In case you didn’t know…
- Japan has the world’s tenth largest population with about 128 million people (Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures host 30 million alone).
- Japan has the third-biggest economy
- 70% of the country is covered by mountains and hills
- Japanese school year starts in April and has 3 terms, separated by summer, spring, and winter holidays (April-July, September-December, and January-March)
- Schooling years are segmented into lines of 6-3-3-4 (six years of primary, 3 years of junior high and high school, and 4 years of university).
- Japanese students must take entrance exams, and they are very competitive; many students attend special preparation schools (juku) in addition to regular school
- Japan has an effective public transportation network, and its railways are known for its punctuality and safety.
- Trains are crowded; people push their way in when completely full; the workers litterally push people in like cattle when the doors close
- It is impolite to eat or drink something while walking down the street
- One says Itadakimasu before eating and deshita when finished, especially when being treated as a guest.
- When sharing a dish, put what you want to eat on your plate before eating it
- Do not use chopsticks to skewer food or move dishes around. Do not dish out food to another using the same ends you just ate from- use the top ends.
- Don’t point at someone using your chopsticks, and don’t let them touch the table.
- Don’t leave chopsticks standing in your food
- It is normal to pick up your rice or soup bowl and hold it under your chin to eat.
- Don’t leave a mess on your plate and fold napkins nicely; condense food and dishes.
- It is polite and normal to SLURP noodles.
- No tipping in Japan
- DO NOT BE LATE!! Everything starts on time (or 5 minutes early)
- Do not chew gum or drink soda when working
- Don’t shout loudly on public transportation
- On escalators, stay to the LEFT.
- The Japanese gesture “Who me?” pointing to their nose, not chest
- The Japanese gesture “Come here” is palm facing down and then making a waving motion towards the floor. The American way is only for animals
- Always change your shoes when going inside or in the toilets. Don’t wear toilet shoes outside the toilet room. Don’t wear inside shoes outside and visa versa
- When laughing Japanese women cover their mouths with their hand; comes from an old Buddhist notion that showing bone is unclean; but also to hind the lack of orthodontics in Japan.
- The entire family uses the same bath water; shower outside using the shower handle and bench, and then sit in the hot tub to soak, once completely clean.
- For dinner you sit on the floor; no chairs.
- Take off all clothes in changing room and leave in basket
- Enter bathroom with small towel and toiletries; there will be a bucket beside the tub; scoop out some water (or spray with shower head) and pour it over yourself to rinse your body
- wash body or hair in front of faucet (outside tub)
- Soak in bathtub- remember not to bring anything in, not even towel.
- Japan has public bath houses as well; basically you shower and then there are baths upon baths to choose from- but I’ll leave that for a second blog- just imagine going to a hotel pool, but there are 7-9 pools, and they are all hot, and everyone is naked. That’s what people do to relax here (and I got to experience it!)
- It is custom to pay in cash; many places to not accept debit or credit cards
- If you do something wrong, you are basically shunned and seen as a horrible person; people don’t make mistakes here (or are expected to be perfect all the time). There is a lot of pressure on young people especially when it comes to school entrance exams.
- Driving age is 18- it is very expensive to drive in Japan (almost $5,000 for a driver’s ed class). Most people do not drive and rely on the trains and buses, also bikes!
- Drinking age is 20- but when it comes to foreigners they do not ID because most are too intimidated and cannot read a foreign driver’s license.
- Books are opened from the back (usually). If so conji is read up and down; if it is opened from the front then it is read left to right.
- Japanese people drive on the left side of the road, on the right side on the car…
- Fruit is VERY expensive