Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I've learned in Japan, Part Two

I don't know if it's a conscious decision, but Japanese people love Dr. Seuss. More specifically, the tree designs in Dr. Seuss' books. They like to prune them into adorably cartoonish cloud shapes.

Fear of parental scorn is a billion times more important here than at home. Probably because people live with their entire family until they get married most of the time. But if a kid is being "unruly" in the classroom, the phrase "I'm gonna tell your mom" is possibly the most powerful thing you can say.

Playing video games is not a hobby here, it's a lifestyle. Some people pour their entire paycheck into giant multistory arcades, so that they can push buttons and see shiny colors all day, everyday. The arcade industry is a multi-billion dollar one, which rivals only the vending machine industry and the hair product industry.

What your hair looks like is far more important that what your teeth look like. Especially if you're a dude. The amount of complicated hair cuts and styles I've seen everyday is too high to count. It's totally normal to spend hundreds of dollars on product and styling a week here, particularly if you're a guy. The news anchors all have immaculate hair, as is normal in their profession. But when they smile, it looks like they eat a bowl of nicotine flavoured glassy-o's for breakfast every day. And by that I mean they have incredibly crooked yellow teeth. Dental hygiene just doesn't seem to be as important as the rest of their health. The Japanese people are so health conscious, that most of their makeup comes with built in UV protection. From someone who spent 5 years with braces and other sadistic metal contraptions in my mouth, I ask why, Japan? Why?

The stereotype about Japanese drivers being terrible is true. I don't care if you disagree with me. The number of times here I've almost been hit by a car running a red light is too high to count.

Germophobia is a really serious mental disorder in japan. People are always terrified of catching cold or the flu, so there's always at least one person on every bus who is wearing a face mask and white sterile gloves. One of my adult students told me that agoraphobia is on the rise as a byproduct of this fear. And with the recent disasters in japan, it's only getting worse.

No one here says anything when someone sneezes. There's just an awkward silence afterwards, when the person wipes their nose. Also, covering your mouth when you cough is not as common as you'd think, considering how many germophobes there are in this country. That's another point for the pro-mask enthusiasts, I suppose.

You must never, EVER, under any circumstances eat while walking. It is hugely not okay to do this. I don't know why... merely questioning it is considered rude. Eating while standing is also considered a mild infraction... and may Jebus help you if you eat while standing in a street. People will literally stop and glare at you. Children will point. (And not just because you're the first white person they've ever seen). Old men will spit on the floor in your general direction. People will physically avoid you, lest they be associated with the hungry person in public.

711 owns 1/3 of Japan. I could do an entire post on this company alone. They are the equivalent of Walmart in America... they have their fingers in everything. Like the No-Name brand back at home, they have a cheaper version of all kinds of products. There are thousands of little 711 convenience stores all over Japan. Like freckles on a Ginger; they are everywhere. They have also cornered the bill payment market. So if you have an electricity bill or a gas bill or any bill at all, you can just take it to the convenience store and pay it there. Most of the convenience stores have a grocery section, a pharmacy, and a book store... in case you want to just hang out.

Gifts are huge here. When you go on vacation anywhere, you're expected to bring back gifts for EVERYONE. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your teachers, your gynecologist, your crazy neighbourhood cat lady. As a result, I have been the receiver of many little tokens from far and not-so-far away places. Mostly little chocolates or sweets, but sometimes a student goes full out and gets me something really nice. This is a tube of hand cream a little old lady brought me back from Korea. Super awesome.

The rumours are true; Fruit really is that expensive in Japan. I saw a watermelon on "Sale" for 5000 yen the other day. Today I went grocery shopping and saw this;
Those are peaches. In little over-packaged groups of two... for 980 yen. That's about $5 a peach. Sugoi.
Also this;

This is a poorly taken picture of cherries, which just came into season. A package of about 20 cherries; 300 yen. I bought them. It seemed like a better deal than the peaches or the watermelon. Truthfully, they are some of the best cherries I've ever had. Thank jebus for that, I guess.

The Japanese have invented a little device that looks like a meat thermometer to determine how much fruit should be priced. Apparently there's a finite science based on the sucrose levels in the fruit to tell how ripe and sweet the fruit will taste. So grocers can price fruit according to how good it will taste, and how ripe it is. It's freaking science!

Here are some more random pictures I took;

Yes, the last one is my laundry. Dryers are not so popular here. So I have become a superstar at hanging everything I own to dry.

And carrying on with last week's theme, here's my friend enjoying a milkshake a little too much;

To be fair, it was a really good milkshake. I'm going to make this guy internet famous, I can just feel it :)

さようなら !

1 comment:

  1. "Children will point. (And not just because you're the first white person they've ever seen)"
    Are you sure we live in the same Utsunomiya? Children stopped pointing at white people here sometime around 1988. LOL!

    Who told you that eating while standing in the street is not OK? Half of Orion dori does it. Everybody at every matsuri does it.

    Good grief, please don't make it yet another "Japan is so f*cking different" blog.