Japan. How nice to be Japanese for a while

25 oddities in Japan that are hard to believe



25 Japan Weirdnesses that are Hard to Believe

Japan is known for its ancient culture and traditions. But there are some things in this country that you will not find anywhere else in the world.

We have decided to collect the most unusual things that tourists may encounter when traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun. From toilet slippers to an incomprehensible procedure of dental augmentation.

Let’s go to a very strange and sometimes incomprehensible Japan.

Love Hotels.

Especially for couples in love in Japan are provided themed hotels. Their number is increasing every year. Guests are promised complete privacy and anonymity.

Recognition of such hotels is simple. They have two rooms: for recreation and for overnight stays. Well, it is worth noting the appropriate symbolism in the form of hearts.

According to statistics, about 2% of the population visits such institutions every day. They are usually located near the subway, train stations and industrial areas.

2. Sleeping at work

If you fall asleep at work somewhere in Russia, there is a chance of losing it. In Japan it is normal to fall asleep or “inemuri” (as they say in slang) while working.

Moreover, those who work especially hard and perform grueling tasks are literally forced to sleep in the middle of the work day.

True, in the face of such indulgence, there are those who like to abuse it. There are more and more “sleepy heifers” in Japan.

3. Cafes with maids

The Japanese like to be served by a maid. Because of that, cafes where waitresses are dressed like this began to appear in the cities. And there is no sign of a hotel on the premises.

4. Ramen noodle soup

You should eat it with chopsticks and a spoon. You can’t do it without a proper skill. But real professionals manage to eat this liquid dish without using a spoon and only with chopsticks.

5. Double Teeth

This bizarre fashion for dental interventions has been dubbed “yaeba.” The essence of the procedure is to enlarge the canines of the upper teeth. They have to protrude beyond the jaw.

According to the assertion of Japanese women, such smile allows looking a child, and therefore, in the opinion of the representatives of the stronger half of mankind, to be sexier.

The price of the issue is about $400. This is with the use of veneer onlays. In especially complex cases, it will be necessary to change the position of the teeth, resorting to surgical intervention.

The main thing is to achieve the result and get a “crooked” smile.

6. Renting a Sleeping Half

There is such a service in Japan as sleeping in pairs. It is especially in demand among men. You pay money for a night with a hottie. You literally sleep next to her, but the client is not allowed to touch the “rented other half”. Sex is excluded.

You will have to pay extra for hugging and stroking. A minute of “cuddling” will cost 700-1000 rubles.

7. Hadaka-matsuri

In February, Japanese men take an active part in the Hadaka-matsuri festival.

Instead of a strict business suit, a fundoshi loincloth is worn. The minimal amount of clothing is the festival’s main horse. They take place all over Japan every year.

8. Facial blackening.

Fashion and Japan are scary things. One of the Japanese trends of the female population is to color the face dark . The darker the foundation, the sexier and more fashionable.

9. Restaurants that serve canned food

You go to a restaurant, open the menu, and there’s: canned mackerel, sprats in tomato, sprats. They serve it all in a tin… Do you think it’s absurd? No, Japan.

Mr. Kanso’s canned food restaurants have been gaining popularity in Japan since 2002. The menu of this huge chain includes over 300 kinds of canned food: fish, vegetables, and meat.

Before your meal, you can walk around the restaurant and take the jars you’re intrigued by from the shelves. You pay at the cash register, get the knife and go ahead at the meal.

10. Capsule Hotels.

The average size of rooms in capsule hotels is 2 x 1 x 1.25 meters. The volume of such a “room” is quite enough to spend the night. They first appeared in Japan back in 1979. The average cost of a room is about 1,400 to 3,000 rubles.

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11. ghost island Hashima

Located 15 kilometers from the city of Nagasaki. Once the most populous place on the planet with a density of residents of 139 100 people per 1 square kilometer.

After interest in coal mining on the island waned, residents began to leave the island. So the town became a ghost town. Nowadays, Hasima is considered one of the country’s landmarks.

