Japanese Culture: The Wonderful and The Bizarre
I recently went to Japan for just over two weeks. I loved it there. And I had such an amazing time. Before my trip, I spoke to a few friends of mine who went there and they all said Japan is a completely different world. And I agree. I totally agree.From my experience, I would like to say that Japan is a weird and wonderful place. In the midst of all the flashing lights, technological advances and some absurd things that I have come across on my travels, I have also experienced the calm and serene. It such a stark contrast.The aim of this blog post is to share both the wonderful and bizarre of Japanese culture. Most of the wonderful aspects of Japanese culture can be experienced outside of Tokyo, in particular Kyoto. But the flashing lights and craziness is definitely in Tokyo.
Politeness & Friendliness
The people are super polite and friendly here.I remember seeing this kid walking with his bike. He tripped up, and immediately people around him got him back up and made sure he was okay. Back home, we would have helped but there would have been some people in the distance laughing. (I suppose we Brits do have a crude sense of humour).Plus, they’re really welcoming. It is why I believe Japanese customer service is one of the best.Seriously, just go to one of the shops in Harijuku (Tokyo) and you’ll know what I mean.But don’t mistake the polite Japanese people for being pushovers because they’re not. The Japanese are a proud of their heritage. When we went to the Golden Gai (Tokyo), there are only a handful of bars that welcome foreigners. And I am guessing some drunken tourists may have offended some of the locals.
A Strong Sense of Community
Hiroshima was completely destroyed by a nuclear bomb on 8th August 1945. For such a great tragedy to happen, it was amazing to see Hiroshima as it is today. It is so vibrant and alive. And so well developed.
The Shrines and Temples
Japan is glittered with so many shrines and temples. When we went to Mount Inari in Kyoto, we trekked to the summit to see a shrine. Even though I was slightly disappointed because I was half-expecting an amazing view, the shrine was a bit of an anti-climax. But hey — the journey to the top was something else. It was something to behold.The path to the summit (and on the way back down) was decorated with thousands of orange tori gates. I admit, it was gruelling climbing to the top of Mount Inari. And yet, whilst I was struggling, I saw Japanese men wearing suits making their routine walk to the summit for their ritual prayer before they head to work — I usually struggle to get out of bed.
It is super clean here. And I think they have a thing against bins. It boggled my mind to see spotless streets and not see a public bin in site. In fact public bins were quite rare.I remember when I went to the fish market in Tokyo to try some delicious freshly made sushi at Sushi Bun. I had an empty coffee cup and I looked around to find a bin. When I eventually found a bin, I threw my empty mug into that bin but the owner of that bin gave the empty coffee cup back to me… Along with a swarm of contagious germs.Even though I thought this was bizarre at first. I kinda get it. If we can only dispose of our trash in our bin, then we are responsible for our rubbish.
Another thing that I loved about Japanese culture was how people are so diligent here. The perfect example to see this diligence in action is on a Japanese pedestrian crossing — in particularly Shibuya Crossing. When the pedestrian crossing is red, people will stop and wait. Even if there is no imminent car coming towards you.This was weirdly wonderful to me. Back home in the UK, if we see no car coming and it is a red light, we will walk. It is a British (or any western country) thing to do.
Now, it’s time to share my views on the god damn bizarre of Japanese culture. Well, where do I begin?
Words cannot describe my experience at Robot Restaurant. But I know these three pictures will explain a lot:
It was like watching Pokemon on crack. Seriously. The creators of this place must have taken large quantities of narcotics to be able to come up with the idea for this place.But to give you an overview. The Robot Restaurant is a dinner show where you get to experience an acid-trip. You’ll see remote control robots, drums and scantily clad women. You’ll have no idea what is going on and you’ll say the words: “omg, that is just so random” a lot of the time. You should definitely go see.
My travel companion who works in the fashion industry told me most fashion trends starts here in Japan. Now I am not too big on fashion but I do know what looks good, and what doesn’t (well… sort off). For example, this looks good:
And this doesn’t:
This is not good fashion to me
I know I am being harsh, but in Tokyo, especially near Harijuku, people do have a funky sense of fashion. It’s just that some people may go a little overboard with it.
The Porn (And The Objectification of Women)
There is a lot of porn consumption in Japan. When we went to Akiabara in Tokyo (the nerd’s paradise where there are gadgets, arcades, maid cafes, manga and anime), we came across this book store called Shosen Book Tower.This store was basically 7 floors of manga porn…
There was so much porn it was unbelievable. And most of it is pornographic graphic novels. Each porn book that I flipped through (out of curiosity just so you know) consisted of young girls with big eyes.
And this got me thinking about Japanese men in particular.
In Tokyo, men work the longest hours in the whole world with 60-hour-work-week being the norm. Do these men from Tokyo actually have the time or the social capabilities of forming a meaningful relationship with women? My answer is probably no… Well that’s my opinion anyway. I could be wrong. But seeing how much porn there was out there was mind boggling.
It makes me feel sad that there is this seedy side to Tokyo. And plus, what makes it even sadder is that some of these men, who work so many hours, have died from prolonged periods of working (mainly via suicide). And what’s worst is, the Japanese actually have a term for this cause of death by overworking: karoshi.
Now I have realised that I am ending this on a bit of downer. But I wanted to make you aware of it. And this shouldn’t deter you from visiting Japan. It is such a wonderful (yet kinda bizarre) country.If you want to have a look at my itinerary, just drop me a message via the contact page. And I’ll be more than happy to send it to you. Just so you know, I didn’t make the itinerary. All credit goes to my friends Terry and Jyoti for that.Thanks for reading. Have you been Japan? What do you think of their culture? Please let us know in the comments section below.All images (except where noted) are courtesy of Mayur Mistry