by

As you might know, the Tofugu team just came back from a month-long trip to Japan. It’d been a while since any of us had been to Japan but for me, it had been 13 years.

In that time, I had grown a lot and also forgotten what Japan was like, so when we went, there were a lot of things I saw that really surprised me.

I realize that you should always approach other cultures with an open mind, but there were four things that really shocked me about Japan:

Gender

My undergraduate thesis was about Japanese gender roles, so I have at least some background the politics of gender and sexuality in Japan.

Even given that, I was still surprised at how many protections women have from pervs at basically every turn.

gender

It was everywhere — men weren’t always allowed to go into photobooths on their own, cameras were required by law to play a sound when taking a picture, there were segregated train cars, and signs warning about perverts on trains.

Not to mention the whole scandal about the poor AKB48 woman shaving her head and being demoted for the crime of having a boyfriend. That’s another issue entirely, but The Japan Times has a good write up about the scandal.

Thankfully, I never saw anybody got groped or harassed or anything while we were in Japan. But all of the signs (literally and figuratively) were still there, and the more I saw them, the more they bothered me.

Accessibility

The US is pretty good on being accessible to people with disabilities but holy hell, Japan does a lot for the disabled.

You notice it most in the big train stations, where bumpy plastic floors stretch as far as the eye can see. These floors help blind people to better navigate on their own, with different textures indicating different areas of the station (i.e., stairs, elevators, walkways).

disability

There are other aids for blind people too — braille on signs, speakers playing sounds at regular intervals at different parts of the station (usually at escalators).

That on its own isn’t especially remarkable, but there was more outside of the train stations. Japanese sign language being taught on TV. Braille on the tops of beer cans. It all added up to a very impressive effort to help people with disabilities.

This is in defiance of how inaccessible a lot of Japan can be. Still though, it was nice to see the Japanese making an effort in public areas.

Booze

The US has a complicated relationship with alcohol. Americans love they booze, but there are plenty of restrictions on the stuff.

Aside from the historical context of Prohibition, the US really works aggressively to curb underage drinking, and there are limits on where you can sell alcohol, what kinds you can sell, and where you can consume it.

In the US, I assume I’m going to be carded whenever I buy alcohol. I usually have my card out before I’m even asked. Lots of places in the US card everybody, regardless of if they look 16 or 60, but the whole time we were in Japan I was only asked once.

chuhai

It was at a 7/11, as I was buying a can of chuhai (the best drink ever). The screen in front of the register asked me if I was old enough to drink, but the only button I could press was a giant YES.

Japan also doesn’t have open container laws like the US does, meaning that it’s ok to drink alcohol on the street. Given, there are cultural attitudes towards walking around and drinking that stops most people from strolling around and getting trashed, but there’s not really many legal repercussions.

I don’t really know if Japan’s attitudes towards alcohol is better or worse than America’s. It was definitely way more convenient for me to buy and drink booze in Japan, but I don’t know if that’s always a good thing.

Mascots

I’ve known for a while that mascots were in a lot of places, but man, they were everywhere.

No matter how small the town or how insignificant the landmark, it seemed like the Japanese had a way to anthropomorphize and monetize the living shit out of it.

kumamon

I understand why these places try to use cute mascots to make some money and attract tourists, but the extent to which I saw it was just mind-boggling. It also strikes me as such a uniquely Japanese phenomenon that I can’t really think of another place in the world that does this.

The downside? I saw my arch-nemesis, Kumamon, everywhere we went in Japan. It didn’t matter that I was hundreds of miles away from Kumamon’s hometown, the little bastard followed me all up and down the country. I’m on to you, bear.


If you’ve been, what’s shocked you about Japan? What stood out and really surprised you? Tell me in the comments!

  • http://twitter.com/KillingJar_89 Gianmarco Russo

    A further thing that shocked me about Japan: didn’t know that one of the words used to say “pervert/molester”, in this case chikan, is composed by the kanji of stupid and the kanji of Chinese. -.-

  • DAVIDPD

    Those pervert warnings are crazy. I’ve heard about the groping incidents on buses and trains. Poor ladies.

  • Leslie

    I heard that wearing bells keeps away bears (at least in Japan). Maybe you could try that next time.

  • http://twitter.com/ryojiotani ryoji otani

    I love you hashi, and I love when you write for tofugu.

  • thinkjapan

    This is a very fresh article to see. It’s good to see someone notice the little things that, perhaps even foreigners, might normally take for granted or just not even notice.