12. vending machines

Food vending machines are very popular in Japan. They are practically at every step here. And the range of dishes and snacks is incredibly large.

That’s because the Japanese are workaholics. They don’t have time to cook at home, so the best way not to die of hunger is to have a snack on the go.

13. Game Kantyo

In Russian the name of this game sounds like “enema”. You stick your index finger up the anus of an unsuspecting contestant.

Despite the strangeness of the game, it is very popular among children. The risk of getting a bruised finger or … (let’s not talk about sad things) does not scare them.

14. Toilet slippers

Toilet for the Japanese is a completely independent of the entire apartment room. In order to maintain hygiene and keep bacteria out, the Japanese change their shoes when they go to the toilet. Unhappy slippers spend their entire lives exclusively in one room.

15. Hiding your thumb in your fist.

This tradition is somewhat reminiscent of ours “cross your fingers.” This is how the Japanese supposedly prevent an undesirable fate for their loved ones. By hiding the thumb in the fist, the Japanese protect their parents from death.

16. Rabbit Island

There is a small island called Okunoshima in the Inner Sea of Japan. It is also called the island of rabbits. It is not hard to guess that the number of wild furry ones there is excessive.

According to history, in 1971, a group of schoolchildren released on a deserted island 4 pairs of rabbits. Over the years, they have bred to incredible numbers.

The island has become a tourist destination, but you will be forced to leave cats and dogs behind before you visit. It is forbidden to bring them.

17. Acceptance of gifts

The Japanese are very patient. They never open gifts in the presence of guests and the giver himself. Otherwise they may think you are greedy.

When receiving a gift, the most important thing is not to damage the packaging and never drop the gift.

18. Gas mask city

Mount Oyama is an active volcano on Miyakejima Island. It erupts and forces residents to wear gas masks. Moreover, poisonous gases come out of the volcano’s crater all the time. But the locals don’t like evacuations. They prefer to live in gas masks and carry them around the clock.

19. The smallest escalator.

Oddly enough, one of the hardest working nations has the smallest escalator. It is located in one of Kawasaki’s office buildings. It has only five steps and is no more than 1.5 meters high.

20. Rabbit Cafes

In addition to cafes with cats, there are special restaurants in Japan, the main owners of which are rabbits. There are dozens of them here. Visitors are allowed to pet and feed them. Food, of course, you have to buy separately in the same restaurant, but one portion of greens and carrots is included.

You are asked about 6-7 thousand rubles for admission. Non-alcoholic drinks are also included.

21. Iron Phallus Festival

This is the annual festival held on the first Sunday of April. Appropriate symbols appear all over the city of Kawasaki. The highlight is a 2.5-meter pink phallus that is carried to the foot of Kanayama Shrine.

The proceeds from the festival are donated to HIV research foundations.

22. “Smart toilets

The comfort of Japanese toilets and toilets can appreciate only a tourist. After you finish your dirty work you will get the whole complex of water procedures. On the right hand will be a special remote control to select the program.

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Such toilets are already installed in most public toilets.

23. Cute fences

Places that you want to fence off from cars or people, in Japan, it is customary to decorate nicely. So supports can be made in the form of a cartoon or anime character. To run over such niceness will not allow the heart.

24. Blue traffic light signal.

Instead of green, Japanese traffic lights use blue. All because of the evolution of the Japanese language. Originally there were only four colors: black, white, red and blue. For all other colors, a mixture of these basic colors was used.

As a result, Japan decided to abandon the “complicated” green and began to use blue.

25. Very expensive fruits

Fruits that cost several thousand rubles per kilo are, in the opinion of the Japanese, a great gift. There are pears for 1500 rubles per kilo and melons for $125 dollars . And all because the fruit is recognized as a good gift.



