Sunday, December 5, 2010

Another Top 10 List

10 Interesting Observations (In no particular order)

1. It’s okay to take a nap at your desk.  I figured this out one day when I swore that I heard a deep rumbling snoring coming from somewhere in the teacher’s room.  No one looked like they were sleeping, but when I decided that I needed to get some water, I saw one of the teachers sleeping peacefully while sitting at their desk.  Apparently this is normal because no one else paid any attention to it and it’s happened several times since then.

2. Slurping your noodles, soup, or ramen is perfectly acceptable, even expected.  I’m not sure this is something that I’ll adapt because I wouldn’t want to get in the habit of slurping and get stared at when I go back to the States.  I’m not sure what the reasoning is, but the rumor is that it makes the food taste better or slurping shows how much you like the food.  I’ve gotten used to hearing it, but it’s still a mystery to me.

3. Point cards are everywhere, credit cards are not – and where there are point cards, the rewards that you receive are amazingly minimal so that it’s hardly worth getting a point card at all.  For example, a fast-food restaurant at home might do a “buy 5 get the 6th free” deal, but here it’s more like “buy 24 get the 25th at half price/¥500 off/one free.”

4. Pizza Hut is exotically expensive!  An average sized medium pizza (smaller than our mediums at home) will cost between ¥1,800 - ¥2,600 for one pizza, which is approximately $20-28.

5. You have to separate everything before discarding something.  I literally have six different garbage bins at home because you must separate your burnable garbage from all plastic garbage, and the plastic garbage must be separated into the recyclable plastics and the trashed plastics.  Plus I have three other bins for recyclables.  I also have a bag for unburnable garbage that can’t be separated, but won’t burn – this stuff usually goes straight into a landfill.  So for anything that I need to get rid of, I must categorize it among one of the following:
                - Burnable garbage
                - Unburnables
                - PET plastic (recyclable)
                - Other plastics
                - Glass
                - Tin/Steel
                - Aluminum 
And, each item has a particular day of the week that you are allowed to put it out to be collected and there are color coordinated garbage bags that must be used.  If the garbage people decide that the bag isn’t separated adequately, they will leave the bag there with a note and you will have to re-separate the garbage.  I think I’ve figured it out at my place, but it’s a bit of a challenge when you go somewhere – like a mall – because they don’t just have a garbage bin sitting out.  And if you happen to find a public garbage bin, you will still have to separate what you want to throw away into its appropriate containers. 

6. Surgical facemasks are to be worn if you are sick, have allergies, might be getting sick, don’t want to get sick, heard that there was a flu outbreak somewhere, are concerned about pollution, or if you found a cute facemask somewhere that you couldn’t resist buying because it has your favorite anime character on it…

7. The toilets and their "sounds" are interesting.  Either a public restroom has a squatter toilet, or it has a sort of bidet with a heated seat and tons of buttons - there's not much in between.  On these high-tech toilets, there are even buttons to press to create a background noise so that others near don't hear your...noises.  The funny thing for me is that these background noises tend to be quite loud at some of my schools.  How do I know this?  One day, for example, I was walking down a hallway and heard the "background" ocean noises...from the bathroom around the corner and down the hall a bit.  In this case, by using the white noise button, the teacher actually drew more attention to the bathroom than would have been the case otherwise.

8. Drinking is a huge part of most Japanese people’s lives.  They drink at welcome parties, at going away parties, end-of-year parties, or at any sort of company or family party. That seems to explain the prevalence of the nomihodai in Japan.  A nomihodai is an all-you-can drink buffet, essentially.  You pay a set amount and can consume as much alcohol – and any kind of alcohol – as you’d like in a particular amount of time – usually 90 minutes to three hours, depending on the place.  It’s most definitely an enabler for binge-drinkers and encourages people to get drunk.  It is perfectly acceptable to get drunk with your co-workers and boss, and it even seems to be encouraged to help people decrease stress and bond. 

9. Most people assume that we wear our shoes everywhere and don’t take them off at home.  For me, the opposite is generally true.  At home, we almost always take off our shoes right when we walk inside.  We even have a mud room where shoes are meant to be taken off, and during the holidays the shoes pile up at the front door when many relatives visit and take off their shoes upon entering the house.  

10. On the other hand, you take your shoes on and off ALL THE TIME here.  Here’s an example of a possible day for me and my shoes:
                7:55am – put on my shoes right before I leave the house for work
                8:00am – once inside the school, I take off my outdoor shoes and put on

                indoor shoes
               11:45am – I forgot my lunch at home so I take off my indoor shoes, put on

                my outdoor shoes, go home to get my lunch, then return to the school
                where I reverse the process.
                4:15pm – as I leave school, I take off my indoor shoes and leave them in

                my shoe locker
                4:30pm – I stop by a local clothing store to buy a sweater.  I take off my

                shoes before I enter the changing room
                4:40pm – put my shoes back on as I exit the fitting room and go check out
                5:00pm – arrive home and I take off my shoes before entering
                6:00pm – I put on my shoes to head out to the gym
                6:10pm – I arrive at the gym and take off my outdoor shoes and put on

                the slippers found in each shoe locker.  I go to the locker room to
                change and put on my indoor gym shoes. 
                6:18pm – I need to use the bathroom, so I take off my gym shoes, put on

                the bathroom slippers provided at the gym; when finished, I exit the
                restroom and put on my indoor gym shoes again
                7:30pm – I leave the gym, take off my indoor shoes and put on my

                outdoor shoes
                8:00pm – Taiko practice!  You must take your shoes off before entering

                the building. Everyone walks around barefoot or with socks.
                9:30pm – After taiko, I put my shoes back on and go to meet up with

                some friends at a Japanese restaurant.  I take off my shoes before going
                to join them at their table
               11:00pm – After dinner, I put my shoes back on for the drive home where

                I take my shoes off at home for the last time that day. 
In addition to taking your shoes off when you go to some restaurants, try on clothes, go to school, visit community centers, and at home, some Japanese people have separate driving shoes, too.  They put on their indoor car shoes before they drive, placing their outdoor shoes in a different bin.  I’m not sure how much this is done in the winter time, but it means that there is a lot of time spent taking shoes off and putting shoes on each day.  I have to admit, having indoor shoes for school is probably a good thing for me because then it means that I only have one pair of shoes that I can wear.  I don’t have the option of wearing uncomfortable shoes just because they look good.  And since everyone else wears indoor shoes, style doesn’t matter at all.  Though I made sure that my shoes are versatile black slip-on ballet shoes, others just wear what’s most comfortable…even if it means wearing socks with sandals.

Interested in a decent website that gives a good general overview of some of the cultural parts of Japan?  I found while I was researching some cultural quirks.  I though it was succinct but pretty good.  I can't vouch for the accuracy of all of his points, because I still feel like I'm trying to figure out Japan myself.


No comments:

Post a Comment