Why are the Japanese people weird? Let’s find out! It tells a lot about the Japanese community psyche that Japan Rail had to apologize to the public because one of its trains had started 24 seconds ahead of schedule. But they said also that overweight is illegal in Japan. No, not for sumo wrestlers. This is even more astonishing because a problem that has not existed in Japan was enacted.
The reasoning is to protect the community from the burden of the overdue medical costs of the aging population, at least not from diseases that are overweight. According to the 2008 Metabo law, companies are required to pay penalties to their employees for exceeding a certain size in their hips. In a country where overweight people are as rare as the white raven. In Japan, people between the ages of 45-74 making hip measurement surgeries. At first, I thought it is just a rumor, but it was brought by credible sources like the New York Times.
In most developed countries, such a law would be a scandal because it violates a wide range of individual human rights. Who has been living in Japan for 10 years, has not heard of it, saying that besides genetics, the thinness of the Japanese is the source of much raw fish and green tea. Ironically, smoking does not have a similar law, although smoking should be a bigger problem is. In the developed world, the Japanese are the ones who smoke the most. The Japanese tobacco business is fine and strong, do not worry.
European people are exotic to them! Imagine the communication, it is like an Activity game. They can not speak English very well, but they are still visiting Europe because they love it. For them, it is an amazing luxury to see we live in a house with a garden and have breakfast on a huge terrace every day. They live in crowded cities in Japan, in small apartments where there is no garden. They have no opportunity for luxury. Europe incredibly cheap most of them. They hardly believe the prices.
Kawaii means “cuteness”. Japan is a country of cute things. In the field of gadgets, Japan is the first. In Japan, it is extremely important to have everything in kawaii. Kawaii seems to be at least as strong a part of the Japanese identity as the sick mania of cleanliness. Some of this kawaii phenomenon is well-loved, such as canopy covers that are differently designed in every city. In many ways, however, they are can be quite childish… without any reason.
Japan’s iconic Hello Kitty figure is known all over the world. It was created in 1974 by Simizu Yuko. The popular hairless cat, who is popular with children and adults alike, has continued to pay royalties to Sanrio. Many other Kawaii figures have also become Japanese symbols. Such as the Kokeshi doll, the Maneki Neko lucky wailing cat, which is already very popular in many Asian shops. Or the figure of the lucky crane, originally proffered from Buddhist temples.
The Essence of Kawaii
While walking in Japan, you can come across a lot of kawaii events. On a street in Matsumoto, you can hear Stauss in a robotic way every hour. Mini statues are dancing from a rotating hemisphere. In Kamakura, you are greeted by a fortune teller at a shrine next to a mountain path, which quite well condenses the essence of kawaii.
The Kawaii universe includes the famous Japanese cartoons and comics, the manga. Only a few Japanese people read manga on the subway, unless digitally on their phone, but in Kyoto, a whole manga museum is filled with crowds of the manga fanatics. Worth to circle for a day in the magic world of Japan’s celebrated cartoon company Studio Ghibli, before watching only a few cult Miyazaki cartoons.
In Japan, there are mini, bonsai, little people, homes, cars, colorful little gadgets, figurines, and candy/chocolate shops everywhere. Willy Wonka would consider moving to Japan for sure. Meanwhile, they love minimal design, everyone goes to work in black, and as a good work holist, they sleep on the subway from exhaustion. Maybe that is why they need a lot of Kawaii stuff, relaxation.
Japanese People and the Culture of Shopping
For the lovers of kawaii, there is always another opportunity for a little shopping. All kawaii stuff is for sale, from socks to live puppies. Yes, there are puppy shops, for a couple of thousand Yen you can buy a pedigree bonsai puppy. Everything here is limited edition, and as you can see in the pictures, even a disposable plastic bottle can have a teddy bear teal kawaii case.
Although Christianity is culturally and religiously foreign to the country, such as Easter. But the Easter bunny, when molded into a commercial form, fits in well with the gadget shop. This constant kawaii shopping and constant consumption as a tourist are very fun, I want to say “kawaiiiiiiii”, but after a while, you just get used to it.
Luxury and Brand New Things
In addition to the Kawaii, the Japanese people love luxury. Every major train station is also a shopping street, below, above, or around, and you can be sure to find something interesting. But even an abandoned place is capable and ends up in a Louis Vuitton store like Wakayama.
Their purchasing power is strong, it is not an accident that Japan is the favorite market field of the world’s largest luxury brands. There are also plenty of popular Japanese fashion brands available only in Japan or just several places in other countries. Especially for athletes and runners, it is not difficult to find an Asics or a Mizuno store.
Of course, things work in reverse. If something is available in very few places in Europe, is it, of course, a premium product, what else could it be?! We want a Japanese sports brand, Descente is unbeatable. Everything is preferred by everyone when it is brand new, which leads to a tremendous amount of garbage. This is the consumer society.
