Let’s get on with it shall we?
No, don’t worry I, someone who knows almost nothing about the country, am not gonna talk about it. But there is someone who knows Japan more than me and I mind controlled her to answer a few questions about the country.
Say hello to Deeksha!
I am Deeksha. I am 25 years old and am an Indian living in Tokyo, Japan from the past 6 years. My hobbies are reading, drawing and painting, watching TV shows/movies in my free time. I “secretly” love Korean Drama and Candies and a Marvel Fan for life.
I am a newbie blogger, will be live with my blog, tokyobookworm, about books, from the 1st of June.
Q: What do you think is exotic about Japan?
A: Japan, also known as Nihon/ Nippon (にほん、日本), literally translates to ‘where the sun originates’. Even though this land of the rising sun is a small Island, has a vast and rich traditional history. From mesmerizing shrines to modern skyscrapers, serene nature to beautiful parks, mountains to beaches, architectural innovations to technology, Japan has it all.
The most beautiful thing about Japan is its cherry blossoms, also called Sakura in Japanese. Sakura is a flowering cherry tree which blossoms during the spring season. Sakura trees stretch throughout Japan and blossom collectively, making it look incredibly beautiful. Japan’s Sakura is known throughout, inviting people from all over the world.
During Sakura, the Japanese people have a tradition of having a party beneath the blossoms. This festival is called hanami. People picnic with friends and family BBQ’ing, playing cards and relaxing with a pint of beer.
Sakura is now a popular flavor which is made using sakura petals. Sakura Cakes, Sakura Ice-cream, Sakura Wine, Sakura Cola, Sakura Kit-kat, Sakura Rice-cakes are some of the must-try during this season.
Q: Will you tell us about Japan’s eating habits and Japanese cuisine?
A: Japanese people are not very big on cooking at home but they are big on food, and they tend to eat out a lot. This could be due to their long office hours(they are known for their hard work and late hours!). ‘Fresh’ readymade food is easily available throughout(at least in big cities).
You would find a variety of packed meals in most convenience stores and supermarkets. These meals are called Bento Boxes. Each bento generally has a single portion of a well-balanced meal. The meal can include rice or noodles, meat or fish with vegetables or fruits on the side. Sea-food in Japan is highly popular with their most famous dish being Sushi.
Some other famous foods from Japan – Ramen, Green Tea, Sticky Rice with Miso Soup, Sashimi, Tempura, Karaage, Kobe beef.
Most street side eating joints are small but plenty in number. In these small eateries, the customers sit beside each other and opposite the chef as they cook the meal. They are catered towards working men/women and their emphasis is on rotating seats as quickly as they can. Generally, you will see long lines outside these places but they move quickly.
Q: Tell us more about a typical day in Japan.
A: A typical day in working life of Tokyo is similar to any other country. Men and women in suits, standing in line waiting for the train.
I personally travel by bus to my workplace and the only over-the-top thing I‘ve observed is the treatment for physically impaired people, especially the one with wheelchairs. The bus driver himself carries a detachable platform for the person in a wheelchair and assists them to climb and get down from the bus, and of course, they are given the first priority.
Rush-hours at the major stations are pretty crazy, but it is completely organized. Let it be the train delays due to heavy snow or rain, you won’t see chaos at the stations but people patiently waiting in queues for the next train.
Yes, there are random rainy days and that’s why you will find umbrellas being sold at every store. The funny thing about umbrellas in Tokyo is, the people don’t mind stealing or in their words ‘borrowing’ an umbrella that has been abandoned or forgotten.
Battery operated cycles is a big thing in Tokyo, especially among the moms carrying their children (yes, plural!). These cycles are equipped with child-seat called ‘Mama-chaari’ and you will see many homeworker moms carrying their kids on those for a day out.
Almost all the restaurants have a special lunch menu (even TGIF/Hard rock cafe) dedicated to the working class people which costs from $5 – $15.
Smoking is vastly popular in Japan. And I haven’t seen a single country that is so open to people smoking in public places. The situation is definitely improving due to Olympics 2020, by giving the smokers dedicated places / closed rooms in a public space.
The cafes and restaurants generally have a smoking only designated areas, except Starbucks, which prohibits smoking inside.
Smoking is even allowed in the hotel rooms in Japan. When booking a room, you need to be specific if you need a smoking or a non-smoking room (something that you wouldn’t find in most countries).