  • JJ

    Why did the signs on the trains disturb you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/hailey.lawson1 Hailey Lawson

    Great article!

    I have a question about handicap accessibility in Japan. I know you talked about accessibility of the seeing impaired, but what about people with physical disabilities? I am physically disabled and often use a walker (or a scooter if the day calls for it) to get around. I want to go to Japan more than anything, but I worry about how accessible it is.

    Did you notice this at all? Would it be easy for someone with a physical disability to get on trains (this is what always worried me most), get in buildings, etc? Is it only really accessible in the larger cities or if I go to a smaller town will it be harder to handle?

    If you (or anyone that knows) could answer this that would be amazing and I would love you forever.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Very interesting to see how you experienced Japan and what surprised you the most! :)

    Wow! Alcohol laws MUST be strict in America then! I don’t really drink, but I find them pretty strict (in a good way) in Japan – compared to my home country Germany! ^___^;; ….
    I guess it really just depends on what you’re used to, right?

    I agree on the great job they do with helping the disabled people as much as they can in public places and transportation! :)

    Kumamon is really annoying! I don’t get it either.
    When I last visited Kumamoto that “thing” didn’t even exist yet and now it follows you around even if you don’t go near Kyushu! *g*
    It’s not even cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (T____T)
    We have some really cute mascots, but I guess as soon as something gets so popular it gets annoying!

  • Sandra03

    I think its more the fact that they’re necessary that is disturbing.

  • DAVIDPD

    Because they NEED to exist.

  • aimi

    The pervert warnings and segregated trains honestly sound AMAZING to me. Probably because I’m a lady? I really really wish North America would catch on to this sort of thing instead of assuming it’s the woman’s fault for being harassed :(
    I didn’t know about all the stuff Japan did for people with disabilities! That’s wonderful.

  • Ben Nichols

    When I was living in Japan, I was surprised/overwhelmed by how homogeneous it is. Everyone is Japanese. I knew this before, but experiencing it is a very different feeling.

    I was also surprised at how small the cars are (especially where I was in Okinawa). The roads in many places are also quite narrow. I know most people will never need to drive in Japan, but if you do, it’s kind of scary at first.

  • SJacks

    Man, luckily I dodged any severe perversion while in Japan. But you remind me that I was in the subway in Tokyo a few years ago and during a ride this old salaryman would lean over occasionally and whisper how beautiful I was — hands cupped around my ear and everything. And commented on how large my friend’s chest was. No one was doing anything, and being a foreigner I didn’t feel like I had much right to be physical like I might in America. So we just sat and prayed the creeper would get off the car before us.

  • Eric Ohtake

    I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. When I was in Japan, a year ago, I was surprised to see Rolex, advertisement in the trains. In Sao Paulo a Rolex cost more than a life (I mean it!) and people that can afford it would never take the trains. They have their armored Mercedes or BMW with their private drivers. It was reality shock and also made me feel sad. We are hell far from the civilization. For this last comment, I don’t mean only the Rolex thing.

  • コーリー

    My experience with this is from walking with a cane while in Japan. What I found was that there was a big emphasis on making things accessible, for wheelchairs it seemed. Ramps, automatic doors, and elevators were everywhere. Even in the very small towns, there was generally the same type of access. The only exceptions I can think of were some small stores that had a single step leading up to the front door without a ramp and some temples and shrines that were located on top of hills with only stairs for access. Fortunately for me, when there were stairs, the steps were generally low and easy to traverse.

    As far as getting on trains, once you get to the platform, there is a 2-inch gap between the platform and the train to navigate. Both are at the same height. Trying to ride trains during rush hour has the potential to pose different problems though with the rush of riders trying to get on and off.

    I honestly had more problems with hills than anything else. Kiyomizudera in Kyoto is a good example of this. Fortunately, Google street view will show what I am talking about, both the streets leading up to the temple and the path through the temple.
    I hope I answered some of your concerns.

  • elizabethhoney

    I loved this article! Really informative (about both the US and Japan) and funny! :P A lot of great links as well ^^

    http://ellie-lalala.blogspot.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessica.sui Jessica Sui

    the fact that they have pachinko parlors literally almost every 5 minutes. i also felt like the game centres were in a way preparing children for pachinko parlors..

