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.
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.
I am so excited for this post. Yes let us talk about books set in Japan, one of the countries that I am kinda creepily obsessed about, under the Flyaway Friday feature. Can you blame me?
What is Flyaway Friday?
Ok let us back up a bit first.
On Fridays, I take you guys virtually to a new country, recommend books set in that country and the most exciting part of all, have a blogger from that country to tell us more about living there and help us compare what we read or see in books or movies with the reality as they see. So far we have been to Netherlands,France, Finland, Italy and Philippines.
My favorite books set in Japan
Now that pesky introduction has been done with, let us jump on to the topic
This epic family drama follows a Korean family that migrates into the imperialist Japan. We witness the WW II, division of Korea and the post war lives of the millions of Korean migrants in Japan through their eyes.
The author is a master storyteller that interweaves the prejudice, discrimination and racism in the society into this four generational saga.
This list is incomplete if I don’t mention Murakami. Kafka Tamura, a teenager runs away from his house in search of his long lost sister and his mother. Nakata, our second character survives by finding lost cats with his ability to talk to cats. Though they are physically close to each other, their lives are interwoven.
This surreal, poignant story will leave you with lots of hows and whys and wondering long after you finished it.
It is not often that I recommend a thriller in these posts but I have to add Soji Shimada because I am a sucker for such closed room murders.
This whodunnit is set in a crooked maze house of a millionaire who invites eight guests on a snowy night. Once everyone has settled for the night, several weird things start to happen. And the following morning, a guest is found dead inside his locked room. Who and how was it done?
Set in Tokyo before the WWI, the author’s cat who is the main character wanders around their neighborhood, judging and making fun of its owner and the world. This satirical commentary of the society will not fail to make you chuckle.
If you are interested to read a satire account of 1900s Japanese life and culture, pick this P G Wodehose-eseque book up right away.
Sayoko is a 17 year girl living in a remote fishing village during the end of the war. The presence of the American troops looms as a sinister to the villagers and four of them pull Sayoko into the woods to rape her.
The novel follows the ramification of the event of everyone around them and a young man who promises to avenge it. The story will leave a punch in your stomach!
Here are some more books that almost made my list.
Isn’t it time for another trip already? You don’t have to actually pack the bags for the trip, bet you know that. But a little preparation never hurts right? So read along and you will find interesting tidbits about Japan to make our following Flyaway Fridays fun.
What is Flyaway Friday?
If you are still wondering what we are upto, let me give you a quick recap.
Every month on Fridays, I take you all virtually to a new country, recommend books set in that country and the most exciting part of all, to have a blogger from that country to tell us more about living there and help us compare what we read or see in books or movies with the reality as they see.
Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south. (Wikipedia)
Some basic facts!
And more trivia
Literacy by Japanese youth is almost 100%, which is among the highest in the world.
Japanese are cultivating square melons because it’s easier to store them.
There are cafes where the staff is dressed up as French Maids Capsule hotels are available in most bigger cities.
Many Japanese babies are born with a harmless birthmark called Mokohan or Mongolian spot on their backs. These marks are common about Asian and Native Americans and they fade away by the time they reach five years of age.
Many schools in Japan make their students, as a part of their education, clean the school area, including toilets and classrooms. This is quite common as cleanliness is very important in Japanese culture.
Speaking about Japanese culture, they have cafes where you can pay money for cuddles to help lonely and single people and there is nothing sexual about it.
Major Cities in Japan
Let us chat
Have you ever visited Japan earlier? Or is it on your bucket list? What are the weird facts do you know about Japan? Let us talk.
If you like these posts, you might take a look at our previous trips to France, Italy, Finland and Philippines here. Join us on our arm chair travels!
Hi there everyone!! My name is Maureen and I’m a Book Blogger on Maureen’s Books. I’m 29 years old, and I life with my husband and baby girl in the Netherlands. Next to being a Book Blogger, I’m a Nurse in a teaching hospital.
Thank you Gayathri for inviting me to share my country with you and your friends here at ElgeeWrites. I think it’s a great idea to share our different countries with each other. Especially since there are so many prejudices out there that just aren’t true. The things I read and hear about The Netherlands, or also sometimes called Holland, for example.
We all wear wooden shoes, ride our bicycles every day, we are all very tall and have used drugs at least once! Well.. Let me help you all out of that dream. I’ve only worn wooden shoes once for a picture when I was little, I haven’t used my bicycle in at least a year and half, I’m only 163 cm (I think that’s about 5 ft 3) and I have never used any sort of drugs.
Here in the Netherland we definitely do have our very own traditions. For one we celebrate Kings Day (here called Koningsdag) every year on April 27th. It’s a national holiday here. On this day we celebrate our King’s birthday (and before him it was called Queens day) with all kinds of parties throughout the country.
