Five Totally Bizarre Observations on Japan

They might as well be from the moon, they’re so different from us.

  • They ride their bicycles on the sidewalk instead of in the street.

bikes sidewalks

  • Smoking outside is not permitted. One is only allowed to smoke inside. The Japanese consider smoking a right instead of a privilege.

japanese smokers

  • Americans are taught to look people in the eye whether we are having a direct conversation with you or simply passing you by on the street. The Japanese are an uber shy society; looking people in the eyes is not something they do. Moreover, calling attention to yourself or others is very uncool. When I first arrived there, a lady at the train station in front of me dropped a bunch of papers. Naturally I stopped to help her pick them up. She was mortified. It was only later that I learned that by calling attention to her plight that I was embarrassing her. I eventually trained myself not to do these things but it is completely incongruent to the American way of life. By the time I moved back home from Tokyo, I was fully versed in this lifestyle though. Near the end of my stay there a woman walking down a hill towards me slipped on the rain slicked asphalt and fell right in front of me. I just stepped over her and kept going. It felt weird as hell but much less weird than if I had stopped to help her. One habit I could never break though was holding doors open for people. In America it’s polite to hold the door open if there is a person behind you walking into the same place. It seemed heartless to me that a healthy young person could let a door slam in the face of a bent over old man struggling along behind them. This was the one habit I could not break and it would inevitably (but in this case happily) surprise the person behind me.

japanese slip and fall

  • I hate hate hated their brooms. In America we use brooms with nice long handles to avoid the inevitable backache from bending over for so long. In Japan, they use these tiny brooms that look like they made them themselves by lashing some palm fronds together. One might argue that because they are so short, they don’t need brooms with longer handles. The brooms they used though were so short that even they had to bend over to use them. As for me, it was easier to just sit on the floor and use a dustpan and broom than try to bend over to clean my floor with a bunch of leaves.
japanese broom

japanese broom

  • The moon doesn’t rise in Japan like it does in America. It sets.

japan moon set


One thought on “Five Totally Bizarre Observations on Japan

  1. The perception of smoking has changed in Japan for quite a lot of people I think. You don’t see so many places that even have smoking sections anymore. And most people smoking outside, do it because they have to (law!). Even so, smoking outside on certain grounds or areas have been pretty set apart from other areas…
    Just recently, they’ve set up many of the heavily used roads with bicycle lanes on the roads, it doesn’t mean that people use them, mostly because there are parked cars there! But, mostly because the law hasn’t specified what bicycles are..pedestrians, or not. Pedestrians belong on the sidewalk, bicycles? sometimes they are much more hazardous to drivers because of all the parked cars, taxis, etc.

    But the ‘door holding’ bit, drives me nuts… there are some people I work with who are just clueless. One day I held open the door for the people coming through from the other side (glass door) and the a**hole behind me, marches on through!! Another time, walking behind a guy (maybe three steps?), didn’t even bother to keep the door open after he went through! (and my shoes make noise when I walk..!)
    And actually, just today, I had my hands full and was walking behind a co-worker who went through the door (the glass door mentioned above, actually), and I wasn’t more than 3 or 4 steps behind her… she was like ‘oh, sorry’ and made a feeble attempt to keep the door open…which failed.
    ah… idiots.

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