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Week #4 and What I’ve Learned

The Gundam Statue in Odaiba, Tokyo

The end of this week I travelled to Odaiba with Ian and Tatum to see the various shopping malls and the infamous Gundam statue. Standing at over 19.7 meters (64.6 feet) tall, it is appropriately named the “Unicorn Gundam” and can switch between two different poses for spectators to see if they come at the right time. Behind the Gundam Statue is the DiverCity shopping mall containing six floors of many tax free shops for tourists, clothing stores, and food courts.

The “helpful” information robot talking to mall goers

After heading out from DiverCity, we headed to Aqua City which contains the entrance to Joypolis amusement park, a tiny version of Lego Land, and many more clothing shops. We decided to head to a popular Ramen restaurant for a warm Hokkaido style noodle dish. From the balcony of Aqua City we were able to take pictures of Tokyo Bay featuring Rainbow Bridge and the replica of the Statue of Liberty. Finally, we ended our Odaiba explorations by visiting a small vehicle museum featuring vintage Japanese cars made by the then Datsun car company.

American vs Japanese Etiquette

There’s a reason why many authors have created phonebook sized novels about the culture of Japan and how it differs from all other countries in the world. While I won’t have enough space to elaborate on every cultural difference I’ve noticed, I will try to note some of the bigger ones.

Restaurants

  • There is no tipping culture in Japan anywhere and attempting to tip will result in confused looks and a polite rejection
  • Because there is no tipping, patrons will have to call a server over with a vocal “Sumimasen”. Larger restaurants will have a button for you to push when ready to order.
  • It is common for one person in a group to offer to foot the bill by him or herself, resulting in everybody fighting over who will pay for the entirety of the meal. After much debate, it is agreed that one person will pay and somebody else will have the responsibility for the next outing, unlike in America where people fight to not to pay the bill.
  • When eating Ramen or other noodle dishes, slurping is not only common, but polite. Biting the noodles is considered somewhat shameful.
  • Much like the picture below, Japanese restaurants showcase their dishes by conveniently displaying their food with plastic replicas and the price. The plastic replicas are usually disturbingly accurate to the actual thing.
A dog bakery!

Public Etiquette

  • When walking on sidewalks, people generally stay to the left. On escalators, it is imperative that standers stay on the left so that people in a rush can run on the right side.
  • I have seen not a single Japanese person disobey a walk signal for crosswalks. The red walk symbol is always respected, even if no cars are present.
  • Forgotten items on the train or in buildings are usually left undisturbed or quickly returned to nearby train station information center or “Koban” (Japanese police box). A week later you may even receive a phone call from a Koban saying your forgotten item was found.
  • Trains are very silent. People are often reminded to silence cellphones, not talk on the phone, and many older Japanese will not hesitate to tell the younger generation to turn down their headphone volume if it’s too loud.
  • Public Display of Affection is not common and Japanese people will not hold hands, hug, or kiss other people in public.
  • Although I’ve been told that this belief is old school, eating and walking is considered rude and it is expected that one sits or stands when eating. I think I ate granola bar on my way to class everyday last semester. Anyway, the same goes for drinking and walking but as the bubble tea craze continues in Japan, many younger Japanese people will sidestep that rule for a delicious boba filled drink.

Although I have just scratched the surface of Japanese etiquette, it can be an intimidating factor in learning about Japanese culture. Many of these rules are unspoken and are taught from childhood. But worry not, if a foreigner makes a mistake, they typically have their “foreigner’s pass” to fall back on.

Until next week,

Jake

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