Children wake up early to sell stuff on little markets, and there is music and food everywhere. There are also many little book stalls, so for us bookish people it’s also a great day Everyone is dressed in Orange (because the Dutch Royal Family is from the House of Orange-Nassau), there are Dutch flags everywhere and it’s just a very fun day. In fact it’s my favorite holiday next to Christmas. I love it!
Also a fun fact: every day on Kings Day the King and his family visit a town here in the Netherlands and celebrate the day in that town and its people. It’s also shown on television.
Another sort of tradition here in the Netherlands is football and ice skating. It’s kind of a big thing around here. Especially football, although we haven’t been very good at it lately! Every time there is European Championship or a World Championship we all go a little crazy. Every supermarket is promoting football by making some kind of silly souvenir. And the streets are even a lot quieter when there is a big game playing.
Here in the Netherlands we eat stuff from every part of the world. Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, French.. you name it and we eat something from that cuisine at least once a month. But we do have some stuff that is really ‘Dutch’.
And my favorite is definitely called stamppot. Stamppot is basically mashed potatoes with some kind of vegetable. Two of my favorite stamppots are ‘Boerenkool’, mashed potatoes with kale, and ‘andijviestamppot, mashed potatoes with endive. I can eat that every single day. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t like it so much, so I don’t eat it much.
Another really dutch thing are Bitterballen. And boy are they taste. Bitterballen are deep fried crispy meatballs. And I don’t think they are really healthy for your, so I don’t eat them a lot. But during summer I love eating Bitterballen while drinking a glass of wine on a nice terrace. Yummy.
Although we sure have many restaurants, and we have the major fast food joints like McDonalds and KFC, I rarely eat there. I mostly cook dinner at home every day. It’s much cheaper, I enjoy cooking and eating out is more special if you don’t do it a lot, I think.
A Typical Day in the Netherlands
How does a typical day in the Netherlands look? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is rainy and cold. Although the weather has gotten warmer these last view years, it still rains a lot here, and it doesn’t get very warm. A rain coat is definitely not a luxury around here.
Another thing that came to mind was traffic jams. We are a small country, but we have a lot of citizens. So the roads are often very busy, and there are a lot of traffic jams. Unfortunately traffic jams are a daily hassle for me. I go to work by car every day, and I stand in a traffic jam almost every single day. Blegh..
Like I said before, there are many stereotypes about Dutch people. It’s been said that we Dutch people are high on drugs a lot, since soft drug is legalized here. Well, although I would be able to get marihuana easily around here, I have never used it and don’t plan on using it ever. I honestly don’t think any of my friends and family use drugs regularly.
I think the fact it’s legal here, makes it uninteresting for a lot of people. So it’s nothing big here. The Dutch ‘drugs’ stereotype is used a lot in movies and tv series and I really hate that. Just as with the red light district in Amsterdam. Come on.. It’s one street that doesn’t mean we have prostitutes everywhere!! I also don’t think every American is like Trump. Just don’t judge! 🙂
Another stereotype about us is that we are ‘cheap’ around here. Well, I guess that’s probably true. If we can get something for free we’ll get it. Supermarkets and stores advertise with sales almost all the time and giving tips to waiters and mailmen etc. isn’t something that’s common here.
The last stereotype I hear a lot about Dutch people is that we are direct. And that one is also true I think. We don’t beat around the bush and we aren’t very hysterical people. For example when I see people going crazy wild about a famous person on TV, I know for sure it’s not here. They are just people like us right? And the funny meme here also proves it.. And yes, this is actually true!!
I have been reading books in English from when I was twelve years old. So I honestly don’t know much about Dutch authors and books. Obviously I hear stuff about Dutch Authors and books on TV and on the radio but I haven’t read many. I have read some Dutch children’s books while growing up, and I still own them.
My favorite Dutch Childrens books are written by Carrie Slee. Her books are mostly based on teens and a lot of her books are made into movies. I also loved the books by Paul van Loon. His books are more ‘scary’ and I adored them growing up.
Our National Language
Here in the Netherlands we speak Dutch, or as we call it Nederlands. Dutch, not Deutsch!! Deutsch is the national language of Germany. And although apparently our languages are very much alike.. I can understand it a little but definitely can’t speak it. Danish is also a little like Dutch. Some words are the same, but I also can’t speak a word Danish.
There are a lot of words in Dutch that are almost the same in English. For example:
Tomato = Tomaat
Apple = Appel
Pear = Peer
Banana = Banaan
And, I had to look this one up, we have one word that has no translation in English. It’s ‘gezellig’, And it’s a word we use a lot. This is what’s being said about our word ‘gezellig’:
Situations can begezellig, as can people and places – it’s an adjective, the noun beinggezelligheid. If something isgezellig, it is familiar, warm, friendly, cozy, and jovial. For example, enjoying a cozy dinner with old-friends in one of your favorite, quaint, little restaurants with some tasty food and wine isgezellig; being in a meeting at work is notgezellig!
Some important Dutch words and sentences for us bookish people are:
Bookstore = Boekenwinkel
Reading = Lezen
Where can I find the nearest Bookstore? = Waar kan ik de dichtstbijzijnde boekenwinkel vinden?
