Japanese/USA Cultural Differences by letaizawarest Feb 10, 2019 7:21:36 GMT
Post by Smooth Criminal on Feb 10, 2019 7:21:36 GMT
(please note that i am a japanese american living/working in japan and not a japanese person raised in japan. my experiences are my own and other prefectures, etc. may be different.)
- The age of majority is currently 20, although I believe as of 2022, it will be lowered to 18. Currently, people under the age of 20 cannot sign lease contracts for cars, apartments, etc. without parental permission.
- The word “sign” is figurative here, because Japan uses seals on official documents, instead of Western-style signatures. People tend to have a few different types of seals, depending on the importance of the document.
- All dates on government forms are in Japanese eras. 2018 was year 30 of the Heisei era and a new era will start when the emperor abdicates in April of this year.
- As of 2016, the voting age in Japan is 18 (previously it was 20). You can also start learning to drive at age 18. However, the drinking age is 20, and you also have to be 20 to smoke or gamble.
- Japanese convenience store and supermarket workers are frequently lax about checking IDs for alcohol and cigarette purchases, and underage smoking in particular is a large problem.
- Legally, Japan is very strict about drug usage. I’ve heard of a few people smoking pot, but even that’s a lot rarer than it is in many Western countries (particularly in places where it’s legal).
- Japanese law is also very strict about drinking and driving. If you have even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system, you cannot drive. (Typically this isn’t too much of an issue considering the availability of public transit, though.)
- It’s also illegal to drink and ride a bicycle lmao
- The minimum employment age in Japan is 15. Incidentally, Japanese compulsory education is only through middle school, and the final year is when kids are age 15-16 (in American school years, this is 9th grade).
- Japan is a cash-based society. Credit cards are rare, although some banks now offer the equivalent of a debit card. Many online purchases can be paid for in cash at convenience stores.
- ATMs have hours, just like stores. They are typically closed on New Year and you have to pay an extra fee to use them after 6pm or on weekends.
- The public transportation in Japan is great, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. A bullet train can be as expensive as a plane flight, and many people choose busses as a cheaper (longer) option. It’s just not realistic for a character to pop over to Kyoto for lunch.
- Additionally, small towns don’t have the public transportation that big cities have, so a lot of people have cars. In Japan, there are two types of cars: white plates and yellow plates (kei cars). White plates are typical cars, but kei cars are smaller and have a tiny engine that’s basically minimum street legal. However, they have certain tax benefits, so a lot of people have them.
- Also drivers almost always back in to parking spaces.
- Hospitals are probably pretty similar to most places in Europe and Canada, but they’re different from the US. Ambulances don’t cost you and an ER visit with health insurance will only run you ¥10,000 or so.
- If it’s raining outside and you go into a shop,
there will typically be an umbrella stand for you to leave your umbrella in, or
there will be plastic bags for you to put your umbrella in. Don’t drip water
- Typhoon season is from June to October, although
sometimes it goes later into the fall. Depending on where you live, school may
be cancelled some days due to flooding or high winds.
- Tea is life. People will typically drink cold tea in the summer. The standard is barley tea, but depending on the prefecture, a different type of tea may be preferred.
- Bubble tea has also become quite popular and the good shops will typically have a line down the block.
- Fruit is expensive as fuck. Strawberries in season are about ¥100 per strawberry. Because of this, fruit is often given as a gift, particularly when someone is hospitalized. Seasonal fruits are:
- Spring: Strawberries
- Summer: Cherries, peaches, melons, blueberries
- Fall: Grapes, mikan, apples, pears
- Winter: Strawberries, mikan, persimmons
- Pancakes are more often dessert than breakfast. Sometimes western-style breakfast places will serve them in the morning, but you’ll typically find them on the dessert menu at cafes, topped with whipped cream and ice cream.
- I don’t tend to eat much Japanese-style breakfast, but it’s frequently rice and soup, sometimes fish. A raw egg over rice is also traditional (eggs are pasteurized, so they’re safe to eat raw). People also like to eat salad?
