After having lived in Japan for nearly a year, there are many things I have come to understand that is strictly Japanese culture and norm and I cannot expect them to change. Those things are fine. Typically, those things either work better than in the US, or it makes sense why they do things. However, there are just some things, I will never be able to understand about Japan, no matter how long I live here. These are the 5 things that I know are inherently Japanese, yet have no idea why they do them.
Why? Seriously, why?? I get that they want to save money and supposed energy but is risking your health really worth it? The winters are brutal, and the summers are choking. If they really are wanting to be saving money, you would think that they would invest in insulating homes and businesses. It would save them energy costs for heating and cooling, but no, they think it is bad for the environment to have insulation, yet they also think running AC and heat is also bad for the environment. Pretty sure you only have to install insulation once when those units get used indefinitely. I think they have it a little bit backwards.
Strictly Following the Seasons Calendar
This mostly pertains to fashion, but other things stem from this as well. If the winter is scheduled to start on the 12th of December, then they cannot start to wear winter clothing until that date. Who cares if the weather has already dropped below freezing, the calendar hasn’t said winter started yet, so we can’t wear winter coats until that time. The same goes for all the seasons. The summer hit early this year, but the calendar summer was the second week of June. No body wore short sleeves until the exact date that summer was scheduled. They would be walking around in long sleeves and sweaters, sweating profusely, and complaining about how hot it is. Well duh!! You are wearing sweater on top of long sleeves! Spring ended a while ago. At least take off the sweater.
This also extends to businesses too. They won’t turn on the AC until summer has officially started. They have AC at my school, they didn’t start turning it on until the 3 week of June (this week) because summer hadn’t been upon us for long enough yet. I am not sure where they got that idea from because everyone was complaining about the weather, they were using fans, and towels to wipe their sweat. Um, if your employees are suffering, you should probably relieve their suffering. Just saying.
No Regular Sized Spoons
I have never, and will never understand this. Whenever you go to the store and decide to buy plastic ware, they have normal sized cereal spoons. If you go to the store to buy silverware, you will find only dessert spoons, or the big sauce/serving spoons. What happened to the spoons in between? Someone once tried to tell me that perhaps Japanese just don’t use cereal spoons, but that doesn’t make any sense because they sell them in plastic. Why? I just don’t understand. If you have them in plastic everywhere, (and I mean that many many stores sell them) then what is so hard about selling the cereal spoons as flatware? You might be saying, why not just buy imported silverware then? Well, actually, they remove the normal sized cereal spoons from the sets. Why? The only time I have ever seen normal sized spoons as flatware, they were from the Noritake Museum where each spoon was made out of genuine silver and gold and cost about $30 a spoon. I am allergic to silver too; I am not about to spend hundreds of dollars on a spoon I am allergic to. Why Japan? Why you no have normal spoons??
The things that Japan believes they are secure in, they aren’t. And the things they believe shouldn’t be secure, should. I send money to the US every month to pay for my student loans and such. Before my husband came to join me, I had to take a day off work to do that. Now that he is here, he does it for me. I thought there would be issues with him sending the money because they need my IDs to confirm who I am, but apparently, he just needs to have my IDs and tell them that I gave him permission, and they will send the money. I ask another bank the same question, except said friend instead of husband, and they said that as long as he has my IDs and says I gave him permission, then they would do whatever he requests. Um, if I am not mistaken, that is the gateway to identity theft. Apparently, as long as you have someone’s ID and give the OK, they will do what you ask. It is like they cannot fathom someone having another person’s ID unless that person gave it to them. Because you know, no one steals anything these days.
There was another time, where my husband received a package, and he wasn’t home. I wanted to sign for it, but they wouldn’t give it to me because my first name isn’t Joshua. I told the delivery guy that I am his wife and we have the same exact last name, and they refused saying that he would be committing fraud if he gave it to me. He had to come back another day when JD was home so that he could receive his package. Granted, I have only had that happen once, because usually Japanese people can’t tell the difference between and boy and girl American name, but my point remains the same. You are telling me, that giving someone else a package is fraud but possessing another person’s IDs is not? Apparently they haven’t run into any problems, but I guess being from America where identity theft is the Gucci, it is a little absurd to try and wrap my head around.
The thought of having all the food individually wrappe sounds nice right? You never have to worry about finding a clip because all the food is always sealed. Plus, if you are on a diet, you can check yourself by eating only what is packaged. Let me put it to you this way. You decide that you want to buy a box of cookies. So you head to the store, food a decent sized box of cookies thinking you would be going home to eat an entire row only to discover that your$3 box of cookies only contains 4 packages of 2 cookies each. What the heck? You didnt pay for packaging, you paid for cookies!! I cannot tell you how many times this has happened.
Recently, i bought my husband a box of saltine crackers and they were all individually wrapped. Why? I thought Japan was eco friendly. Apparently not. Everything in Japan is wrapped at least twice. I bought cream cheese once and it was in the plastic container, shrink wrapped, and inside a box. You cant just eat a box of candy here because the candy is wrapped in foil, wrapped in plastic, wrapped in a box, with wtapping paper. It can be convenient when packing lunch but the convenience goea out the door when you live in a country that separates trash and sells cookies on average $4 a box.
So these were the list of things that I just cannot understand. I am not saying that Japan needs to change any of these things nor am I really offended by these things, but I have accepted that this is just a part of their culture, I just don’t understand them is all. I still love the country. These are only 5 things that confuse me. I am sure I will never understand them.
If you ever come across a custom from another culture that you don’t understand, it is ok to question, just don’t condemn them, or tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. To me that culture shaming. There are some gaijin here that complain to employees or have written reviews about Starbucks here, and how they only do their limited time drinks for about one month. So Japan only has special drinks for a month, how is that harming anyone? You yelling at the employee or writing a bad review is what is causing the harm. Just accept that you are not in America, where there limited time specials seem to last 3 years and will eventually turn permanent. (that always seems to happen). This is a new country, with different customs and rules from what you are used to. Just accept them for what they are. Not understanding them is totally ok though, hence the blog post above.