Japanese Table Manners
May 2, 2008, 10:33 pm
Filed under: + iNJAPAN

Tables and sitting

Japanese table

Itadakimasu and Gochisosama

In Japan, you say “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”) before starting to eat, and “gochisosama (deshita)” (“Thank you for the meal”) after finishing the meal.

Individual versus shared dishes

It is not uncommon in private households and in certain restaurants (e.g. izakaya) to share several dishes of food at the table rather than serving each person with his/her individual dish. In such a case, you are supposed to move some food from the shared plates onto your own plate by yourself, using the opposite end of your chopsticks (if you have used them already) or with special chopsticks that may be provided for that purpose.

Some Table Rules

* Blowing your nose in public, and especially at the table, is considered bad manner.
* It is considered good manner to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
* Talking about toilet related and similarly disappetizing topics during or before a meal is not appreciated by most people.
* It is considered bad manner to burp.
* After finishing eating, try to place all your dishes in the same way as they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lid of dishes which came with a lid and replacing your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or into their paper slip, if applicable.

Drinking rules

When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is a Japanese custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one’s own glass. You are supposed to periodically check your friends’ cups, and serve them more once their cups are getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you more alcohol, you should quickly empty your glass and hold it towards that person.

While it is considered bad manner to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, for example in restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), the same is not true for other types of restaurants such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.

Do not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a drinking salute, which usually is “kampai”. Avoid using “chin chin” when drinking a toast, since in Japanese this expression refers to the male genitals.


How to eat…

… Rice:

Take the rice bowl into one hand and the chopsticks into the other and lift it towards your mouth while eating. Do not pour soy sauce over white, cooked rice.


… Sushi:

Pour some soy sauce into a the small plate provided. It is considered bad manner to waste soya sauce, so try not to pour more sauce into your plate than you are actually going to be using.

You do not need to add wasabi into your soy sauce, because the sushi pieces usually already contain wasabi, and some sushi pieces are supposed to be eaten without wasabi. If you choose to add wasabi, nonetheless, use only a small amount, in order not to offend the sushi chef. If you do not like wasabi, you can request that none is added into your sushi.

In general, you are supposed to eat a sushi piece in one bite. Attempts to separate a piece into two, most often end in the destruction of the beautifully prepared sushi. Hands or chopsticks can be used to eat sushi.

In case of nigiri-zushi, dip the piece into the soy sauce upside-down with the fish part ahead. A few kinds of nigiri-zushi, for example, marinated pieces, should not be dipped into soy sauce.

In case of gunkan-zushi, pour a small amount of soy sauce over it, rather than dipping it into the sauce.


… Sashimi:

Give some soy sauce into a small plate provided. Put some wasabi on the sashimi piece, but do not use too much wasabi as this would overpower the taste of the raw fish and possibly offend the chef. Use the sauce for dipping the sashimi pieces. Some types of sashimi are enjoyed with ground ginger rather than wasabi.


… Miso Soup:

Drink the soup out of the bowl as if it were a cup, and fish out the solid food pieces with your chopsticks.


… Noodles:

Lead the noodles with your chopsticks step by step into your mouth, while sucking them in with a controlled slurping sound. Try to copy the slurping sound of people around you.

In case of noodle soups, keep the distance between the bowl and your mouth small in order to avoid splashing. If a ceramic spoon is provided, use it to drink the soup, otherwise, lift the bowl to your mouth in order to drink the soup.


… Kare Raisu:
(and other dishes in which the rice is mixed with a sauce)

Kare Raisu (Japanese style curry rice) and other rice dishes, in which the rice is mixed with a sauce (for example, some donburi dishes) and may become a little bit difficult to eat with chopsticks, are often eaten with large spoons rather than chopsticks.

… Big pieces of food:
(e.g. prawn tempura, tofu)

Separate the piece with your chopsticks (this takes some exercise), or just bite off a piece and put the rest back onto your plate.


Japanese Fashion
May 2, 2008, 9:22 pm
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , ,

In Japan, the fashion is divided by area.
The people that enjoy similar styles of fashion hang out in the same area, and those areas sell those types of clothes.
The three main areas are Shibuya, Harajuku, and Aoyama.

Shibuya Map

Shibuya is full of department stores, fashion stores, and specialty shops including the flagship Tokyu Hands, an absolutely complete lifestyle and DIY store. For this reason, it the streets of Shibuya are the ultimate trendsetters. Numerous fashion trends and items have originated in Shibuya. In the 1980s, Shibujaki (Shibuya casual fashion, such as jeans with white shirts) was born. After that, the loose socks worn by high school girls and the deep-tanned look of gangurogyaru became representative of Shibuya fashion. Shibuya is especially famous for the trends associated with Gyaru (gals), Ganguro, and Kogal.