- Toast is a popular breakfast food among young people. Thick cut toast covered in sugar or caramel can also be found as a dessert at cafes.
- Bacon is not crispy. It’s a lot more akin to Canadian bacon than American-style bacon.
- The coffee shop does not exist as it does in most Western countries. There are a lot of bakeries that have great French-style pastries, but they don’t tend to serve coffee. Most cafes serve more substantial food and open later in the day. Starbucks is the closest you’ll find to a Western coffee shop, and even then you’re more likely to find cake in the display case than breakfast foods. Many people get their morning coffee at convenience stores.
- A lot of people who can’t cook and live alone subsist off of premade food found at convenience stores and supermarkets. You can get a wide variety of things, like onigiri, egg salad sandwiches, pasta, tempura, etc.
- If you’re really lazy about cooking, you can just get protein/energy gel pouches like Aizawa from BNHA.
- Japanese “pudding” does not have the consistency of American pudding. It’s more like flan.
- Shrimp tails are eaten, not discarded, along with fish skin and bones.
- Popular drinks include: Melon soda, Calpis (think carbonated milk soda), coca cola, cold unsweetened tea (green, barley, jasmine), apple/peach/lemon sweet tea, fruit juice cartons
- Japanese people don’t feed children spicy, bitter, or otherwise strongly flavored foods. I know parents who will make two different batches of curry at home, a spicy one for the adults and a “sweet/mild” one for the kids. Foods served in school lunch are also deliberately mild.
- At restaurants, you have to wave down a waiter
to order. Sometimes there will be a call button on the table. When you’re
finished, you typically go to a register at the front of the restaurant to pay.
- Some restaurants (particularly ramen chains)
have “vending machines” where you first select what sort of food you want to
order, pay for it and get a ticket from the vending machine, and then give the
ticket to the chef/waiter at the counter.
- You don’t walk around in public while eating or
drinking. It’s okay to eat in the car (I recently saw a guy driving one-handed
while shoving a burger into his mouth) but you don’t walk around while sipping
- There are plenty of American fast food chains in Japan, like McDonald’s and KFC. However, there are also a lot of Japanese chains, like Mos Burger and Lotteria.
- I think you can find most other info just by googling it.
- It’s not unusual for people to live with their parents well into their twenties, particularly university students who go to school close to home. People are typically more surprised to find that I’ve lived alone since I was 20.
- There are also a lot of young people who don’t know how to cook. This is consistent for all genders, in my experience. (aka cooking is a really easy way to impress someone)
- Young people living at home may also be related to how expensive it is to move into an apartment. There are a lot of fees, like maintenance, cleaning, reikin, etc. An apartment with ¥60,000 monthly rent can cost you ¥270,700 in move-in fees (that’s approx. $2,700 USD).
- Apartments typically don’t have central air or heating, so people have separate air conditioning and heating units.
- You also have to turn on the gas every time you want hot water. You can’t just turn the hot water knob on your kitchen sink (unless you want to keep the gas on all the time and run up a huge gas bill). There’s usually a control pad on the wall with temperature settings and such.
- Everyone has a bathtub. Bathtubs are life.
- Additionally, people typically bathe/shower at night instead of in the morning and walking around in public with wet hair is a bit of a faux pas.
- Large stoves installed permanently into an apartment aren’t a thing in Japan. You typically have a separate stovetop unit that you take with you when you move. The standard size is two burners.
- Western-style ovens are rare. (As a coworker once told me, “Japan doesn’t have an oven-culture.”) If people want to bake, they typically get a microwave with an oven setting. It works, but it’s small, so baking a large batch of cookies or a multi-layer cake is a pain.
- Tatami is cool but finnicky. I’ve been told you’re supposed to vacuum it once a week or so? To keep it from growing mold.
- Futons are even more finnicky than tatami. You have to fold your futon up every morning and store it slightly elevated from the floor to prevent mold growth. Also, depending on the material, you have to air it out as often as every week to every other week or so. If your character is lazy and doesn’t like housekeeping, a futon is not for them.
