorry London Underground, i love you to death but you can be dreadful with high-pitched squealing and jerking around the tracks.
  8. motion censored flushing sounds in the bathroom. “what does that mean!?” you may ask. well, to understand this, you need to first understand how outrageously polite Japanese people are.  Women are the most extreme cases, and they can take the “women don’t poop” (sarcastic) statement to a new level. by this, i mean that there are motion censors in the bathroom stalls that create fake flushing sounds whereabouts you can drop your load without having other bathroom mates hear you drop. crazy right? but also pretty cool.  all you public pooping phobics out there, this is your savior.
  9. this is more of an observation, but there are four types of men in Japan: 1) dorky looking, 2) thug/punk,
    3) girlie looking, 4) preppy…and of this, i think it’s safe to say that 50% of them are awkward, regardless of what category they originally fall into
  10. No tipping necessary!  In Japanese culture, it’s actually RUDE to tip (so don’t do it!).  Their belief is that you should naturally be providing great service and that tips are not necessary.  This no tipping thing is actually hard because I always experience the BEST SERVICE in Japan. Everyone is so freakin’ nice, I WANT to tip!
  11. This is also another observation by my mother! “There are a lot of unattractive people in Japan, an then the decent ones overkill their beuaty with too much makeup caked on their faces!”  This really only applies to the females. Make-up is big in Japan. I could never keep up with it…but then again, I’m a simple lady 🙂
  12. Japanese tea ceremony is simply breathtaking.  We drink tea – instant tea mostly – like it’s nothing.  It doesnt phase us how beautiful the practice of tea making and tea serving actually is/was before it digressed to the small packets we place in our mugs.  We don’t appreciate the cheap kind we drink everyday to stay awake at work. I’m SO lucky to have had the chance to learn traditional Japanese tea ceremony at an official tea ceremony house (thanks Fujiko obasan!)
  13. Nicer taxi drivers: they don’t start the meter the moment you sit in the car, they ask you what temperature you want the car to be, get out of the car to greet you (the ones you call to your address), and the door automatically opens/closes for you
  14. Pour drinks for the other person.  It’s rude to pour your own drink, so be attentive of those around you and pour them their drinks!
  15. Smoking trains exist! It’s literally a big haze in there, so nasty.  Don’t make the mistake of sitting in one of these cars.  I lasted 2 minutes before I chose to ditch my seat and stand in another car.
  16. Watching tv on your cellphone.  Since I was a kid I have watched Japanese technology with such fascination.  They seemed to always be ahead of the curve in terms of cellphone technology.  And although we are slowly catching up, we are definitely not. They can stream normal TV on their cellphones!!! and this is a normal thing, not an elitest i-have-to-buy-this-crazy-phone-and-then-buy-this-box-and-app-and-pay-for-this-special-service type thing. Amazing. Get on this, Slingbox!
  17. 80 year old man on the train wearing navy blue slip on shoes that say”play well” on them.  This is just something I saw that was funny. 🙂
  18. Last but not least, HOT toilet seats and butt cleaners (bidet). My first experience with these was when I was 9, and at first i thought they were weird because the warmth of the toilet when you first sit down reminded me of a toilet that some fat person had been sitting on for hours and I just sat down after them. But when it’s cold, it’s actually quite nice and calming. haha. as for the butt cleaners, my cousin tricked me into pressing the buttons because at the time (9yrs old), I couldn’t read the japanese characters that described what was about to happen to me. SO AWKWARDLY WEIRD FEELING. i def screamed bloody murder the first time i tried it, and my cousin was just laughing her butt off in the stall next to me.  i know it’s for cleaning, but it still feels weird even when you’re all alone in the stall when you play with it. and you can adjust the pressure of the spray too! my parents now want one in our house…
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