Culture is a condition of confusion and anxiety affecting a person suddenly exposed to an alien culture or milieu. There are many different ways to experience culture shock. It can be experienced across the world or as near as one’s backyard. Many Americans would venture that they consider themselves very culturally accepting. Often, when these same Americans travel abroad, they experience culture shock. It is not always a negative thing. Often to some American coming to Japan and adjusting to life in Japan can be difficult, since even the most mundane things could be done differently than they would have been done in the U.S, so here are some basic facts of Japan. And remember be patient.
When entering a Japanese home you are expected to remove your shoes before stepping up from the entry area into a Japanese home known as the genkan. There in the genkan you must change from outdoor shoes into indoor slippers. When entering the genkan, you have to remember to step out of your shoes, and step into the house proper. Then you must turn around, kneel or bend down, and turn the outdoor shoes around so that they face the door, ready to be slipped into again when they leave. This custom is also required in many traditional Japanese restaurants, all department store dressing rooms, temples, and a few other businesses.
On an extra note it is wise to buy clean socks since you will be taking off your shoes when you enter homes or some resteraunts. And you don’t want to embarrass yourself with dirty socks.
In the U.S many people carry their lunches in lunchboxes, but in Japan people use Bento boxes which are pre-prepared lunches, sold in every convenience store in Japan or brought from home. Usually a bento box consists of a box divided into several sections, containing perhaps, noodles, rice, pickles, meat or fish, and maybe a little fruit. If there is a need to heat their lunches almost all stores also have a microwave so that you can heat the bento in the shop.
When traveling to Japan one must be aware of the proper way to eat. In the U.S slurping is generally considered rude, so it is useful to know that the Japanese people consider it correct to slurp whenever eating noodles, ramen or soup etc. By making slurping when one eats their soup or noodles is considered to be polite, also by slurping you compliment the person who cooked it. More than that slurping serves a practical purpose, as noodles, ramen etc, are often served very hot, slurping draws air into the mouth which helps to cool the food as well as bring out the flavor.
Knowing how to use chopsticks can make life in Japan a bit easier, but you have to remember the certain etiquette that concern using chopsticks. Just as there are good manners when it comes to using a knife and fork in the west, the Japanese have definite rules of thumb when it comes to using chopsticks. Don’t point at people with your chopsticks, move plates with them or wave them or stick them. Do not stick chopsticks into your food, especially not into rice. Only at funerals are chopsticks stuck into the rice that is put onto the altar.
Education in Japan is similar to that of the education system in the U.S, since it was adopted based on the U. S education system by the Japanese after World War II. But some things are quite different. If you are a parent sending your child to school in Japan, there are some key facts you must know
In Japan competition for entering a good University is fierce, for that reason many student start at a young age go to Juku, which are cram schools, parents send their kids to, so that they have a better chance of doing well on University exams. In Japan if you are able to go to a good University than the chances of a good and stable job is quite high. It quite common for kids to finish school then go at night for 2 to 3 hours to a cram school.
When bathing Japanese style, you are supposed to first rinse your body outside the bath tub with some water from the tub, using a washbowl. Afterwards, you enter the tub, which is used for soaking only. The bath water tends to be relatively hot for Western bathing standards. If you can barely enter, try not to move much, since moving around makes the water appear even hotter.
After soaking for a while, leave the tub and clean your body with soap. Make sure that no soap gets into the bathing water. Once you finished cleaning yourself and rinsed all the soap off your body, enter the bath tub once more for some more soaking. After leaving the tub, do not drain the water, since all household members will use the same water.
There are three types of toilets commonly found in Japan. The oldest type is a simple squat toilet, modern Western-type toilets and urinals and the state of the art is bidet toilets
However traditional toilets are usually the most common type in most public places, universities, restaurants etc. The tradition toilet is known as the squat toilet, it essentially looks like a miniature urinal rotated 90 degrees and set into the floor. Most squat toilets in Japan are made of porcelain, though in some cases (like on trains), stainless steel is also used. Instead of sitting, the user squats over the toilet, facing the wall in the back of the. A shallow trough collects the waste, instead of a large water-filled bowl as in a western toilet.
In Japan, being clean is very important; the bidet toilet is like the western flush toilet. While the toilet looks like a Western-style toilet at first glance, there are a number of additional features, such as blow dryer, seat heating, massage options, water jet adjustments, automatic lid opening, flushing after use which are included either as part of the toilet or in the seat. These features can be accessed by a control panel that is either attached to one side of the seat or on a wall nearby, often transmitting the commands wirelessly to the toilet seat. For an American coming to Japan for the first time, the squat toilet or the bidets could be quite a shock and could take some time getting used to.
If you want to gamble in Japan you must remember that gambling is illegal so to compensate there is the wildly addicting game known as Pachinko a type of vertical pinball machine. The winnings are in the form of more balls, which the player may use to keep playing or exchange for prizes such as pens or cigarette lighters. Cash cannot be paid out according to Japanese law, but players can then exchange certain prizes for cash at small centers located nearby, but separate from the parlors.
In America there are cartoons and comic books in Japan there are manga and anime. Remember when reading manga or any Japanese book, guide for the matter, you must start at the “last” page and work “backwards”. The same applies to the panels within the pages. They should be read right to left, not left to right.
In Japan, cars drive on the left side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on the right. And unlike the U.S which has a minimum driving age of 16, the legal minimum age for driving in Japan is 18 years.
While you are waiting for the train to arrive, you stand in politely in neat rows, calmly waiting for your train. When the train arrives, the first rule you must bear in mind is that no matter how crowded it looks, there will always be room for one more. If you have any doubt about the above rule, there’s a white gloved attendant ready to shove you in. Then, once you get one the train, you must remember certain rules. Don’t drink coffee in the morning, save drinking anything for the ride back home.
The morning rush hours peak on weekdays between 8am and 9am, while the evening rush hours are more spread out and commence around 5pm. Rush hours are most extreme in Tokyo, but also pretty heavy in Japan’s other major cities. So if you plan on riding the train it is best to go before rush hours.
As you stay in Japan you as individual can learn to grow towards multicultural perspectives and develop alternative futures for his or her self, thus making his or her self a more culturally accepting person.
Courtney from Study Moose
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