Below is an extreme example of the Kogal fashion. Basically it consists of extreme tans, white pearl eyeshadow, bleached hair, miniskirt schoolgirl uniforms, and long leg warmers.


Ganguro is similar, with extreme tans, bleached hair, and pearl makeup, but they also feature white lipstick, colorful outfits like tie-dyed sarongs, and lots of bracelets, rings and necklaces. They are sometimes called the Californian girl look.


If you follow the Koen-dori street, a stylish street lined with major stores and restaurants, you enter Harajuku, an area that boasts some of Tokyo’s most attractive landmarks, including Yoyogi Olympic Stadium, Meiji Shrine, and the zelkova-lined Omotesando avenue.
Harajuku fashion is famous for being fashion you can only see in Japan – it is a mixture of various sub-cultures including Gothic Lolita (Gosurori), Ganguro, Gyaru and Kogal. They may also participate in the Cosplay culture by dressing like characters from an anime, movie, or manga, or even dress like their favorite rock stars.
Gwen Stefani of the U.S. fell in love with this fashion style and created her own clothing line called Harajuku Lovers, featuring the Harajuku girls.

This is a video made with pictures of Harajuku fashion with Gwen Stefani’s song Harajuku Girls as the background music.

Here’s a video that compares Shibuya and Harajuku fashion.

Aoyama is very different from the popular teenage culture of Harajuku and Shibuya. Instead it is the very image of elegance and fashion. Along Aoyama-dori are many luxury restaurants and high quality retailers. The area around Kotto-dori is a microcosm of the fashion world, showcasing the work of major international designers.

May 1, 2008, 6:59 am
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , , ,

As you may have noticed, Japanese people have a hard time pronouncing English.
And it’s because they have an entirely different sound system from English. In English, there are separate characters for vowels and consonants, and you add them together to make one syllable.
It is also possible to end a syllable with a consonant. For instance,
m + a = ‘ma’
d + a + d = ‘dad’
Usually, one letter can not be a word, unless it is a vowel. Like, ‘m’ can not stand by itself.

However, in Japan, one character is already one syllable in a consonant + vowel form.
Below is the letter system of Japan, called the ‘hiragana.’
Hiragana Chart
As you can see, you do not have to add two characters together to make one syllable – one character is already one syllable.
The thing is though, because you can not add sounds together, every syllable has to end in a vowel sound. You cannot end with a consonant, except for the [ng] sound.
There is one more exception that I won’t get into right now.)
The reason why English is hard for a Japanese person is because it has those crazy clusters of consonants.

So, Janglish, or Japanese English, always adds a vowel sound in between consonants of English words.
They also only have five vowel sounds, [a] [i] [u] [eh] [o], so any other vowel sound, they convert into the most similar sound out of those five vowels.

For example,

cup -> ka/pu
desk -> de/su/ku
building -> bi/ru/ding/gu

One of the most famous examples is of McDonalds.
They pronounce it ma/gu/do/na/ru/do. (magudonarudo)

This one is another McDonald’s commercial.

If you listen closely, you can hear
kurisumasu (Christmas), maku hurori (McFlurry), and sutoroberi shoto keki (strawberry shortcake).

Hello Kitty Hell
April 22, 2008, 1:21 am
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , , ,

Japan is well known for its’ crazy character business. As much as they love anime, the Japanese people love cute characters, and they put them on everything.

Among those characters, Hello Kitty is the best-known character in the world. Hello Kitty was created in 1974 by the Sanrio Company in Tokyo, Japan.

Hello Kitty has been marketed in the U.S. since 1983, and has held the position of U.S. children’s ambassador for UNICEF.

Although it was originally aimed at the pre-adolescent female market, the Hello Kitty logo now adorns products for all ages. The goods use to be mainly school supplies and stationery products, but now its popularity has penetrated every aspect of Japanese daily life.

Hello Kitty products range from

Hello Kitty Food
(yes, it’s actually a Hello Kitty branded onto a sausage-_-;;)

Hello Kitty Phone

Hello Kitty Instruments
(the Grand Piano is sold for 68,520yen, approximately $68,000.)

Hello Kitty Ferrari
(an actual Hello Kitty Ferrari)

Hello Kitty Exhaust Pipe
…plus a cute?? Hello Kitty exhaust pipe..

Hello Kitty Gun
(Yup. An actual real gun.)

