9 Interesting Observations About Japan

Updated on November 7, 2018
matthew da silva profile image

Matthew is a keen traveller and a photography hobbyist. He is currently living in Japan and hopes to travel and document his journey.

There is an interesting dichotomy between the experience and impression you have as a traveller and that which you have when you stay in a place long term. You immediately become more observant and inquisitive, hoping to develop a deeper understanding of your surroundings. Your first impressions may be reaffirmed or changed completely. Some of these things are noticeable immediately, but it isn't until you witness them regularly that you can say, definitively, that they are part of the country's make-up.

1. The Sound of Silence

I distinctly remember sitting on a train in London a number of years ago. A girl was speaking on the phone, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings; baring all, with not an ounce of shame, she was talking (quite explicitly) about her personal life. This really is the antithesis of a Japanese train journey.

It's actually quite eerie; Japanese trains are remarkably quiet, as it is considered impolite to speak loudly or to speak on the phone whilst on the train. Even though you may find yourself cheek to jowl with a commuter, at least you will have the consolation of doing so in relative silence. Japanese people take pride in being compliant.

2. Conveni Is Life

7/11 is your friend. When you find yourself roaming around, in denial about whether or not you are lost, the sight of a convenience store is a welcome one. Free Wi-Fi, a snack or two, an ATM, and a toilet are the remedy for most difficulties during a misadventure. (Though in Europe, it can feel like your human rights are being infringed every time you have to pay to use a toilet.)

Convenience stores are synonymous with Japanese life—so conveni definitely isn't a misnomer. Ready-made meals are a way of life here.

Rikugien gardens, Tokyo
Rikugien gardens, Tokyo | Source

3. It's Oishii! (Actually It's Only So-So)

The prospect of complaining about or returning food is unimaginable to a Japanese person. They are very conscious of not, as they interpret it, insulting the restaurant or the workers, so they will say oishii (it's delicious) even if they don't actually mean it.

Even amongst friends, some people will be hesitant to disagree with someone if they have differing palates, just in case it causes offence. This is a microcosm of a wider Japanese characteristic—they are conflict averse. Or confrontation avoiders. Or sitting on the fence dealing with master splinter. In other words, and all joking aside, they are not overly opinionated people, which is intertwined with their collectivist nature.

4. Sniffing Crime or Something Else?

Japan is a remarkably safe place, so much so that the police are hard-pressed to keep themselves occupied. It is said that Japanese people police themselves. The police are so under-worked, in fact, that when an unscrupulous so-and-so swiped a lady's underwear from her washing line, five officers crammed into her tiny home to investigate.

Five-Story pagoda, Senso-ji temple, Asakusa
Five-Story pagoda, Senso-ji temple, Asakusa | Source

5. A Homogeneous Society

The demographics of Japan has been described as a national crisis. Due to an aging population and a declining birth rate, Japan's population has plateaued since the mid-90s. A contentious issue, and one that is currently being debated in the legislature, is whether Japan should loosen its immigration laws to combat against the shrinking workforce.

The country is faced with a dilemma: they need to find a balancing act between preserving their cultural identity and allowing more migrant workers in to plug the labour shortage. The debate is waging about how an Influx of immigrants would affect the crime rate and the impact it would have on wages.

6. The Golden Girls

Incredibly, Japan's centenarian population has reached over 70,000, almost 90% of whom are women. The oldest person is currently 115 years old. It's quite remarkable. Their longevity is credited to regular health checks and a low-fat diet. It sounds too simple!

7. Two Wheels Are Better Than Two Feet

Speaking of the golden girls, it is very common to see an elderly person whizzing around on their bicycle. Bicycles in Japan are ubitiquous. In fact, there are over 70 million bicycles across the country. Young people or old, in the city or countryside, bicycles are a staple. They even have their own bike parks, like a car park, inside or near train stations to house the sheer amount of them.

8. Men Are Dominant (Until They Get Home)

Japan is still a male-centric society. Recently, there was a scandal concerning a medical school's entry exam in Tokyo that highlighted, once again, the wider societal issue. Female students, dating all the way back to 2006, had been systematically marked down to ensure more male applicants were successful and to avoid the possibility of women taking maternity leave and not returning to work.

Institutionalised sexism is prevalent in Japan, and a gender wage gap still persists, albeit one that is diminishing slowly. Interestingly, however, it is common for women in the household to control the finances of the family. Men have to ask their partners for their spending money; they are not trusted to budget and manage their salaries. Contrast and contradictions abound!

9. Too Much to Bear

There were two common grievances among young Japanese people I met outside of Japan that would always reappear. One was that the work/life balance in Japan is disproportionate. Overworking and the pressure to work unpaid overtime is pervasive. Sick days are almost unthinkable. Secondly, societal pressure to marry and rear children is unavoidable. Pressure from overbearing parents exacerbates this even further. Escapism afforded by travelling and working holiday visas give young Japanese people the opportunity to decompress.

Narita-San, Chiba
Narita-San, Chiba | Source

© 2018 Matthew

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 

      9 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I've lived in Japan for five years and have observed some of the same phenomena you mentioned here. Often we in the big cities pride our cities on the fact that shops stay open longer, trains are more frequent, and businesses are quick and helpful with their customers. However, this is due to overworking and Japan's impeccable work ethic. It's a shame that the work-life balance is so askew; maybe if people had more time to relax, it would help them meet a potential partner.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      9 days ago from UK

      You give an interesting perspective on Japan. It is so true that tourists and people living somewhere longer term take a different view. I have even heard of tourists who retired to their holiday location only to come home after a few weeks because out of season it was too different.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)