Aug 11, 2018

Things I still don’t understand about Japanese people

After several years of living in Japan, there definitely are certain behaviors that you have observed amongst the people as you do your daily routines. While of course all you do about those observations is just to accept as they are, you sometimes still can’t help but wonder why they do those things they do.

Here are some observations I’ve had with people around me in this country, and why I still could not make sense of such behavior of theirs:

1. Why do some people stand on trains even if there are a lot of empty seats? It's not that they will get off at the next station. I've had many experiences where I was already about to get off the train - about 4 distant stations away from where I got on - and some people who also got on the train with me at the same time were still there...standing! I just find it such a waste of (their) energy. It's not easy to balance yourself in a moving train, you know.

2. Why do some people tend to crowd others, when they are known to respect one’s private space? For example, of all the empty seats in the train, the person who just got in will choose to sit right beside you. Am I just being too sensitive?

3. Why do some women wear high heels when going to theme parks such as Disneyland, Disney Sea or Universal Studios Japan, when they know they will be walking A LOT? Again, waste of energy.

4. Why do a lot of people (women, especially) wear not just dark, but black garments during the hottest of summers? And as if that’s not enough, they’d even cover their arms with sleeves that are, you guessed it, black!

Seriously, are they not taught in schools that dark colors absorb heat while light colors bounce them off? That actually explains why one can walk barefoot in true white sand beaches at high noon without hurting their soles, and also why the waters in those kinds of beaches remain cool even in the middle of the day.

Nowadays when the temperatures often reach hazardous levels, it has become more important than ever to dress in a manner appropriate to the weather, just so people will remain cool with all this summer heat.

5. Am I the only one who gets offended every time I am asked “Do you know ___ ?” For example, “Do you know natto?” In class, I try as much as possible to teach the other ways to introduce new information, especially to foreigners. For example, they can ask “Have you heard of ___” or “Are you familiar with ___” instead of “Do you know ___” which is basically just their literal translation of “知っている?(shiite iru?) .

How about you?



A teacher by profession, yet always a student of life. Currently living in Kanto, but in love with Kyushu.