How the Japanese live and what you can learn from them (and what you should not)

Photo: collage: Lera Snoz (@lerasnoz)

Life in Japan is changing faster than our stereotypes about it. Journalist Yuri Sinaleyev who has been living in Tokyo for more than 15 years tells if the Japanese are as hardworking as we think they are, and why there are lines for courses in the Bulgarian language.

Many people write about Japan in Russia, from travel-bloggers to patriotically-minded communists who are concerned about the Japanese claim to the Kuril Islands (it’s funny that in the Pacific country itself the communists also campaign loudest for Kuril annexation), and everyone has a different Japan. But people who have lived there for a dozen years share their observations unwillingly (of course, except for journalists, for whom all news means bread): with every year you realize that you don’t know Japan at all. Although, perhaps, there are astute foreigners who know the Land of the Chrysanthemum Throne and the Rising Sun better than its inhabitants. And such things happen.

I will try to tell you about the Japan that I see now, and what has changed in my 17 years of living in this completely ordinary Asian country. Where people live like people, and fortunately the apartment issue hasn’t spoiled them.

Tatami and emptiness

The birth rate problem in Japan is a painful issue: the population is rapidly aging and shrinking. Therefore, apartments for rent are empty, buyers for land is becoming less and less, and the market for secondary housing is overcrowded, the supply exceeds demand. Get a new two-story house with parking space, full finish, equipped with a kitchen and well-groomed front garden in the area of Western Tokyo today can be ¥35 million (about $ 330,000) – quite a good offer for one of the most expensive cities in the world. By the way, homes and apartments to the Japanese are still measured not in the usual square meters, and in the old way, in tatami (1 tatami is equal to 1.6 square meters – “RBC Style”).

About 10 years ago it was popular in the cities to build private homes consisting of two or three parts: with the sight that the children will be provided with their own home when they grow up. Until that happened, the empty part of the house was rented out. This was considered not even as additional income, but as an opportunity to partially recoup the construction. Now the reality is that many premises for rent are idle. Of course, in the center of large cities the situation is different, but foreigners are to blame.

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Burn on Mondays.

During an earthquake, things fly around the apartment the higher the floor, and trash is no exception. It may be funny when it comes to scrapped children’s toys, but what if the trash contains banana peels or chicken bones? For such cases, apartment buildings have a semi-subterranean space where residents bring their garbage.

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In the case of private homes, the situation is different: garbage here is sorted and disposed of by day of the week. Monday and Thursday – incinerators; Tuesday – aluminum, PET bottles and glass; Wednesday – batteries, old pots, burnt-out light bulbs; Friday – plastic. That’s the order in my neighborhood. The Japanese are very sensitive to environmental issues.

Vladimir Tsvetov’s reports on air pollution in Japan, which were broadcasted on Soviet television, were mostly ideological legends: many of those who had been to the islands noted the clean air in the first place. Well, or Tsvetov himself simply suffered from allergies, like most of Japan’s population. It was for this reason that gauze masks became a necessity for many. During the blooming season, the television broadcast information about the pollen situation in different regions along with the weather forecast, and at the same time give advice to allergy sufferers. So that foreigners with a strong immune system for unused hard to breathe just because of the humidity in the hottest months of the year.

One of the most pleasant things – the purity of tap water in Tokyo. You can drink it without fear. At one time, at the initiative of the Tokyo Mayor’s Office tap water was even sold for a nominal fee in plastic bottles, and residents were sent free cups with an appeal not to be afraid to drink the water from the tap. The campaign was briefly interrupted by the tragedy of March 11, 2011, when the country was hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in its history, but even then, tap water was not a cause for concern.

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In the cities, you can often see animals: not only the park deer, but also wild animals. Including, of course, the Japanese macaque.

Foreign tourists adore them and sometimes even climb into the hot springs at the same time as the macaques. The monkeys are not particularly pleasant, so tourists often come out of the springs with traces of feces at best. The trouble is that to touch these animals in the country is tantamount to a criminal offense. And if the locals know the peculiar safety measures to communicate with macaques, the foreigners flirting with primates, the risk of losing a purse or purse with a passport.