- My work supervisor once told me that, “A Japanese woman would never date a man who doesn’t properly fold his futon.”
- Multi-room apartments frequently have one room enclosed with sliding doors. These doors do not lock, and can also be removed to combine two or more rooms (which sometimes happens for parties/events at home).
- It’s very common for people to sit on the floor. Usually in a living room type space, people will sit on the floor around a low table.
- You always take off your shoes when entering someone’s house. Always. There will typically be a cupboard/rack to store shoes and depending on how fancy the person you’re visiting is, they’ll offer you slippers or you can just go around in your socks.
- Everyone owns a pair of crocs. The most fashionable Japanese person you’ve ever met? Owns crocs.
- Hallways in apartment buildings are typically open air and on the outside of the building. This means that you can have neighbors on your left or right, but not across the hall from you. There’s just one row of units.
- Depending on how fancy your building is, you may have an intercom that allows you to check who’s at your door. If you live in a VERY fancy building, the front door of the apartment complex will be locked and you have to ring people up this way if they don’t have a key. (At the front door, there will be a keypad and you put in the apartment number, which will then call the resident to let them know you’re there.)
- People will typically have washers but not dryers. It’s common to airdry clothes on your balcony. On rainy days, people flock to laundromats, which contain 80% dryers and 20% washers.
- Windows don’t have blinds, only curtains.
- I can’t give you all the details about working
in Japan because I’ve only ever worked the one job in Japan, so my scope is
pretty limited. However, a few things seem consistent:
- Japanese people do not take sick leave unless
they are hospitalized. I don’t mean they never stay home with a cold, but
they’d rather take a paid vacation day than a day of sick leave. Sick leave
also typically requires a doctor’s note/hospital receipt.
- Work parties! They typically take place at an
izakaya (traditional Japanese bar). You pay a set fee and can drink and eat as
much as you’d like, off a set menu. Everything is shared. Also people will not
hesitate to get drunk and it’s all fun and games until someone throws up.
- The biggest work party of the year is the New
Year’s party (bōnenkai) and not showing up is a major faux pas. It’s typically
held sometime in December, before New Year’s.
- After a trip, you are socially obligated to
bring back gifts (omiyage) for your coworkers. These are typically some sort of
sweet/snack which is a specialty of where you visited. If you google “omiyage”
you can find pictures of what these look like.
- These snacks, along with tea and coffee, are
typically put in the break room/kitchen, which seems to be pretty consistent
with most Western countries.
- Most Japanese workplaces also have a changing
room! Some people will keep more formal clothes in there in case an unexpected
event comes up, and for companies with uniforms or more formal dress codes, workers
will often come to work in their street clothes and then change into their
uniform/formal wear once they get to work.
- Japanese compulsory education is elementary school and middle school, a total of 9 years. Most kids do continue to high school, though, and according to Wikipedia, 75.9% of high school graduates in Japan continue on to some form of college, be it university, trade school, etc.
- Elementary school is 1st – 6th grade, middle school is three years, and high school is three years.
- Japanese schools love exams. Elementary school 6th graders have to take entrance exams for middle school, middle schoolers have to take entrance exams for high school, and high schoolers have to take entrance exams for college.
- Each university has its own entrance exam which is offered once a year, so if you’re sick on that day, too bad. Some students will take a gap year or two if they fail the entrance exam of the university they want to get in to, in order to study so they can take the exam again next year.
- That being said, from what I’ve heard, once they get into university, many students slack off because they feel like they’re owed a break after putting all their effort into passing the entrance exams. Your university years are basically party time, and it’s unfortunately rare to see students put significant effort into research projects and such. There’s lots of drinking instead and many students spend more time at their part time jobs than studying.
- Back to elementary school, middle school, and high school, though. Elementary schools don’t have uniforms, while middle schools and high schools do. Dress codes for middle and high school are very strict and prohibit piercings, dyed hair, makeup, plucking your eyebrows, etc.