Japanese in general, but women, in particular, are stylish. Almost everyone has a modest make-up, and their dresses are less typical of the Kawaii line but very eyecatching. Every woman has at least one long beige jacket, and Japanese women’s wear, besides the striking fashion masks, and the sneakers with the big, flowing skirt. Even this is good for them because being overweight is not a problem here. There is not much to see torn Japan, there are very few homeless people on the streets, but even they are organized concerning their situation.
There “Is No Rain” on Japanese Streets
Being soaking wet in a kawaii luxury shop is not the best thing. In Japan, there are seasons when the rain is unstoppable. As a result, instead of simply using an umbrella, they covered the famous shopping streets in every city. Alongside Kawai convenience stores, cafes, and restaurants, there are also major brands.
One of the benefits of the crowd is that in Japan, in addition to the giant shopping malls, the smaller convenience store system lives and flourishes.
Japanese People and Cars
Suzuki, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and other Japanese cars that are considered okay, but one hand or another, rich people in Japan also prefer BMW or Mercedes rather than their brands. Of course, as a good patriot of the middle class, they prefer the Japanese brands.
A large number of yellow license plates with a light engine are also cruising the roads. The tax of a car which is preferred alongside youngsters is favorable.
The audience also explains the color of cotton candy. These rolling box cars would not popular for us, but they haven’t tried to expand the market yet.
What’s interesting about the cars is that although it rains a lot, every single Japanese car is immaculately clean inside and outside. I don’t know how they do it, maybe with no pits, no ergo puddles, and they keep cleaning the roads. There is no dirt on the cars and unlike the flats, the shoes do not have to be taken off when you get into the car.
The Famous Japanese Toilettes
Everyone sings an ode to Japanese toilets. I just can agree and join. Pure zen. Seeing the extreme hygiene obsession of the Japanese people, it is not surprising that they are very clean, even in the resting rooms. Sitting on the often heated toilet seats is a good thing. What is fascinating is that most are a supersonic throne, not even writing-reading-talking but playing music, flipping up and down, cleaning the seat, rinsing automatically or at the touch of a button, showering.
In extreme tiny places as we know of some in Japan, the top of the flushing tank serves as a washbasin, and the tap starts automatically when removed. There is always a detailed English-language instruction manual attached to the wall, and you will soon learn how to use it. For the Japanese, our simple, English toilets that are like that are from the middle ages.
Automatic Machines for Everything
In Japan, we can not take 200 meters without stumbling upon an automatic machine. You can not avoid them even in concrete-free places, even at a bus stop on the top of the Fuji mountain, next to a remote hiking lake! There is an automatic machine for almost everything, but the most common, of course, is the drink automata, from 1-2 decilitres to half a liter, or whatever you need. Coffee vending machines deliver hot coffee out of the box! Very comfortable, very hygienic, no doubt, but the amount of garbage produced by vending machines is staggering.
In Japan, we can not take 200 meters without stumbling upon a machine. We didn’t escape them even in concrete-free places, at Fujin’s bus stop next to a remote hiking lake! There is an automatic machine for almost everything, but the most common, of course, is the drink automata, from 1-2 decilitres to half a liter, or whatever you need. Coffee vending machines deliver hot coffee out of the box! Very comfortable, very hygienic, no doubt, but the amount of garbage produced by vending machines is staggering.
Hygiene Mania vs. Garbage Production
Everyone will notice Japan’s overall cleanliness and order. It is a good thing that the supersonic toilets, trains, and streets are clean as well. The view of the block-full cities is ordered but by no means beautiful. You can appreciate the Japanese style architecture but just with neatly wound electric wiring everywhere. This almost abnormal hygiene mania crosses with the Japanese people’s strong purchasing power and adoration of new gadgetry, kawaii, and stifling amounts of rubbish.
I haven’t been to a country like this, where such a tremendous amount of garbage is produced daily like in Japan. They pack everything one by one, a little bag, a little box, a little thing that goes into the big thing. Everything exists in small portions, but the tip was a one-piece egg! Many people live alone in Japan, which also justifies the small packages.
The use of packaging material is brutal. Disposable plastic is pouring on us, which is not so fantastic. We could not deny it. The banks of the rivers are filled with flags of nylon in many places, and the pet bottles also gather in them. The billiards of vending machines with mini bottles, without interruption, pack us packing material, mainly disposable plastic, and metal trash. They do not understand why you refuse to accept the plastic bag, the extra packaging, why you give your coffee-to-go cup. A lot of little packages are very hygienic and kawaii for sure, but one of the serious problems of the developed world is even more of a slap in the face in Japan.
Everyone mentions cleanliness as a positive thing and there are no street trash bins. You can find trash bins just at the stations and next to the vending machines. The thing behind, that there is no trash bin on every corner of the public areas, is not that everyone takes home trash, moreover, they are afraid of bombs hidden in the trash bins.