Photo: Steven Diaz / unsplash.com

Another frequent guest in the cities – all kinds of reptiles. In order not to scare tourists, locals say that snakes are not dangerous here. The poisonous mantis, or mamushi, lives only in the high mountains, dangerous creepers are found in Okinawa, but very rarely. But vipers and snakes, not uncommon even in downtown Tokyo, are common. But in my 17 years of living within the Greater Tokyo area, I’ve seen the police catch those mamushi twice; once right in front of my house.

Salamanders, on the other hand, while scary on the surface, are actually quite harmless, even if they are up to 1.5 meters long. That hasn’t stopped the Japanese themselves from exterminating almost all of the giant salamanders: the meat of these animals is considered a delicacy. Today there is a ban on their capture, but some restaurants still serve salamander dishes for regular and verified customers. Sometimes the police raid such restaurants.

Photo: PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier

But in August, bears are to be feared. Bears, like monkeys, are lazy creatures – so they come close to humans in search of food. Sometimes they climb into homes, and if it is impossible to chase a bear away, he is shot. And all tourists heading into the mountains are assigned a bell: it is believed that the loud ringing scares away the predator.

Alas, animals are not the only troublemakers in the cities.

As mentioned above, the Japanese nation is aging fast, and there is no age limit for driving a car in the country. At the same time, the percentage of fatal accidents caused by elderly drivers has increased from 8.7% to 14.8% in the last ten years.

Older people prefer to use their favorite cars, which are 20 years old or more. Especially in villages, where a small van “works and does not let me down. But the driver fails, going out into the city. That’s why children died in cars with their grandfathers, schoolchildren run over at crossings, and heart attacks of drivers on highways are not uncommon. All this made the Japanese government to reconsider the system of license issuing for drivers older than 75 years old. In the meantime, they are supposed to drive on the road with the sign “koreisya” (“elderly driver”).

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Japan has always been considered to be a country with almost zero crime, including theft. But time flies and the country changes. They do not like to wash their dirty linen in public, and that is why the information about crime was weak, and only very loud incidents were made public. However, a mafia-inspired state cannot be crystal-clear.

In the fall of 2004, for example, I went to Niigata Prefecture, which had been hit by a massive earthquake. Police reports were filled with reports of looting in the evacuated areas, but locals told journalists with a smile that they didn’t worry about their belongings. It is worth noting that at that time even large supermarkets did not have frames, which give a signal when you try to take out an item without paying for it. Now they are installed everywhere.

Another common and unbreakable stereotype: the Japanese are all workaholics. But I think many of them, knowing that they would be paid two or three times as much for overtime, would stretch out their work for at least 10 hours instead of eight. So the employees sat up, diligently pretending to be actively working with a very intelligent face. And foreigners marveled at such hard work. But the luxury of the 1970s and 1980s turned bubble burst in the mid-1990s: employers have ceased to pay extra for extra hours to rub their pants, and people began to work faster – this is a fact. It is also a fact that there are almost no people who want to stay at work longer. Salaries and positions of full-time employees are increasing in line with their age.

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What does not change is the constant queues, whether for a new iPhone or for Geza dumplings. They are considered a national trait, which the Japanese themselves often make fun of. For example, not long ago there was the following story in a TV show.

Two noodle shops standing next to each other agreed that during the lunch break they would line up their relatives in front of one establishment and the other one every other day. Office workers who went out for lunch would, out of habit, line up wherever there were more people. This went on year after year, until the pattern was broken by a large group of foreigners crowding in front of the noodle shop, which was supposed to be “resting” that day. The locals on their lunch hour mechanically joined them.

