Saturday, August 14, 2010

More Japan! :D

So... I don't want my blog to be over because I loved writing in it so much, and I miss Japan. I thought I'd make a list of some misconceptions about Japan, and the corrections that I learned while abroad.

1. You can't really see Mt. Fuji from Tokyo, unless you're at the top of a very high building on an exceptionally clear day. I tried from Tokyo Tower on my first day and from the tallest building in Shinjuku near the end of my trip, and it was too hazy both days.

2. Not all Japanese people look the same. That stereotype couldn't be more false: Japanese faces have just as much variation as American ones, except they are more likely to be 100% Asian (whereas in the US there is more of a mixing and sometimes blending of races). :) But not only do Japanese people look biologically distinct from one another, there were also many people who dyed their hair different colors. Light brown and red were the most common colors, but I saw a lot of blond, blue, pink, and purple, even among the elderly.

3. Japanese people do not eat sushi every day, or even every week. Maybe once a month or so, more or less. It sure tastes a whole lot better than in the US, and it's cheaper there too. But Japanese people are more likely to eat rice or noodles every day. And they put mayonnaise and raw eggs on many things!

4. Speaking of mayo, not all Japanese people are skinny (but most are). I saw a handful of fat people in Tokyo, and it was always surprising to me. Everyone walks to the train station each morning and evening, so there's a bunch of exercise right there, every day, often rushing! The food in Tokyo was generally very healthy and low-calorie, but the non-Japanese foods like burgers, pizza, and heavy pasta dishes, were full of calories. The mayo used by my host family was low-calorie and low-cholesterol.

5. Tokyo is not incredibly expensive like I thought it would be. Food was probably cheaper than it was in Europe, generally and depending on where I ate. The prices overall weren't actually inexpensive, but not as pricey as I thought they would be. Yet I still managed to spend hundreds of dollars more than I wanted to! This picture has some stats about funeral prices around the world. Japan is the highest, then America, Korea, and England.

6. Not all Japanese people are short. Women often are, and they wear tall high-heels. But men seemed to be around the same height as Americans, although not basketball player size.

7. Japanese people do eat cheese! But they often eat it as dessert, like cheesecake that tastes mostly like cheese. They also drink only whole milk, and they eat desserts all the time. It's actually a miracle that they don't get overweight!

8. Many people in Tokyo speak English at varying levels of fluency. I had hoped to get away from English for a bit, just to see how it would be, but that was impossible. The directions on the metro were given first in Japanese, then in English, but sometimes they were slightly different and I could tell, thanks to my Japanese. :D A number of people I met were fully fluent in English, and some others were partially, enough to get the meaning across. I think that is the most fun part: my Japanese and others' English, trying to figure each other out. :)

9. Part of the appeal of going to Japan is to see a "totally different" culture, but it wasn't completely different from America. Obviously there were many aspects that were unfamiliar to me, and I loved learning about those and getting to know the Japanese way of doing things. Some fun ones that come to mind are: ordering meals from a machine and then receiving them later, taking a Japanese onsen bath while naked with strangers, sleeping on the train, sitting on the floor to eat, pressing the buttons on the toilet, feeling plastic beads in my pillows at hotels, and not ever saying "bless you" after someone sneezes.

But there were so many Western styles of clothing, language, and customs that it sort of made me sad. Traditional Japanese culture values cleanliness, respect for the environment, and privacy very highly. But I saw some trash on the ground there sometimes, and some PDA that I know wouldn't have been okay in the previous generation. Japanese language itself adopts many words from English and other languages, so I asked my host mom if she thought Japanese might someday blend into English. She said she was more worried about Japanese young people speaking poor quality Japanese without correctness. I think that sounds like English: I'm more worried about Americans not having the ability to write a proper essay than I am worried about English turning into Spanish or something like that. Not that I'd mind.

Anyway, I think if travelers want a more traditional Japanese experience, it would probably be best to spend a lot of time in a rural area with an older family, or with a family that lives with their elders. Tokyo is an international  mega-city, so it makes sense that there would be influence from other cultures there, no matter how far away from America, culturally and geographically, Japan seems. It would be incorrect to say that Tokyo is "not Japanese enough" because it obviously is: it's in Japan! It's just both modern and traditional at once.

One fun thing to end this: I wanted a picture of Japanese PDA for this section, so I googled it. I had hoped to find a public display of affection, but instead found only PDA electronic devices. :) Now that's the Japan I know and love!

1 comment:


    Dude all Japanese people totally look the same. And Indians. And especially white people.

    Eww raw eggs.

    I think the fitness level of people is a by-product of city life. In DC and in NYC, there are way fewer fat people than in other places in the U.S., because everyone is constantly walking around, taking the trains, biking, etc instead of being so sedentary and depending on cars.

    At #6, wow that's definitely a huge difference between India and Japan. People are by average shorter and smaller in India than in the U.S., hands down.

    It sounds like westernization/Americanization is taking hold in Japan in your experiences like in other countries such as India as well.

    Great blog :D!