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All you ever need to know about Japan

posted on January 14th, 2008 by jay

After spending 10 nights in Japan I am now qualified to make sweeping statements about the Japanese culture. The following are immutable truths (told in a convenient pros and cons style) about this wonderful and bizarre country:

Pro
Suntory Boss is the boss of them all since 1992.

There’s no use denying it.

Con
Japanese people seem as pro-Japan as Americans are pro-America. I was asked by one of my gracious host’s fathers why we came to Japan. He was an awesome guy but really pushed hard for an answer he found satisfactory. I think the question was probably just mistranslated and he actually asked, “How awesome is Japan?” The same day, a man on the street approached us and told us in English that “Japan is number 1.” With proof like that who was I to argue. Instead, we replied with, “Nippon ichi!” and he was gleeful and satisfied.

Pro
Engrish is awesome and plentiful. Some of my favorites taken from a photobooth – “Have fun it!”, “I want to try everything!” and the grammatically correct yet absurd, “You’ll be inferior to no one!” The amount of Engrish in Japan is puzzling – both of my hosts immediately knew “Have fun it!” made no sense.

Con
Japanese people have a terrible sense of fashion. Almost all girls wear high heels, one of every two cannot walk in them, and one in three women you see will have on a skirt that barely covers her ass. Men wear pink things and accessorize as much as the women.

Japanese sunrise is better than American sunrise. It’s quieter and less pushy.

Pro
Because so many men have purses and wear pink, I am a manly beast by comparison.

Con
Try having a large nose in a country where the people don’t have noses.

Pro
Most people are extremely polite. This is almost a con because after a certain amount of politeness you begin to feel like you’re putting people out. There are only so many gifts you can accept before you start to wonder if they’ll be able to pay for electricity next month.

Con
The only way to get service in many restaurants seems to be to scream “EXCUSE ME!” as obnoxiously as possible.
SUMIMASAAAAAN!!!!

Funny story – Japan loves convenience stores, but they also love shortening words. Combine this with the trouble they have pronouncing our letter “v” and the result is the “Conbini.”

Pro
Trains run on time. Coming back to Washington only to sit in stalled trains on a daily basis makes me ashamed.

Con
The few train delays are usually caused by people jumping in front of them. This is an acceptable form of suicide, but the train companies fine the families of the deceased for holding up peoples commutes.

Pro
Crime is almost non-existent. America should borrow their individuality crushing concepts of shame and honor.

Con
Suicide seems to be implicitly encouraged by the culture. For the record, jingles on the subway don’t cause people to kill themselves, despite common belief in Japan. Hive culture that assigns very little importance to the individual and inordinate amounts of stress to maintain your and your family’s honor may.

Pro
They aren’t religious – no one talks to you about Jesus.

Many of the temples are beautiful, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Con
They are lying, they are so religious and superstitious that it has become ingrained in the culture. Japanese readers, the following things are irrelevant to your life:

Your name
Your fortune
Your blood type

Super bonus tip for Chinese readers – your birth year is irrelevant.

Pro
You will have a new sense of appreciation for the diversity to be found in America. If you aren’t American your country probably has at most two types of people and is far inferior to America, the greatest country and the only one God directly blesses on a regular basis.

Con
Despite my initial belief they were all faking, Japanese people really speak a different language. It’s about as close to English as sugar is to be stabbed in the groin with rock candy.

Pro
Upon returning to America you also gain insight into how difficult it is for foreigners. It is hard not to respect people who come here knowing no English and it seems clear the government should print documents in a variety of languages.

Witty comment unnecessary.

Con
If you aren’t Japanese, people whisper about you and children point. It’s startling how little diversity Japan has. Americans may be somewhat spoiled, but looking forward and only seeing people with black hair, brown eyes and similar face structures is somewhat unnerving.

Pro
Experiencing any new culture is a lot of fun yet it’s amazing how so many things can be different about groups of people yet still the same. They sit on the floor while they eat, use chopsticks, bow to greet each other, rarely say “no” directly, drive on the left side of the street and so on, but seem to have surprisingly similar social interactions. Eating with each of our host’s families was pretty much like dinner at my house with less yelling. People were jovial, relaxed and trying to make each other laugh.

Con
I quickly tire of seemingly pointless traditions. If my food doesn’t already know I’m going to eat it I don’t think telling it will change much, and why should I remove these slippers you forced me to put on just because I’m going from one room to another? I like to think I am an equally intolerant person so if you know for a fact there are seemingly pointless traditions I follow please let me know and I’ll work on excising them from my life. Things that are taken lightly and done for fun don’t count.

Pro
They have separate neighborhoods in both Tokyo and Kyoto for electronics and video games. If you want to buy a Saturn game in the states your only bet is Game Crazy and you’d better be looking for decade old sports games.

Akihabara dancers. That’s a man on the left, and what a man.

Con
Being a nerd in Japan is as socially damning as being a nerd anywhere else. I asked our host Aki to explain the word “otaku,” which is their version of “nerd.” She said in Japanese, otaku is associated with “Eeeww.”

“Good thing I have a girlfriend, then,” I responded.
“No, you can have a girlfriend and still be otaku.”

Pro
What qualifies as a nerd is slightly different. Everyone in Japan is a few points nerdier, so to be considered a nerd there takes some effort.

Con
The popular Japanese movie Train Man addresses the difficult life of nerds but the protagonist is a nerd to the extent that I think he is pathetic. And I am pathetic, so that’s a bad sign for him.

Pro
Nintendo’s headquarters are in Japan. I went there, stood outside, had my picture taken, and am now awesome.

Con
Nintendo’s headquarters are not worth visiting and are in a slum, though there are some rice and vegetable paddies across the street. Also, I wasted too much of a day trekking to Nintendo and my girlfriend is still pissed about it. Awesomeness always has a price.

Across the street from Nintendo. Good to see their success has enriched the entire neighborhood.

Pro
Kirin Milk Tea is superior to all American beveragese and every three feet there’s another vending machine. America’s crime rates being what they are, such an abundance of outdoor vending machines seems impossible here. This is the number one reason we must work on eliminating crime.

Con
Now that I’m hooked, I can’t find Kirin Milk Tea Special anywhere in the states.

6 Comments

  1. Christian said on January 14, 2008:

    You are officially a weeaboo Jay. Now you can tell me with a straight face that any Silent Hill game developed in America simply isn’t canon.

  2. Shota said on January 14, 2008:

    Did you get me my milk candy? Or this sought after game?:

    http://www.engrish.com/image/engrish/virtual-boring.jpg

  3. chris said on January 14, 2008:

    My Kirin Milk Tea was CC Lemon. I’m actually kind of surprised citrus sodas haven’t caught on as much in the states.

    And yes, Boss is the boss of them all. It was hard not to smile every time I saw their 50’s-era middle-aged guy with a pipe logo.

  4. tyson said on January 14, 2008:

    You’re right, being in Japan does make you feel more manly in comparison to the locals. I am at least on the same level as James Bond just because I don’t wear pointy, elf-like cowboy boots with my designer jeans tucked into them.

  5. Charles said on January 16, 2008:

    I love the Nintendo picture. And of course the part about your big nose in a country with no noses made me laugh.

  6. Fin said on January 18, 2008:

    Quoting “Almost all girls wear high heels, one of every two cannot walk in them, and one in three women you see will have on a skirt that barely covers her ass.”

    And this is bad because?????

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