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessica.sui Jessica Sui

    oh yeah. can anyone share why there are rules for purikura booths? they always have a sign like: GIRL+ GIRL=OK. GIRL + BOY = OK. BOY+ BOY=NO
    Is it to prevent boys being rowdy in the booth or is it a sexist/homophobic kind of thing…?

  • http://www.facebook.com/hailey.lawson1 Hailey Lawson

    Yes! This helps so much. So basically it’s all doable, but may take some planning? That I can definitely handle.

    Like I said, this has always been my biggest fear with going to Japan. It’s good to hear things are relatively accessible.

  • Xaromir

    I’m not sure if shocked would be the right expression, maybe “surprised” would have been a better way to describe it, most of that is awesome.

  • KUN KUN

    wen i was in japan, 14 years aggo, i was shocked by the pachinko machine craze. they realy can sit all day and trow little iron bals in a machine and evrytime the balls drop almost the same thourgh the machine. realy weird. but its there way of gambling. I also was shocked that they eat sushi as we eat bread. I was at a home of a japanee family and like we would make sandwich they took a hand of rice some seaweed and put a slice of fish on it, rolled it and ready to bite it. they ate the roll with hands, uncut, like we eat bread. I also was surprised by there way of handling traffic and smart solutions. They have roads that let warm water run over it wen there is ice on the road. Gone ice. There trains ride spot on and to find your connection just follow the collor. realy easy and clear to use. what shocked me was that wen in a building they all walk in almost perfection at one site and wen they are out the building they walk evrywhere, but seriously evrywhere! no rules of some kind in the street wen walking. In my country its the opesite way we walk on one site of the road and wen in a store or building we scramble to evrywhere, think of your local supermarkt :P. I was also moved by how much they vallue the old object of there parrents (japanese art) like netsuke and inro and etc, sadly because of the economic crises back than they had to sell there preciouse art. I also was surprised by actual real experiences of the thea ceremonys, its a whole proces and the taste of green thea can be good or wen its a realy expensive one realy bitter. so bitter that you cant help but make a face at your humble host. They dont care if you dont like because you cant stand the hard bitterness, they like it that you drink it and find it funny how you react. its a respect thing more than a dellicatesse. I can remember going out with a japanese bussnes man, i was only 14 years old and he wanted realy badly to have a drink contest with me. after a night drinking he was so drunk that i had to support him on his way to the subway. It didnt took much for he was so drunk, lol. i have so many more storys… i should work for you guys :D, that was it for today, enjoy

  • WheelieShinobi

    I was in Japan for 2 months last fall and I can tell you that you dont have to worry about anything. I spent most of my time in the Kansai area and a couple of weeks in Tokyo, (if you go to tokyo yo need to move FAST specially in stations like Shibuya, or people will trample you, disabled or not.) In japan theres a law that dictates that if more than 3000 people go through certain station a day, that station has to have an elevator, the only time that I had trouble was in Uzumasa station in Kyoto, the station was too small to have an elevator to switch platforms, but all I had to do was going to the next station (Saga-Arashiyama) switch platforms there, and come back to Uzumasa. A great majority of the business are accessible, but if not, the staff will do their best to help you in.

    If you have a disability you dont usually put your ticket on the machine that lets you through, you need to go to the window with station staff, hand them your ticket and tell them were you are going, they will coordinate ramps on the train for you all the way through your destination.

    I would advice you to take your wheelchair instead of crutches, in japan you ussualy walk long distances between one station and the other and you need to move fast, specially in busy street crossings.

  • jdawg

    It’s good to hear that Japan caters well to the blind and those with physical disability, but I was recently discouraged to hear that there are surprisingly uninformed/intolerant toward those with other disabilities, for example, Aspergers or other autism spectrum disorders. I heard that people can be avoided/shunned for this kind of thing, for (being too weird). This has made me pretty worried, because I really want to live in japan someday and wonder if there is any support for this or general lenience for those with social and cognitive difficulty? does anyone know?

  • Cory

    I’d also like to know this as well, because I am physically disabled too.

  • besterthenyou

    True, it is nice to help stop those things. But I have to disagree with you in part; we should stop those things from happening to both genders (and they do happen to both genders.)

  • Theresa

    Eim an American living in Japan and I have been grabbed and groped on trains. I never see who it is though! They are so quick. But I have also been followed and harassed on more than one occasion under the pretext of “practicing English” . Lots of perverts here!