Strange Japanese Habits
In a Japanese city, you can hear something music, there’s always something playing. Electronically, of course. You should not be surprised when you will come home from Japan, you are going to hear the loud buzzing of the pedestrian crossings ranging in your head. They always say something on the loudspeakers. On the means of transport, people are just staring at their phones like zombies, although there are warnings around everywhere that are forbidden to make phone calls.
If they are currently not fascinated by their phones on the subway, Japanese people always sleep everywhere, no matter what time of the day. The funny thing is, that they somehow always wake up exactly when they have to land. That’s their superpower. But it is understandable, and everybody knows it is dues to overtime and the very long working hours. Nasal blowing is a very indecent thing, let’s try to avoid it in public, but catching, sniffing and loud croaking is acceptable.
Half of the people come and go in a paper medical masks on the streets and public areas. They think it is nourishing and obscure, a very bizarre sight for Western eyes. It is like a hospital squad is massaging everywhere. This is also due to the hygiene obsession, although it has only become widespread in recent decades, especially after the outbreaks of SARS, and H1N1 in the 2000s and now we have Corona. There are more than 4 billion masks sold in Japan. However, it has cultural embeddedness. During the 1918 Spanish rabies epidemic, they began to wear masks.
In times of earthquakes, fire, and other catastrophes, the mask has become the standard for wearing respiratory hazards. During the economic boom following the Second World War, it was used to combat air pollution caused by industrial production. The same thing is now being used in Beijing’s smog struggle, which is fleeing Japan’s rich Chinese tourists. Nowadays, besides avoiding epidemics, diseases, and pollen in the spring, it has become a fashion accessory. Available in face-shaped to give the beautiful V shape to the face, there is cream treated for a pleasant feel and all sorts of kawaii patterned versions.
The mask in Japan is unisex because we don’t see much of the other person’s face. The funniest smiling mask scene was performed by a young girl on a train. She took off the mask, carefully peeled off, and then put the mouthpiece back on. Fortunately, at least in-store salesmen and waiters typically have no mask.
Dogs and Cats in Japan
Due to the little places and mainly urban living space, Japan does not have as many dogs as other countries do. Bonsai mini puppies are popular for the same reason. Strangely, they are often walked in dog cars on the streets. That’s because on public transport and in Japanese condominiums, no dog can run on its foot. After all, it is dirty, right.
Cat cafes, which start in Taiwan, are also popular because few people can keep their pet in their small home for long hours. The Japanese continued to spoil it, you can also see the owl, a rabbit, and a reptile cafe.
The Art of Queueing
The real artists of queuing are the Japanese people. There are two rows for the fittings arriving at the stations and in the subway, exactly for the different paintings, for example. a separate women’s line and no one is pushing.
The feeling of a sardine box is unavoidable during the rush hours in the morning, but still, they are decently crammed into the car, and the rig staff impresses the people well.
Kindness and Politeness
All employees, shop assistants, lift managers, railroaders, receptionists, anyone with whom to communicate loudly greets. If you enter somewhere, Ohayou Gozaimasu will come! Good morning! or Konnichiwa! Hello! And on departure, the grateful Arigato Gozaimasu!
Everyone feels that he is for us and is pleased that we are taking his service from him. They take it with both hands when we hand something over. Instead of handshaking, there is a bow. On trains, guides always turn back in the car door and bow to the passengers before leaving.
A Homogenous, Aging, Workaholic Society
Japan is known to be very closed, and Japanese society is extremely homogeneous. Immigrants are also denied entry, with only a few hundred thousand Koreans, Chinese, and Filipinos living in the country. There is a small amount of racism, if not much, but you would think it is everywhere. For example, there are places where non-Japanese people can not go to. Even as a tourist, it seems that their temperament is not Latin American. We cannot understand the deeper connections in a couple of weeks, reaching simplifying generalities. There are good and less sympathetic things everywhere.
In Japan, everyone loves cleanliness, safety, predictability, accuracy, well-being, and food. The negatives include overcrowding, heavily hierarchical workplaces, horrible long hours of 10-12 hours and weekends, during which there is no real productive work, and in the end, it is mandatory to have a drink with the boss. The Japanese people are working all the time, maybe that’s why the average Japanese tourist is either retired or still a student.
In an aging society, the elder generation is highly respected. There are plenty of older people over 70 workings from the elevator manager to the traffic manager in all sorts of physically demanding positions. Many people mention that Japanese women are still subordinate in relationships and marriages.
Do you want to know more about Japanese culture? Read our mysterious article about the “Dark Side of Hello Kitty” or Click here!
It’s just a taste of Japanese weirdness. You can hunt for your observations! Please do not hesitate to share them in the comment section.