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By the way, now that we’re talking about food. The Japanese remain big fans of sushi and sashimi, but most prefer steaks, especially in yakiniku restaurants (originally a Korean format of establishments where visitors grill their own meat). As for alcohol, young people hardly ever drink rice- or yam-based national drinks and umesu plum wine. Beer, alcoholic cocktails, and heavily diluted whiskey are popular. Lately sales of European wine have been growing exponentially, although the Japanese have also learned to make their own very worthy wine. There are many vineyards in the country; the vines from Yamanashi prefecture are especially valued.

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Abenomics, the reforms of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has had a strong influence on changing the gastronomic preferences of the Japanese. Thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the country’s food imports increased and foreign products became significantly cheaper. Meat, cheese and alcohol were the first to be affected.

Photo: TR Davis / unsplash.com

Interestingly, the sports preferences of the Japanese were also largely influenced by the West: baseball has become the main sport in the country. And they fell in love with it quite a long time ago, during the Meiji Restoration – baseball bats and gloves of soldiers of the imperial army are kept in historical museums. I am sure that it was the Japanese who insisted that baseball be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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There are positive changes in the country as well. For example, the times when children from mixed marriages were somehow bullied are a thing of the past, although until recently this happened all the time. Now there are many successful and famous mestizos in sports, culture, science, show business, and even politics.

Not long ago, Danny Tamaki, 59, whose mother is Japanese and father is American, was elected governor of Okinawa Prefecture. Or here’s another example: Renho Murata, born to a Chinese man and a Japanese woman, who was a member of the government from 2010-2012 and then became one of the leaders of the Democratic Party. For a conservative, patriarchal country, this is a unique case. This August, Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, also a politician and member of parliament, married the popular TV host Christel Takigawa, who owes her name to her French father.

And of course, the favorites are women’s number one singles player Naomi Osaka (whose father was born in Haiti) and baseball player Yu Darvish (whose father is Iranian).

For centuries, people’s attitudes toward foreigners have been contradictory, to say the least. However, nationalism in East Asia, whether in capitalist or communist countries, has always been a tacit but dominant ideology, both among the ruling elite and at the domestic level.

There are “their” foreigners: those who have lived nearby for many years, who have been partially assimilated, who know the language and customs. Their neighbors will always help them, and the foreigner will not be in debt. But this is within the area, where the migrant is known for many years, he is a stranger. Outside his familiar surroundings he remains a stranger.

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The conviction that a foreigner is evil is still peculiar to the older generation. Young people are more friendly to strangers, but, despite the ostensible politeness and a smile, are wary of them. And the fault for this lies, above all, with the foreigners themselves. The recent news reports, such as “Police Detains African Drug Dealers in Roppongi District of Tokyo”, “Pakistani Man Kills Ex-Lover from Russia”, “Russian Man Throws Stones at Police Station”, “South Korean Man Created Gold-Smuggling Network”, are just a few excerpts.

But in 2020 the Olympic Games will start in Tokyo, which means that locals will have to deal with guests from abroad. For the Olympics, they have already started training volunteers, who must speak a variety of languages. And many Japanese have already lined up in the usual queues for courses… in Bulgarian! It may seem strange, but this interest is quite understandable: Bulgaria is incredibly popular in the country, the face of which was the Sumo wrestler of Bulgarian origin, Kotooshu (the first European to win the Imperial Cup).

Of course, no matter how diligently Japanese learn a language, you can’t avoid misunderstandings: it has to do with peculiarities of phonetics, where, for example, there is no “l” sound. But that’s not a problem: you can always find your way to the stadium or your hotel. It is only at first glance it is easy to get lost in Japanese cities. If in Tokyo there is no translation of any inscription from Japanese to English, you will probably find its double with a clear picture.

Well, if a Japanese person suddenly asks you in a store or on the street in broken English: “What country are you from?” and then offers to show you Tokyo, don’t refuse. Often this is how a sincere friendship begins for many years. One rule: you should not impose your society on the locals. Excessive temperament and loud boasts of the Japanese are irritating, though they won’t show it to you. At best they will smile politely, at worst they will pass by and ignore you. So the initiative should only come from the Japanese side.

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