- My school keeps black hair dye in the staff room in case a student comes in with dyed hair lmao
- Sleeping during class is not a big deal. Depending on how strict the teacher is, sometimes they won’t even bother to try to wake up the student. Dress code violations are much more serious business.
- Despite the intense exams, Japanese schools don’t give out much homework compared to, say, the US. The statistic I’ve heard is 3 hours a week. Like anywhere in the world, though, kids love to complain about how much homework they have.
- Kids also aren’t held back. You can get zeros on all your tests and show up to class only two times and still pass to the next grade.
- “Yankees” (delinquent kids) also show up to school with surprising frequency? They just don’t come to class.
- I have one kid who hangs around the staff room all day for shits and giggles.
- You’ve probably also heard of “cram schools.” These are schools that kids go to after school for extra tutoring and lessons. They go pretty late into the evening, typically getting out around nine or so, and some continue through school vacations and such.
- There are also different kinds of high schools, such as technical schools, agricultural schools, etc. They have different classes and different secondary education tracks.
- Like inside the home, you can’t wear your outdoor shoes inside the school. Students have a specific type of shoe they wear, but for teachers, it’s pretty much anything goes. I have a coworker whose go to is Nike sandals and socks.
- Students also clean the schools! There is typically a designated cleaning time and different students are assigned to clean different parts of the school. Janitors are not a thing.
- I saw a girl trimming the bushes with power tools once. It was terrifying.
- In elementary school and middle school, all students eat school lunch, while high school students have to bring/buy their own. Elementary and middle school lunch are eaten in the classrooms, and the homeroom teacher typically eats with their students. Homeroom teachers are also expected to set a good example for the students by eating all the food given to them, regardless of their likes and dislikes.
- The school nurse knows the allergies of every single student in the school. They also know all the delinquents.
- I assume you probably know a decent amount about school clubs from anime, but I’d like to remind people that band is a club, not a class. Music class is primarily focused on singing, and schools typically have a choir competition sometime during the year (… which the teachers also participate in).
- And again, you probably know this, but the teachers move from class to class, not the students. The only classes students move for are science, gym, art, music, and home ec., due to the specialized classrooms.
- The school year consists of three terms. School tends to start in April and run until the end of July, with about a month’s worth of vacation in August. The second term starts up at the end of August/beginning of September and runs to December 25th, and the last term is from the beginning of January to the end of March. There’s typically about a week or so of vacation between the end of the school year and the beginning of the new school year.
- Don’t forget the special ed kids! Every school will typically have at least one special ed class, for kids with mental and physical disabilities, and there will also be kids who participate in standard classes, but have some of their classes with the special ed teachers.
- There are also specialized schools, such as ones for deaf kids and frequently hospitalized kids. (And JSL is not the same as ASL.)
- Finally, Sunday was historically not a day off in Japan, and while public schools only have a 5 day school week now, some private schools go 6 days a week.
- Japanese kids know infinitely less Western media/culture than you think they do. I don’t mean this as an insult – on either side – but I once asked a class of 42 teenagers, “Who wrote Romeo and Juliet?” and not a single one could answer. So, if your character is listening to Beyoncé and reciting Macbeth, everyone thinks they’re a weirdo.
- That being said, some western media is popular. Everyone loves Disney, but not all Disney is created equal (Moana and Tangled are popular; Mulan and the Lion King, not so much). Everyone knows Justin Bieber, but Beyoncé gets blank stares. Harry Potter is a craze everywhere, and Spiderman is popular too, but don’t expect people to know other Marvel characters, no matter how many pencil cases they have with “Marvel” printed on them.
- So, get to know Japanese celebrities! Namie Amuro and Utada Hikaru are our pop queens! Hirose Suzu is a heartthrob actress who just hosted Kōhaku, the biggest television special in Japan. If you’re looking for music, skim through the lineup for Kōhaku, which should give you a good picture of who’s big right now.
- Also, Japan has been hit hard by the k-pop craze. Of course, this is a complicated issue, considering Japan’s history of imperialism and xenophobic prejudice against Korean people, but a lot of young people have really embraced k-pop (and Korean TV dramas). BTS and Twice merchandise is everywhere.
