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.
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.
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.
Let us all pretend that today is the 32nd day of January 2019 and not comment about how I skipped posting our Flyaway Friday feature. Real life keeps tripping my schedules. Anyway I am here for my Philippines special Flyaway Friday!
This week we have Jennilyn of Rurouni Jenni Reads talking about her life in the Philippines and to tell us about everything we need to know for our virtual travel. Thank you Jenny!
Say hello to Jennilyn, fellow travellers!
Jennilyn is a Filipina who loves books, braids, cats and cakes. She is an accountant IRL but she secretly wants to become a famous frog someday. Like so many of her countrymen, she is an ace karaoke singer. Her favorite color is green.
Hello to everyone here at Elgee Writes! I am Jennilyn, your friendly book blogger at Rurouni Jenni Reads. In this guest post, let me talk to you about my beautiful and beloved country, Philippines!
Experience the Filipino hospitality
If there is one Filipino trait that I can be most proud about, it’s our hospitality. We are a bunch of warm, helpful and smiling people. We make such a fuss when we have visitors over, whether it be our own Filipino relatives or foreigners. Filipinos give our best to our visitors. If we are expecting guests, we make sure to clean the house thoroughly. If our visitors are staying the night, we give up the best room in the house even if that means that we have to sleep on the couch o on the floor.
Another aspect of our hospitality is how we willingly open our home to anyone. When you visit a Filipino home during mealtimes, it is imperative for the homeowners to say, “Tara, kain!” which means, “Let’s eat!”. We would gladly welcome an unexpected guest to dine with us even if we actually do not have enough food to share around.
Filipinos are foodies
Our original Filipino cuisines, sinigang and adobo, are my favorite food. Sinigang is either a pork or seafood broth soured by tamarind or any local citrus fruits. I always ask my mother to cook sinigang for me when I am sick.
Adobo is pork, chicken or fish braised in soy sauce and vinegar. Eating sinigang, adobo or any other Filipino ulam (dish) is always accompanied with sumptuous helpings of rice. A meal isn’t a meal here without rice. Our sacred food motto is “Rice is life.”
Our home cooking has also various foreign influences. From the Chinese, we have pancit (stir fried noodles topped with meat and veggies) and lumpia (spring rolls). Pancit is a staple in Filipino birthday celebrations because our elders believe that eating pancit gives the celebrator a long life. From the Spanish, we have tomato based dishes: afritada and menudo.
Our use of vetsin (monosodium glutamate) as seasoning and our halo-halo (shaved ice topped with different sweet preserves, plus milk) have Japanese influences. And of course, our love for burgers, fried chicken and pizza is influenced by the Americans. We have American fast food joints here like McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut. But no Filipino fastfood experiene is complete without eating in Jollibee, a homegrown fastfood joint.
Pro tip: Jollibee’s sweet and saucy spaghetti is a must-try.
Go Ghetto, if you wish
If you wanna go ghetto, we have an amazing array of street food. Some of my favorites are kwek-kwek (deep fried quail eggs in orange batter), taho (silk tofu with sago pearls in brown caramel sauce) and isaw (grilled chicken intestines). If you want your street food on the exotic side, you should try our balut (boiled fertilized duck egg).
A love-hate relationship with city life
I am born and raised in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. If you want to feel our country’s history, Intramuros is the place to go. Food tripping in Binondo is also an something that you shouldn’t miss. You can roam around Binondo all year-round but better visit during the Lunar/Chinese New Year to witness the celebrations of our Filipino-Chinese community.
On weekends, some Filipino families go on picnis on public parks like Luneta and the Quezon City Circle. But more often because it’s too hot outside, we flock in droves to airconditioned malls. And by golly, we have plenty of malls here.
There’s lots to love in the city but there are also lots of stuff that we have to improve on. Our cities are overpopulated because people in the province migrate here in the hopes of better job opportunities. Where there is overpopulation, there is loitering and littering and a higher crime rate. I admit that I’ve been pickpocketed more than once, lol. The commute and traffic is also a daily struggle.
Visit our tropical tourist destinations
Manila is not only the place to be in our country. The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands and that means lots of island-hopping and beach-bumming. I am personally a fan of travelling our own country.
I have already gone to the beaches in Batangas (which is only a few hours drive from Manila) and Palawan (less than an hour plane-ride from Manila). I have also gone sight-seeing in Bohol and white-water rafting in Cagayan de Oro and I honestly can’t get enough of our tourist spots. I intend to save more for future travels in my own country before I save up for travel overseas.
Our claim to fame
Filipinos tend to have this fascinating proud moment when fellow Filipinos achieve something internationally. It’s a nice trait to be proud of our own but sometimes we can get all intense that even me gets weirded out. Like whenever a Filipino wins a boxing match or a Filipina nabs the crown of a beauty pageant, the Internet better brace itself for a flurry of #PinoyPride posts and comments. It’s as if one Filipino’s success is the achievement of the whole nation.
We even rejoice in the most mundane things in pop culture that mentions us or our country. A contestant in a talent show abroad has .00315% drop of Filipino blood and we’re like, yaaas #PinoyPride! A South Korean girl group waves our flag in their music vid(eo) and we go, yay #PinoyPride!
But if you ask me, there is no better depiction of the Philippines in films and books than the films and books created by Filipinos. And since I am a book blogger, let me recommend a few books by Filipino authors.
Almost all Filipinos are bilingual. In Manila, locals speak Tagalog and English. We use English in business correspondences and in classrooms, then we use Tagalog in our household and in our casual conversations. Some Filipinos can even speak in more than two tongues. My mother for instance, also knows Kapampangan and Bicol, two dialects from our provinces.
Even if we know English well, we Filipinos are endeared by foreigners who can speak our native tongue. So to end my guest post, let me teach you some basic Filipino that you can use when you visit our country in the future. It’s important to note that we pronounce our words exactly as spelled and our vowels are all short vowels.
Mabuhay! = A general greeting that literally translates to “long live” but can be used as “hello”
Kamusta? = How are you?
Salamat. = Thank you
Pasensya na. = Sorry.
Yes – Oo (informal). Opo (formal)
No – Hindi (informal). Hindi po (formal)
Thank you Jenny!
That is all for now folks and I cannot thank Jennilyn enough for providing the images and videos along with her post. Seriously this is fabulous girl. And you know what girl, I might actually visit your nation one of these days, just to be a beach bum!
I would love it if you guys give a shout out to her through her social accounts!
Philippines is a South East Asian country sharing maritime borders with Taiwan, Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia and Singapore. A map would explain better than me, right?
Major cities in Philippines
Let us cover the basics right away
More Trivia coming up!
Here are ten more things that to know before we start on our virtual travel.
1) Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelago, meaning large group of islands and it consists of about 7500+ islands. Only about 2000 and odd are inhibited and the rest may not even have a name on the Atlas.
2) The people of Philippines are called Filipino (male) or Filipina (female) and many of them are fluent in English. In fact Philippines is the fifth largest English-speaking nation.
3) However, they have more than 180 languages, most of them are still living. One of the majorly spoken language is Tagalog and it is influenced by Spanish, who ruled the nation for a really long time.
4) If you ever visit to Philippines, you will find many colorful tricycles and Jeepneys (modified Jeeps) for local commutes, more than cabs or Uber.
Have ever travelled in a Jeepney? If you visit Philippines you can. Learn more about the country in our weekly feature Flyaway Friday.