This is from my brother, Dan, who went to Japan last summer.
I went walking with no apparent destination and, about 6-10 miles
there and back later I found myself home and with impressions of
Japan that I figured I’d share. Pretty much, I’m gonna take myths
about Japan and debunk or support them. Here we go…
Myth: Everyone in Japan knows English.
False! Everyone in Japan knows English about as much as everyone in
the States knows Spanish or French or Italian…they might be able
to understand what you’re saying, but most can’t speak it to any
degree of proficiency (at least in Okinawa). Luckily, with
Okinawa’s large American base presence, road signs are in English
and most restaurant menus in Japan have pictures on them, have
English, or both English and pictures. Don’t expect the locals to
understand too much of what you have to say though, especially if
it isn’t rudimentary.
Myth: The Japanese all wear kimonos and stuff.
Obviously false. They wear the exact same stuff as us.
Myth: Vending machines are everywhere in Japan and they sell all
sorts of weird, kooky things.
Mostly true. I have been in the middle of nowhere in Japan and
there will be a soda machine right on the side of the road. It’s
also common and not rude at all to just pull over on the road and
get a soda if you’re thirsty. They have soda, coffee, tea, even
beer in machines. That’s pretty much all I’ve seen vended, other
than cigarettes and capsule toy machines (like the machines in the
grocery store that give toys for 50 cents, only these cost ~$1-$2
and are much higher quality).
Myth: The Japanese eat dogs and cats and stuff.
False. They eat pretty much what we eat, with the addition of more
seafood. I have yet to see any dog or cat. Additionally, the meat
and food are all of comparable quality or better. In fact, the
Japanese are afraid of American beef getting them sick, if that
puts it in perspective a little bit more.
Myth: Electronics/Manga/Anime/Video Games/Music are cheaper in
Japan because they’re made here.
Let’s break this down a bit:
Manga: True. The books I normally buy in the states are about $8.
In Japan, depending on the exchange rate, they go for just under
$4, a definite improvement.
Electronics: False. Electronics in Japan are either more expensive
or about the same price as in the States. Don’t ask me why…
Anime: False. Anime is more expensive in Japan with less episodes
per disc and close to no special features. Again, don’t ask me why.
Video Games: Also false. Who knows?
Music: I’m sure some of you have thought: “Man, if only I lived in
Japan, then I could get this CD that I want for way less than the
rip-off $30 that Amazon charges me for the CD!” Guess what: that
price is actually pretty accurate. You pay about $12 for a CD with
3-5 tracks on it here in Japan. For a full CD, expect to pay about
$20. A soundtrack from a tv show or video game: expect to pay, you
guessed it, $30. This was a major disappointment to me…
Myth: Japanese TV is just jam-packed with anime.
False. I have seen less anime on TV than I can usually catch in the
States. Granted, I have few channels and I am in Okinawa instead
Myth: Japanese people act just like they do in the cartoons.
Obviously false. However, their live-action shows are over-acted
and exaggerated, much like their anime is.
Myth: Shopping malls only exist in America and Canada.
False. They have shopping malls in Japan, but with the major
shopping mall paradigm slightly modified. Let me illustrate this
change with what I imagine to be the brainstorming session that
came up with this.
Boss: So this mall we’re building, I want to improve it. It seems
that it doesn’t have everything a Japanese person could need in it,
I only want them to have to stop one place to get everything they
could possibly need. What can we do to fix that?
Employee: We could put a supermarket in?
Employee: But that would clearly be a stupid idea…
Boss: You’re brilliant! You get a raise! Have them put that in the
blueprints right away!
Employee: Uh, thanks.
Boss: There’s still one problem though…I can’t see all the other
merchandise when I’m in a store because of something…why is that?
Employee: Those would be walls sir.
Boss: Can we do anything about them?
Employee: Haha, like what, knock ’em down?
Employee: I was kidding, of course.
Boss: (crying tears of joy) How lucky am I to have such amazingly
intelligent employees. You get a promotion for that brilliant idea!
Employee: Why thanks! I did go to Todai, you know…
Boss: STOP BEING LAZY AND GET BACK TO WORK BEFORE I DEMOTE YOU!!!
Scary how accurate I must be on that, isn’t it? Malls in Japan have
supermarkets inside and they have minimal walls. What walls they
do have are sometimes even made of glass to keep that open bazaar
Last but not least:
Myth: The Japanese work super-hard at everything they do.
I think this one’s true. Even going to a McDonald’s, you’re
confronted with motivated employees. The hamburgers they put
together look like they do in the pictures and everything. All
other employees seem to work hard too (they also wear the same
funny uniforms that you see in the cartoons and comics).