Hello Kitty Jet

…to a Hello Kitty Darth Vadar. -_-;;
Hello Kitty Darth Vadar
(how far do you think this guy got without getting beaten up?)

The craziest new thing?


Honor system
April 21, 2008, 4:53 pm
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve mentioned earlier in my ‘Vending Machines of Japan‘ post that everything is up to the honor system in Japan.

This story is a story that clearly illustrates that point. It is so incredibly Japanese.

KOFU — A man has scattered dozens of 10,000-yen notes from pedestrian overpasses here, police said.
At about 3:20 p.m. on Friday, a passer-by spotted a man scattering 10,000-yen notes from a pedestrian overpass along a prefectural highway in the Marunouchi district of Kofu, and alerted police. Another passer-by picked up 10 of the bills, and submitted them to a local police station.

At about 4 p.m., 35 10,000-yen bills were scattered from a pedestrian overpass over Route 358, about 600 meters away from Marunouchi. Investigators said the same man may have been responsible for both cases.

Source: Mainichi

Only in Japan, ONLY in Japan would this kind of thing happen. You know what I’m talking about.

Passerby 1: Hey, look…that guy is dumping money out onto the street!
Passerby 2: Wow, he sure is!
Passerby 1: Well, that’s not right…I’ll call the police.
Passerby 2: I’ve picked up about $1000, I’ll go turn it in.

And this was only the first story. They found loads of money dumped in all sorts of places around Japan. And everyone’s been turning it in! Who is doing this? Why doesn’t he come to Austin? If I found some of these bundles of cash…shit, I wouldn’t be here writing this now. I’d be buying a first class ticket to Tokyo for a shopping trip.

I honestly can’t believe they just turned it in.
But that’s Japan for you.

Here’s another story.

MIYOSHI, Aichi — A man who had just been released from prison has been arrested for strangling the wife of an acquaintance after she refused to allow him to stay at her home, police said.
Haruyoshi Arai, 58, is accused of murdering the victim, believed to be 77-year-old Ayako Uchida, at her apartment in Miyoshi.

Arai admitted to the allegations during questioning. “I was just released from jail and had no place to stay. I asked Uchida, the wife of a deceased acquaintance, to allow me to stay at her home. After she rejected my request, I got furious and killed her,” he was quoted as telling investigators.

At about 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, prefectural police received an emergency call from Arai, saying that he killed a woman at her apartment. Officers rushed to the scene and found the woman lying on the floor. She was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead about two hours later.

The officers took Arai into custody after he admitted having strangled her.

Source: Mainichi

Again, I love the Japanese honesty here. “Hello, 911? You guys need to come down here and arrest me, I just killed a person.” I used to wonder why there weren’t any good cop shows or legal-based court shows in Japan like CSI, Rescue 911, or Court TV, but I realize now it’s because that shit would be boring as hell.

Cops: (arrive on scene) What’s going on here?
Man: You’ll notice the body of my dead wife there on the floor. I killed her a few minutes ago.
Cops: Sir, is this true?
Man: Why yes, it is. She didn’t have dinner ready, so I had to put her in her place. I may have overdone it.
Cops: We’ve just confirmed, this woman is most definitely dead.
Man: Well then, that makes me a murderer, doesn’t it? You’d better arrest me.
Cops: Anything else you need to tell us?
Man: I roughed up a cheap whore last week too. She probably isn’t going to say anything…but I just want to clear the air on that one.
Cops: Okay. Thank you for your cooperation.

I think this is also why Japan’s percentage of solved crimes are so high. Until the 1990s, Japan had a crime solving rate of more than 70%, which was one of the highest in the world. In comparison, the U.S. had a solving rate of a mere 20%. That means, if you committ a crime in the U.S., you’re probably going to get away with it.

Studio Ghibli
April 20, 2008, 5:32 am
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Studio Ghibli is like the Walt Disney of Japan. It was founded in 1985, headed by the acclaimed director Miyazaki Hayao.
The name ‘Ghibli’ comes from an Italian word that means ‘hot wind,’ because they believed the studio was going to blow a new wind into the Japanese anime industry. So far they have succeeded. Everybody in Japan grew up watching Ghibli movies, as well as Koreans and Chinese.

Anime created by Studio Ghibli that have won the Animage Anime Grand Prix award have been Castle in the Sky in 1986, My Neighbor Totoro in 1988, and Kiki’s Delivery Service in 1989.

Kiki’s Delivery Service was the first Studio Ghibli film released under the Disney/Studio Ghibli deal, and was premiered in the U.S. at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23, 1998.