  • Jon

    I find the easiest way to deal with it is to pretend you don’t have it. That way, they can’t discriminate against you! :D

    But seriously, now that you mention it, I am kind of curious about this too, especially since I have a mild case of Aspergers (professionally diagnosed, not one of those self-diagnosed people). There must be some way of dealing with being too weird, considering all the otaku that exist.

  • Jon

    Was there a mascot for mascots? If there’s a mascot for everything, then there HAS to be a mascot for mascots!

  • Joseph Goforth

    i shared a few sites I’ve come across that are good resources for traveling with a disability on the original post.

  • shiroi

    If you stay in a big city doing touristy things, you should be fine. If you go to a small town and say, become in English teacher and live here for a few years, that’s where you’re going to run into some trouble. Daily-life type things are not always accessible, and the older schools (built 40, 60, 100 years ago in some cases) in smaller towns/cities almost never are..

  • shiroi

    People here are worse about assuming it’s the woman’s fault for being harassed. And it’s much more common. It should be alarming to you that these measures needed to be put in place.

  • shiroi

    If your case is mild enough that it is not immediately apparent that there is something “different” about you then you should be fine as just a visitor or a tourist. The attitude of avoiding/shunning Aspergers cases is unfortunate but given the way Japanese society (especially business/company relationships) works – you must be intensely in tune to the feelings and considerations of others and anticipate what will make them feel as comfortable as possible – it’s sort of an… unavoidable consequence. At least until there is more awareness about what Aspergers is and people are more understanding that some folks just can’t relate to them on that perfect ‘preserving the 和’ level.

    The good news for you is that no one expects that sort of social ability from foreigners, anyway.

    The other good news is that I’ve had several Aspie kids in my classes lately and there seems to be some growing acknowledgement/consideration of their condition. The teachers actually know the word now. :)

  • shiroi

    Some high school girls or young ladies who see a group of rowdy boys (or worse, a single skeevy looking guy) hanging out purikura machines won’t want to go near them, so the establishment loses business. Making a ‘ladies only’ purikura corner gives the girls a safe zone to enjoy themselves without worrying about getting hit on, perved on, or otherwise bothered by boys.

  • shiroi

    22 years in America, never groped or perved on once. 5 years in Japan, groped twice and perved on constantly. As sad as it makes me that they’re even necessary, I really appreciate the ladies-only cars, corners, bus seats, etc etc…

  • shiroi

    Could be ateji?

    That being said, my first run-in with a chikan was a man with a bike. Obviously my co-workers wanted to figure out who could have done that. The theory they reached? “Well, as you know, many Chinese people have bikes…”

    I was speechless.

  • Joseph Goforth

    one more try….maybe my comment will appear this time? :s a good resource for Japan accessibility, made by people with disabilities in japan: http://www.japan-accessible.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/Angel.Valis Sean Douglas

    When I was studying in Japan and living in the dorms, we had a convenient vending machine just across the street on the other side of a small park. It sold alcohol. CHEAP alcohol. A can of chuhai cost 105 yen. Granted it closed after a certain point at night (too many loud foreigners in the quiet Japanese neighborhoods is my guess as to why), but it was amazing.

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Don’t forget the unforgettable experience of Japanese Mexican dishes! That burrito was shockingly flat! :p

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessi.hoffschildt Jessi Hoffschildt

    I’ve lived in Japan for two years (traveling with my work to big and small cities) and I’ve never been harassed. Unlike in New York where men has tried to jack off in front of me in the subway. occasionally I get a over enthusiastic young man who wants to practice English- but they’ve always been very polite. And even though I’ve a foreigner and and careful to give a good impression I’m pretty sure that if a man did try to touch me I’d yell at him. Japanese people generally hate to be singled out so doing so would hopefully cause embarrassment and he might not target foreigners again.
    One of the weirdest things I’ve found here however is how many foreigners don’t smile back at you when you pass them in the street. At first I thought it was just my imagination- but after taking count it’s like 9/10 wouldn’t look at you. And usually the ones that do are obviously tourists. Blows my mind.

  • linguarum

    Quite surprised how well-maintained the cars are in Japan. Absolutely no one has red electrical tape acting as a tail light. Or a cracked windshield. Or a cracked anything. Shakken makes car ownership more expensive I’m sure, but it does keep lemons off the streets.