Q: Can you tell us about some of unique Japanese customs and practices specific to Japan?
A: There are plenty of unique customs in Japan, which will be understood by you only if you’ve lived in Japan for a while. These are some of the fun customs :
- Putting your pinky up in Japan means “women”, usually referring to someone’s girlfriend/mistress/love. For example, if you ask your friend if he would like to go out for drinks, and he says no and puts his pinky up, it doesn’t mean he wants to pee but that he has plans with his girlfriend.
- In Japanese high school, if a girl gives a guy she admires gifts to confess her love, the guy accepts it by giving the second button from his school uniform. The second button is the one closest to the heart and hence the button is used as the metaphor.
Q: Tell us about some of the stereotypes about Japan as depicted in the media, books/film, etc that annoy you.
A: The world sees Japan as this technologically super-advanced, anime loving, sushi eating awesome country. Yes, those points are true, but there is more than that to this country. Some of the annoying stereotypes about Japan are :
- The movies usually show Japanese police to be very passive, which is completely false. They work as hard as any other cops from any other country. Since the crime rate is very low in Japan, thanks to their citizens, the police usually don’t get the credit they deserve.
- ‘Karate’ was originated in Japan and Kung-fu was originated in China, many people have it otherwise or think Karate was originated from China.
- Japanese game shows are getting famous for all the right reasons (number 1 being ‘weird’), which is true.
- ‘Japan is unsafe due to earthquakes’ This is a statement that annoys me the most as it always comes from someone who hasn’t lived in Japan that long or never visited the country. The government has taken so many extra steps to make sure the safety of its people, the civil engineers work hard to create earthquake-proof buildings, mandatory safety drills at schools and offices, etc. are a lot of reasons that show that Japan is not unsafe. Of course, natural disasters cannot be prevented, but Japan is surely always prepared for one.
Q: What are your favorite fictional (bookish or otherwise) characters native to Japan?
Shinchan is my favorite cartoon. They show the daily life of Japan as it is, apart from the weird sense of humor of Shinchan of course. 😛 The house, their lifestyle and the life of his father, being a common Japanese salary-man, is very relatable and very Japanese in a true sense.
Anime is hugely popular and has its own comic con events all year long. Top anime like DragonBall, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, etc. originated in Japan and are popular worldwide.
Q: Tell us more about Japanese language. Teach us some common words and maybe, a few uncommon ones.
A: National Language of Japan is Japanese ( Nihongo – 日本語, Nihon + go is Japan + Language ). Japanese makes extensive use of Chinese characters, also called kanji (漢字), in its writing system.
Along with kanji, the Japanese writing system primarily uses two syllabic (or moraic) scripts, hiragana (ひらがな or 平仮名) and katakana (カタカナ or 片仮名). Latin script is used in a limited fashion, such as for imported acronyms, and the numeral system uses mostly Arabic numerals alongside traditional Chinese numerals.
Some common Japanese words are :
- Good Morning – Ohaiyo Gozaimasu ( おはようございます )
- Good Afternoon, Hi – Konnichiwa ( こんにちは )
- Good Evening – Konbawa ( こんばんは )
- Thank you – Arigatou Gozaimasu ( ありがとうございます )
Some beautiful Japanese words that don’t have a literal translation in English
“Itadakimasu” means “I humbly accept.” It is used before eating any food to express appreciation and respect for life, nature, the person who prepared the food, the person who served the food, and everything else that is related to eating.
Otsukaresama is one of the most common words used all over Japan. The literal translation of the word means “you’re tired”. It is used to let someone know that you recognize his/her hard work and that you are thankful for it.
Irrashyaimaasay is one of the words that you will hear in each store or restaurants. The owners/workers usually yell it out loud to show their enthusiasm and attention towards you. It translates to, you are welcome to my store/restaurant.
Last but not least,つんどく Tsundoku
Leaving a new book unread after buying it and just letting it pile up with the other unread books in the house.
Thank you, Deeksha!
I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
If you have something to add to Deeksha’s story, drop a comment here or send her a word of thanks on the social media. Both of us would love that.
Also, Deeksha’s blog TokyoBookworm, will be going live tomorrow, on 1st June 2019 and it would mean a lot to me if you would go give her follow, nudge or a comment to make her feel welcome!
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Let us chat
What are your favorite things about Japan? Is there something that I missed asking our guest? Did you know any of these Japanese phrases earlier? Let us chat.