The first Studio Ghibli movie that I saw was My Neighbor Totoro. I actually think it was the first movie I’ve ever downloaded on the Internet and watched on my computer. I was about 13 or 14, and I loved the cute characters, the peaceful scenery, and the subtle meanings behind the childish acts.

My favorite Ghibli movie to this day is Princess Mononoke. I absolutely love it. It was released in 1997, and it is rich with action, beauty, and wild imagination. It is a jidaigeki (period drama) set in late Muromachi period of Japan, and centers on the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans who consume its resources, as seen by the outsider Ashitaka.
You can also get a good glimpse of how the Japanese used to worship everything, and believed every animal and object had a spirit.

The movie that got the most attention was Spirited Away, released in 2001. The film received many awards, including the second Oscar ever awarded for Best Animated Feature, the first anime film to win an Academy Award, and the only winner of that award to win among five nominees (in every other year there were three nominees). The film also won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (tied with Bloody Sunday).
The movie has many complex themes, including growing up in a world mixed with modern innovations and traditional rules, and about the corruption of the world by greed.
This movie also has so many unique characters and is also very Japanese. The majority of the story is based in a public bathhouse where gods go to wash themselves, which is a perfect way to show various aspects of traditional Japanese culture and mindset.

Vending Machines in Japan
April 18, 2008, 4:57 pm
Filed under: + iNJAPAN | Tags: , , ,

According to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association, Japan has one of the highest vending machine densities. Apparently there are about 5.6 million vending machines in Japan, making it the country with the highest number of vending machines per capita, with about one machine for every 23 people. Vending machines can be found all over the country, and the range of variety of the machines is mind-blowing.

Since Japan is a pretty small country full of people on the run, it’s really convenient to use machines to make sure that people can buy what they need whenever they want, without having to go inside a store. Also, Japanese people have one of the most private lives in the world. How the society views them, and what they will look like in other people’s eyes is very important. So buying items from machines instead of people allow them to avoid being embarassed or worried about whether the store clerk will judge them for buying certain items.

Here are a few of the really unique types of vending machines that you won’t see in other countries.

Egg vending machine

Egg Vending Machine

The eggs are separated into different amounts and types, and if you put the money in, the door to the compartment that holds the eggs you want will open. The eggs are brought in every morning, fresh from the poultry farm.

Umbrella vending machine

Umbrella Vending Machine

You can see these machines mostly in subway stations or near bus stops. No need to run around getting soaked while you look around for a store.

Hot Ramen/Udon Noodles vending machine

Ramen/Udon Vending Machine

Insert your money, wait about 3 minutes, and you get freshly cooked, hot Udon noodles or Ramen noodles for lunch.

Rhinoceros Beetle vending machine

Rhinoceros Beetle Vending Machine

For some weird reason, Japanese people love Rhinoceros Beetles. It is very common for a boy to have a beetle as a pet. They usually put them in little boxes and carry them around in their pockets. Used almost like a Pokemon, boys will whip out their beetles and make them fight each other. This vending machine sells Rhinoceros Beetles – Males for 300 yen, and females for 100 yen.

Beer vending machine

Beer Vending Machine

Yes. They actually sell BEER in vending machines. Do they have problems with minors buying beer? Of course. But it’s Japan. Everything is up to the honor system.

Cigarette vending machine

Cigarette Vending Machines

Same thing as beer machines. I heard that some of them have a system where you have to insert your driver’s license first, though. But still, teenagers will be teenagers, and they will find ways to smoke anyways. And smoking when you’re young is pretty common in Japan. Actually smoking is common. period. Even in fast food restaurants, they will offer you an ashtray with your meal.

All right. Now here comes the crazy part.

Porn vending machine

Porn Vending Machine

Don’t be distracted by the Coke machine in front. That’s only there for the people who get too thirsty from drooling at the porn. These porn vending machines are pretty common, and usually during the daytime they are covered in curtains or a hut like this one. (To protect the privacy of the porn-buyer.) They sell both porn magazines and DVDs.

The machines inside look like this.

Porn Vending Machine (inside)

Porn Magazine Vending Machine

The next one is the sickest thing I’ve ever heard of.
It goes with the whole, ‘Japanese people endorse sex with minors’ thing.

“Used” Schoolgirl Panties vending machine

Used Schoolgirl Panties Vending Machine
They range from 1000 yen to 3000 yen, which is about 10 U.S. dollars to 30 dollars. I don’t know where they get ‘used’ panties from, and I don’t even want to know. And I really don’t want to know what the difference between a 1000 yen panty and a 3000 yen panty is.
All I know is that it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of.
I can’t belive their government allows this kind of thing.