  • linguarum

    That is crazy – all those perv warnings and safeguards in Japan. On the other side of the coin, one thing that really surprised me is how un-provocatively most Japanese women dress in public, compared to women in America. Any time of year, you’re bound to see a lot more skin in the U.S.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Mascot of the mascots? I’m picturing a cutesy looking Christopher Nolan. Mascotception-kun.

  • Djsjwisi

    Do u guys read Abt Japan in Japanese? The links are always to some article in English . I understand that everyone is at different levels.

  • Aya

    THE FACT THAT YOU DIDN’T MEET THE GERE IN JAPAN SHOCKED ME. (And also the lack of Matt Cain :()

  • PeanutButter

    What I found most shocking when I was there recently is how many times I was asked (generally by older individuals) whether I was a man or a woman. I had the same conversation in both English and Japanese, so I’m fairly confident it wasn’t something lost in translation. I must note I’m a tallish woman at 5’9″, but not particularly masculine looking. On a related note, I was very boldly groped by an elderly man pretty immediately after one such conversation.

  • linguarum

    It totally shocked me the difference in airport security. In America (my home country!) I have to take off my shoes, go through the strip x-ray machine and everything just to fly to a neighboring state. But when I took a domestic flight in Japan, nothing of the sort. I swear they barely looked at my passport.

  • Christin

    “The screen in front of the register asked me if I was old enough to drink, but the only button I could press was a giant YES.”

    Haha, awesome. Incredible. Sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessi.hoffschildt Jessi Hoffschildt

    I just spent all day taking the train around Tokyo after reading this post. I kept and eye out for scooter/wheelchair accessibility. Defiantly going to take more time to find the elevators up to the train platforms and the gap between the train and the platform was 3 -8 inch across with sometimes a step up of 3 inches. Just want you to be prepared. I also wouldn’t recommend traveling on the Tokyo trains during rush hours. Packed in like sardines! But don’t let it stop you from coming! There are so many things to see here and most people are beyond helpful. It can totally be done- it will just take a little prep time. Also almost every station has a handy station map that you can get at the information booth and that will tell you where the elevators and such are located.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hailey.lawson1 Hailey Lawson

    Thank you! I wont let it stop me at all :) I’m used to having to incorporate prep time and planning whenever I go on trips so that’s not a problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hailey.lawson1 Hailey Lawson

    Ah you’re amazing! Thank you so much!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004192143661 Marie Antoinette

    What’s incredible is the Japanese honesty. I dare you to find a flat out liar in Japan.

  • Tanuki

    They love blonde hair. My girlfriend was asked numerous times for photos because of her hair. I talked to one of the girls who wanted a photo and she said it’s really difficult for them [Japanese women] to obtain that hair color because the majority of them have black hair. I never thought of it before.

  • Mikan

    Actually, I had the opposite impression about accessibility when I first came to Tokyo. I remember going to the train station and thinking ”Wow, I would be in such big trouble if I ever had an injury here.” Some stations and building may be better than others, but I have been to plenty of places without elevators or with one that is really inconvenient. Sometimes they have to stop the trains or the escalator to get someone with a wheelchair on. It’s good that they are willing to go to these lengths to help people onto the train, but I feel a bit bad for the person in the wheelchair who has to go through all that hassle just to ride the train.

    Also, this is not an accessibility thing, but on the train people are not good about respecting the ”priority seats” area. I would say about 90% of the time people keep their seats when people who might need the seat get on the train.

  • Jonathan Harston

    It’s “blind *people*” not “the blind” “the blacks” “the jews” ….

  • John S.

    This may be obvious, but why can’t a man be in a photo booth by himself. Yeah I understand why it would be weird for any gender to be by themselves, but what do the guys do? Ambush girls?

  • http://twitter.com/SactoMan81 Raymond Chuang

    They may _look_ homogeneous, but what they speak _isn’t_. Even if you’re fluent in standard Japanese, once you get out of Tokyo the locals may speak a dialect that you have trouble understanding, especially in the northern Tōhoku region or the dialects in Kyushu.

  • elisabel

    What I’ve seen at both JR Kyushu and the private rail line Nishitetsu is that one of the station employees brings out a little folding ramp to place between the train and the platform. I assume that those on regular commutes have standing arrangements at each of their stations, but if you’re touring and need assistance I’m sure the station master would help you.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    that’s like meeting the emperor aya i can’t just go and do it yknow?

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    I’m trying my hardest to forget :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Yikes, sorry to hear that happened to you!

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    That sounds awful :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    My mistake! I’ve edited the post.