- As for social media, Facebook is less popular (although some people use it), and most people use Instagram like Facebook. Tinder is for making friends, not hookups, and LINE is king. (LINE is a texting app, but most people refer to it as social media.)
- Anime is not just for otaku! Anime is a normal part of everyday life, and you’d have to literally live under a rock to not recognize One Piece and Detective Conan characters. The Neon Genesis Evangelion opening is one of the most sung songs at karaoke. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve walked into stores and heard BNHA themes playing in the background.
- All Japanese smartphones make a shutter sound when you take a photo. (This is unfortunately due to creepy dudes trying to take photos of unsuspecting women, but keep it in mind if your character is trying to take a stealthy photo.)
- King Game is the Japanese equivalent of Truth or
Dare. There are sticks with numbers written on them,
along with one which is the “King” stick. The person who draws the king stick
then gets make an order which the other people have to follow. However, the
“King” just calls people by number (i.e. “5 kiss 8.”) without knowing who has
- Blood type horoscopes are huge. Everyone’s always asking what your blood type is.
- A: serious and diligent
- B: “my pace,” independent
- O: social, outgoing
- AB: creative, “split personality”
- Christmas is not celebrated as it is in the US.
People still celebrate it, but it’s primarily for couples and no one gets work
off or anything. That being said, stores start playing Christmas music and
putting up decorations immediately after Halloween, and a lot of places sell
fake trees and lights and such.
- “All I want for Christmas is you” and “Last
Christmas” are by far the most played Christmas songs
- Many Japanese people believe Santa lives in Finland.
- Halloween is also not celebrated as much, and when
it is celebrated, it’s for adult costume parties and not kid’s
trick-or-treating. Again, you can still find decorations in stores, though, and
everyone plays “This is Halloween” on repeat.
- Obon is a major public holiday and is spent with
family. I’ve heard it described as a cross between Thanksgiving and Day of the
Dead. Basically family members all get together, eat a lot of food, and pay
their respects to deceased family members. It’s celebrated in either July or
August, depending on what part of Japan you’re in.
- New Year’s is another big Japanese holiday.
Unlike in the US, it’s celebrated with family and people don’t tend to go out.
In fact, most shops are closed over New Year’s and many museums and small
businesses are closed the whole week from the 28th to the 3rd.
I’ve been told that the traditional New Year’s bento (osechi) came about
because shops were closed, and people needed enough food to last them until
shops opened again.
- Kōhaku is a 4 and a half hour long live TV show
that the majority of Japanese people watch on New Year’s. It features
performances by the most popular singers, and at the end viewers vote on either
the red team (female artists) or white team (male artists).
- Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year,
is also a major event and from midnight on New Year’s Eve to the 7th,
people go to pay their respects.
- People typically make mochi and send friends and
family cards for New Year’s. Children also receive money from their family
- Golden Week is a series of four public holidays
that span over seven days, although people get different amounts of time off
depending on how the holidays fall. People typically use this time to travel.
- I suspect most people already know about
Valentine’s Day and White Day from anime, but to recap, women give men
chocolates on Valentine’s Day and men give return gifts on White Day. Women are
often obligated to give chocolates to their male coworkers as a show of good
will (these are referred to as 義理チョコ,
lit. “obligation chocolate”).
- Tanabata, the Star Festival. Again,
when it’s celebrated is dependent on what part of Japan you live in, but it’s
generally in July or August, starting around July 7th. The most
recognizable Tanabata tradition is where people write a wish on a piece of
paper and hang it on bamboo.
- There’s a saying that Japanese people are, “Born
Shinto,” and “Die Buddhist.” This refers to the fact that Shinto rites are
preformed when a baby is born and funerals are Buddhist. Unlike with Christianity
and other Judaic religions, in Japan people practice both Shintoism and
Buddhism (there’s no conflict in having more than one religion).
- You can find a list of other Japanese public
holidays by googling it.