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Japan, You Are Pretty Cray

When looking at some African or Middle Eastern countries, I can then say Japan is pretty normal and not a great deal different from the UK. It’s a civil society and everything is pretty accessible and not hard to come by. They have everything which I use in the UK, that I use to lead my typical daily life, for example, banks, supermarkets, great transport, good housing with great utilities, and fantastic friendly people to top it off. However, Japan is a pretty crazy country, but in a good sense. It’s a little bit strange and extremely quirky. Here are some of the things which appear very different to me, they might seem minute but it’s all part of the novelty of Japan and the Japanese way of life.

Dogs –
there a lot of tiny dogs in Japan, most of them in outfits, most of them carted around in prams… I once trekked up a mountain with my friend. It was a struggle for us to climb, then at the top we saw an old couple both with prams, with dogs in them. This wouldn’t exactly happen in the Yorkshire Moors.

Toilets –
you can go to one restaurant and it’s a squat style toilet. You go next door to another restaurant and the toilet seat will open as you walk toward it, birds will tweet as you sit down (so no-one can hear what you’re doing…) and then as you get up the toilet flushes and the lids closes for you.

Bars –
a bar with just five seats isn’t strange at all. What’s even more normal in Japan is going down a strange alley which looks like a row of flats, taking a rickety lift to a random floor then going to one of the flat doors and it’s a bar. Also, they have a lot of ‘all you can drink bars’ which to any westerner is heaven! However, they are usually time limited, so for me it’s more of a challenge of how much I can drink in the allocated time.

Technology/internet/ATMs –
for one of the most technological advanced countries in the world, the country actually isn’t that advanced. I work in a school where we use chalk and a blackboard, and where only two or three computers have internet. Wi-Fi is limited all over Japan; you can only use it if you use one of Japan’s mobile networks, and if you have an appropriate phone. Most ATM’s stop working past 10pm for many banks, so if you’re stuck in the middle of the city and its past 10pm and you’ve used all your money on booze, well then you’re walking home my friend.

Novelty noises –
my rice cooker plays a delightful tune when the rice has cooked. Ambulances with speaker phones say “excuse me, please move out of the way.” Often at train stations there will be speakers playing bird tweets so it seems many birds are delightfully singing nearby.

Vending machines –
they are more vending machines in Japan than they are people in Australia. There are beer vending machines which a five year old could use, however for cigarette vending machines you need some kind of chip which is available to anyone 20+.

Host boys –
in the bigger cities, such as Osaka where I lived, you will find host boys on a night looking for female customers. Host boys are basically a kind of escort, they get young women to come to their bars and drink with them. I once watched a documentary where some girls can spend over £1000 at these bars just to drink with these men. The host boys wear silk suits, have the craziest hair and look very feminine; plus they’re pretty interesting to watch on a Saturday evening.

Working culture –
even the Japanese know their working culture is pretty crazy. An average day for the average Japanese worker can be twelve or more hours, five (sometimes) six days a week. Then they tend to go for drinks with their colleagues after work. In the past (it’s calmed down a bit now) if the worker didn’t go out for drinks with his colleagues he was showing a lack of respect, and he would tend not to advance in the company. Also, the Japanese don’t have many paid holidays (perhaps 8 days a year), but most of them don’t take their holidays anyway as they will fall behind in their work.

Pachinko –
pachinko parlours are big amusement arcades found all over Japan, from the biggest cities to the smallest countryside village. Rows upon rows of some kind of amusement game, where people can gamble crazy amounts of money. It’s quite confusing when you go in one, and it’s strange to see a spotty teenage boy playing a game with an elderly housewife, then an average business man next to them playing the same thing. They are very loud, very smoky, and very strange, plus you don’t even win money at the end.

Anime –
there isn’t anything crazy about anime, which is a style of Japanese cartoon and comic, but it’s crazy when you see anime pornography… on the doors of pachinko parlours and many magazines in convenience stores you will see adult magazines but with anime characters. So basically, it's a drawn girl with huge breasts and a tiny thong. This is really strange to me. Also, I heard in Japanese pornography, everything is blurred out. So, the male and female ‘parts’ are blurred out to the audience. It kind of questions the whole point of watching it in the first place.

Safety –
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. I know there isn’t anything crazy about this, but at first glance it can seem strange. People leave their keys in their car, unlocked and unattended whilst they go for a day at work. I now go running in the darkest alleys, middle of the night, with my iPod in and I still couldn’t feel safer. I’ve heard the police aren’t fantastic in Japan, just because there isn’t any crime. If you lose your purse, it will most likely be handed in, plus you could leave your bag unattended for a day, and you could go back and it will still be there in one piece.

Foreigners –
if you’re a foreigner in Japan you are definitely an outsider. I live in one of the biggest cities in Japan, with a lot of other foreigners, and yet I get stared at a ridiculous amount. I am fairly tall (in Japanese standards) and I have blonde hair and blue eyes, but so do a lot of other foreigners, but yet you will get starred at. I’ve had people follow me around with their cameras/phones; people stop walking in surprise and just stare as I walk past. At first it’s quite the novelty to be classed as some kind of exotic being, but after a while it becomes very annoying and intimidating. Just be aware, that even if you live here for many years and even if you speak fluent Japanese, you may get stared at and be seen as a foreigner.

Photobooths –
in the main cities in Japan you’ll find an array of photobooths which are donned by giggling Japanese girls. These photobooths are what I class as very Japanese. They are cute, they are kitsch, they incorporate anime, and they are dramatic. Take a look at the cover photo of this blog to see what I mean.

Japan is a great country and it has the friendliest and most polite people I have ever met, but it certainly does take some getting used to. I do love this country and its charm, and it certainly is one of the quirkiest, strangest places I have ever been.

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By Becky on
About Tokyo and Osaka
Tagged with Japan, Country Overview and Anime