  • DeTo-13

    Haha the train pervert sign is amazing! I could imagine him creeping up behind you and doing a french laugh after groping you “ohhhh hohohoho”.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    ♥♡♥♡♥♡♥♡

  • Sakakibara

    I really like your posts, really friendly, interactive, and has this feelable-feel. The reason why I visit tofugu

  • EskimoJo

    They are annoyed that you have recognized that they are also foreign, even if it’s obvious. The people who are not tourists are often desperate to be seen as non-outsiders (at work, in shops, at a restaurant, at an onsen, when applying for housing… and even in the street) and you singling them out to smile at them is showing them up!
    You also sometimes get this in workplaces where there are only a few women, but that might be more to do with the women seeing each other as competition and thus being unwilling to get close to one another.

    I have experienced this as a Black person when visiting/living in places in the UK with very low populations of Black people. I will even admit that when I was younger I would be on the ‘look away, non-smiling’ side. I told myself, I don’t want to be seen as Black, I want to be seen as a normal person, so a random Black stranger shouldn’t smile at me if they wouldn’t smile at a White stranger. I even managed to convince myself that I was being anti-racist! Some time later, I realised how silly that was. It is *normal* to be drawn to people like you when most of those around you *aren’t* like you. A smile back adds a bit of warmth to the day of the other person AND to me. So please do keep smiling and I will too.
    *smiles*

  • EskimoJo

    Gosh! How embarrassing! I’m glad my hair will be much longer WHEN I go to Japan next year. *note to self – pack skirts, not jeans*

  • Nakano Roy

    Why would you expect to be smiled or even looked at by another foreigner? I smile and greet people I know in my neighbourhood in Tokyo, but have been shouted at on 2 occasions by foreigners I didn’t know for not smiling at them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500065617 Meredith Peruzzi

    For what it’s worth, sometimes there simply are no ramps or escalators. A friend of mine is in a wheelchair and spent three months here; we were surprised how many places simply didn’t have access for her. Even at places where there is an elevator, there may be 2-3 steps to get to it! (This kept us out of a cat cafe in Shinjuku, unfortunately – not Calico, I think it was over by Shinjuku Gyoen.) At the Disney Store in Shibuya, we asked where the elevator was. The cashier said “oh, let me take you there.” We said no, that’s okay, just point it out, we can do it. Then we saw where the elevator was…up a flight of EIGHT stairs! No wonder she said “take you there”…she meant it literally, we’d have to hoist our friend up! Hanayashiki’s “handicapped ramp” at the entrance has a step in front of it as well. Oh, and anytime my friend (living near Iriya) wanted to go toward Akihabara, she had to go toward Minami-Senju first…because the Iriya station only had an elevator to the outbound platform. She had to go to Minami-Senju, then go up, across, and back down to get downtown.

    So it’s really quite accessible…but sometimes it’s just not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500065617 Meredith Peruzzi

    I can always spot the Americans when going through security at Narita. They’re the ones taking off their shoes. ^_^

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500065617 Meredith Peruzzi

    THIS is why I keep smiling. If people don’t want to smile back, that’s their loss.

    Also see: http://metropolis.co.jp/features/the-last-word/gaijin-vs-gaijin/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500065617 Meredith Peruzzi

    Just a note, as a Deaf person living in Japan. Although awareness of sign language has leapt phenomenally – deaf people used to not even sign in public, except for “whispering” down low – there are still a lot of stares when you do sign. We do it now, of course, but people still look. (Not like in India…THAT was creepy staring.) I think it might be partially curiosity, but it’s still just kind of weird, yanno?

  • Ben Nichols

    I lived in Okinawa for 2 years, so I don’t have much personal experience with the dialects around Honshu, but Okinawa is quite a bit more diverse than most of Japan. They also have several different Ryukyuan dialects/languages, so I know what you’re saying. The point is, as an American, I’m used to seeing a large variety of ethnicities. In Japan, over 98% are ethnically Japanese. It was a culture shock for me.

  • Pizzaphile

    It’s funny because “Chuhai” means (or sounds like) smelly puss in cantonese, just a little trivia.

  • ロドルフォクルス湖

    Everything is just utterly Kawaii in Japan. And I’m not sure if it’s a good thing anymore.

  • suduki kellington

    I don’t understand, if they start to grope you you can’t do anything like try to push them off or ask for help. I don’t understand. Oh and nice post