Do you sell “…” = Verkoopt u ook “..”
But one thing we Dutch people are mostly very good at is speaking English. Not everyone speaks or writes it fluently but most people can speak English pretty well. So if you come to visit and don’t speak any Dutch? No worries, we can understand you.
And that’s probably in short what I can tell you about our small country of The Netherlands. Who knows maybe some of you get to visit our pretty little country one day?! And to end things in Dutch:
‘Dankjewel Gayathri voor deze leuke kans.’(Thank you, Gayathri for this fun opportunity.)
Thank you Maureen!
Thanks Maureen for your time and sharing with us a glimpse of your Dutch life. You can contact here through her blog and social accounts.
You do know how we travel to a country without passport nor the hassle of the crowd, via the cheapest mode of travel – books. So this week let me talk about books that are set in Netherlands. Let us get on with it, shall we?
The story is told in the first person by Griet, who is hired as a maid by the master painter Vermeer’s family in Delft. She joins the chaotic family with too many children, an oblivious wife and a husband who doesn’t care about the finance of the family. Griet has fend off the advances of a rich patron, an infatuated young man and fight off the dream of being a wife of the painter.
What can you expect:
This fictionalized account of the story behind the famous painting also acts as a great social commentary!
Set in the Seventeenth Century, eighteen year old Nella arrives in Amsterdam as the wife of Johannes Brandt, who is kind but distant to her and leaves her at the mercy of her sharp tongued sister. Johannes gifts a miniature sized replica of their household and it falls upon Nella to furnish her gift with the help of a miniaturist, whose creations mirrors its real life counterparts. How does this change their lives once and for all?
What can you expect:
A suspense filled story of love and obsession that you can’t put down till the end.
Two brothers and their wives meet in a fancy restaurant in Amsterdam. Behind their apparent polite small talks, they need to discuss matters of grave importance. Their sons have committed something terrible and illegal and they have to decide how it is to be handled. By the time their dinner comes to an end, their trivial facade is broken. Where does all these leave the ‘happy families’ and ‘blood is thicker than water’?
What can you expect:
A mind blowing thriller that spans over a dinner which talks about politics, mental health and other uncomfortable dinner table conversations.
A single mother, a middle aged couple and 50 something male all heading to Amsterdam for the weekend are united by their misery regarding a close family member. They arrive at the city hoping for a change in their lives and does the city offer them a recourse?
What can you expect:
This slow character oriented fiction explores the complexities of love and relationship.
This classic book captures the poignant story of a young girl from the German occupied Amsterdam. She captures the happenings during the war, especially to the Jews in the form of diary entries between 1942-44 while hiding from the Germans in an attic.
What can you expect:
Despite the hard times set in the book, it is surprisingly full of life and spirit making it a must read!
Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader’s own complacency. (From Goodreads)
That is all for now, folks. I will meet you all soon with a guest blogger next week on the Netherlands edition of the Flyaway Friday. Also if you have any question for our Dutch blogger about Netherlands or their culture, do drop them in the comments.
Let us chat
Have you read any of these books? Do you know any other book set in Netherlands that is not listed here? What are the stereotypes and facts that you have read about the country that you have heard of? Let us talk.
It is Friday and that means I come bearing some exciting news about travel. Yes it is time to announce where we will be travelling for this month’s Flyaway Friday feature. So are you all ready? We will be travelling off to Netherlands.
So if you are still wondering what we are upto, let me give you a quick tour. Every month on Fridays, I take you all virtually to a different country, recommend books set in that country and the most exciting part of all, to have a blogger from that country to tell us more about living there and help us compare what we read or see in books or movies with the reality as they see.
And this month we will be featuring Netherlands and I can’t wait to start off with the introduction and trivia post. So shall we?
Let us locate Netherlands first!
Netherlands is located in the Northwestern part of Europe and shares border with Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. To be more clear I will attach a map, alright?
Some basic facts for y’all!
Here are some fun facts about Netherlands for you
1) While most of us use the names interchangeably, Holland (consisting of North and South Holland) is just a part of the Kingdom of Netherlands. Next time catch yourself from making that mistake.
2) Netherlands has one of the healthiest diet in the world. In fact it is one of the leading countries in happiness and high per capita income in the world.
3) It legalized same sex marriages in 2001 and was the first nation in the world to do so.
4) While Amsterdam is the capital of the country, the government of the Netherlands is seated in the Hague.
5) Orange is its national color and the monarchy is from the House of Orange.
6) Netherlands is the third largest agricultural exporter, despite their size.
7) The Dutch men and women are some of the tallest in the world with an average height of 182.5cm for adult males and 169 cm for female.
Major cities in Netherlands
Let us chat
Have you ever visited Netherlands in person? Do you know any fun facts about the country? Do you have any questions for the Dutch guest blogger about their nation, habits, stereotypes etc? Let us talk.