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10 Things About Japan

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1.Christmas is a lover’s holiday

Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Japan. Though, in recent decades it became popular to decorate everything with lights and buy fur trees, do not expect a traditional evening meal with a turkey in a family setting. Think of Christmas in Japan more like of Valentines day in the US. On December, the 24th you are expected to ask out your date to a fancy place, think of a unique data ideas or some other couple activity and yes, prepare a gift, but a romantic one. In Japan, gifts are rarely exchanged among family members and friends unless that was pre-arranged earlier.

Another peculiar Christmas tradition in Japan is going festive at KFC It emerged after a surprisingly successful ad campaign in 1974, where a group of foreigners were desperate to find a turkey for Christmas and ended up celebrating at KFC. There’s always a huge queue in front of any KFC at Christmas as everyone are eager to grab a 40$ special meal of chicken, wine, cake and champagne. The tradition is so popular in Tokyo, that you need to pre-order your Christmas-special chicken meal and book a table in advance!

2. Keep your trash with you

One of the first things you notice in Japan – trash cans are impossible to find at public places! Yet, there’s not litter on the streets either and by no means you should become the one who leaves it! So, what are you expected to do with your bento pack or a melon soda can? Put it in your bag and carry it home like all the Japanese people do. Alternatively,veteran expats pointed out there are public trash cans available at McDonald’s and konbini (convenience) stores.

When living in Japan, you will learn a lot about handling trash. As the islands are tiny and densely-populated, it was crucial for the Japanese to focus on recycling and minimizing their impact on the nature around. That’s why one of the first things you receive when moving in your apartment is a gomi guide – an immensely detailed instruction on all-things-trash, from sorting it the right way to days when certain types of waste are collected. Caveat: if you missed throwing the appropriate type of trash on the right day, you will have to wait for another week till you can get rid of it!

3. Driving experience is different

First of all, you need to get used to the fact that your steering wheel is now on the right side of the car and you are obliged to drive on the left side of the road. Also, all the speed limits are listed in kilometers, not in miles. Make sure you can convert them correctly before stepping on that gas pedal. Traffic lights are horizontal and double stacked, so it takes some time to figure out which one is working for you now. While most Japanese drivers are really accurate and attentive, there’s another road hazard – careless cyclists who often pop out unexpectedly on intersections and sometimes ride on the opposite side of the road.

4. Bowing isn’t as easy as you think

You do know that the Japanese bow at practically any occasion from a greetings to apologizes. Learning to do it the naturally graceful way for a foreigner may be really tricky. Here are three main types of bows:

  • eshaku – leaning about 15-degrees in an informal setting and as a greeting.
  • keirei – 30-degree bow to show a higher level of respect say to your boss or other people who are higher than you on social scale
  • saikeirei – 45-degree bow reserved for major occasions like meeting the emperor or say when you’ve screwed up really big (think destroying someone car).

5. Always carry an umbrella in summer

The rainy season (tsuyu or baiyu) takes place in most parts of Japan from early June till late July and a month earlier at Okinawa. Whereas it does not rain straight for two months in a row, the weather becomes really unexpected. You can leave the house while the sun shines bright to realize it’s raining cat and dogs in a mere hour when you are about to leave the shop. Unless you’d like to spend ¥100 each time it starts raining (or get soaking wet), do carry an umbrella all the time.

6. Policemen are really friendly and concerned (sometimes even too much)

Nobody locks the doors at home and if you lost your phone or wallet at the train station, there are 99.99% chances you’ll get it back the next day with the same amount of cash. Therefore, Japanese police is busy sorting out other issues the citizens have. Say, if you got lost in Tokyo, a policemen will surely guide you back to your home or the nearest metro stations. You can chit chat with them and joke all the way back home. Also, these folks can call you a cab and lend you money if you had a rough drinking night and missed the last train.

7. There’s no need to double-check anything

There are zero chances you will receive the wrong amount of change from a cashier. Not a single chance the item you ordered would be fake or lack any accessories that were sold with it. Japan has no tolerance for scamming or dishonesty. Not only it is highly shameful to trick anyone, but also rather costly with huge fines and legal consequences for those who’ve attempted and got caught.

Also, bargaining isn’t a thing in Japan. All the prices are fixed even at street markets. Do not ask for a discount unless it’s already listed on the product.

8. Night clubs are not for dancing

It is just as odd as it sounds – you are not allowed to dance at a vast majority of night/dance clubs around Japan. Basically, any night venue in Japan has a “Please, no dancing sign” and if you get rebellious after a few shots and still decide to get low on the dance floor, you can get kicked out. According to a law adopted back in 1948 (and never changed since then), clubs with a floor space less than 66 sq/m  (710 sq ft) cannot obtain the proper license and allow customers to dance. A later law adopted in 1984 bans dancing after midnight. Real estate prices in Japan are whooping. Finding and renting a place over 66 sq/m gets extremely expensive and hard to find. Add extra fees for obtaining “dancing license” from the government and we get an absolutely broke club owner who will need to work for decades before he starts earning at least something from the venue.

9. There are special sleepers to attend the bathroom

First of all, when entering the house you are supposed to take of your shoes and either put on the sleepers proposed by the owners or walk barefoot around cozy tatami floor. Also, there’s a set of special sleepers reserved for walking in the bathroom only. Usually they are left next to the door or right in front of the entrance. You are supposed to wear them only while using the toilet and it’s extremely embarrassing to forget changing them back after you’ve finished all your business there. Also, it’s polite to put them back just the same way they were standing, so that the next person could easily slip into them.

You’ll find the same “bathroom sleepers” in numerous restaurants and venues around Japan. Make sure you do not end up walking in them back to your table. Also, you are required to take your shoes and leave them aside before entering a fitting room at the shop. All of them have special clean podiums where you should stand barefoot.

10. Laundry is usually done every day

Basically, each Japanese family does the laundry every day. By 7 am you can see an array of crispy clean clothes drying outside. Usually, it is considered inappropriate to wear any clothing item twice without washing it first. That’s a crucial point to consider if you plan to share your living space with a Japanese person.

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