PERSONAL NOTES OF A GAIJIN (FOREIGNER) IN JAPAN

by - 4:22 PM


We live by impressions and judgments, which may either, be informed or not.  Any destination, no matter how grand and beautifully landscaped is still rated by the people and the tradition that goes with it.

The discipline and kindness of the Japanese people is a given fact. But understanding the culture that accompanies it makes an outsider (foreign visitors) blend with the way things are in Japan and consequently enjoy the transient sojourn.


Bowing is a term of respect, remorse, gratitude or greeting.

This is the traditional way of showing respect.  I’ve learned from my sensei (teacher) in Nihonggo that there are interpretations to the degree of bowing.  Though shaking hands is widely accepted now in Japan, one must learn that a 15-degree bow is used for greetings when meeting people for the first time.  A 45-degree or 30-degree bow will convey a different meaning; the former for sincere apology or show highest respect and the latter for respect to superiors.  But this will be not of great use when visiting as a tourist.


When entering restaurants or shops, you will oftentimes hear the staff’s greetings irrashaimase (welcome) and will bow to you.  But visitors are not expected to return it with a bow, a simple head-nod will do as a sign of acknowledgement.

It is customary in Japan to take off footwear when entering a traditional ryokan (guesthouse), a home and temple.


It is said that traditionally, Japanese took off their shoes when entering homes as people would sleep, sit and eat on tatami-mat floors and footwear worn outside would spread dirt. Today, taking off of footwear becomes a sign of respect.

There are etiquettes in eating.

There are instances where I am caught unaware that my actions are quite offensive to traditional Japanese people.  Filipino culture is indeed a 360-degree different from them.  It is not a common practice to eat and walk in public places.  We may sit down in a public place and eat or stand at restaurant but walking and eating is not polite.

There are times when the seemingly innocent action may likewise be offensive to restaurant owners like the dipping of rice in soy sauce.

Using of chopsticks has certain rules as well that when used the wrong way may be quite offensive.  The basic one that I have learned is that, do not stick the chopstick into your bowl of rice as this has relevance to a funeral ceremony.

“Itadakimasu” (I humbly receive), words uttered before eating a meal.


There is no tipping in Japanese restaurants. 

If you are used to giving tips, then refrain from doing so in Japan.  Japanese people take pride in their job and accepting tips might be offensive for some.

There are a few trashcans in the area.

One thing I have noticed while roaming around the streets of Japan is the fact that there are only a few trash cans.  Thus, you might end up bringing your trash wherever you go until you find its disposal area.  The cleanliness of the streets is just overwhelming, truly, disciplined people.


The vending machines are just everywhere.

Whatever you want, the vending machines have.  The comfort of not looking for convenience stores is made possible for visitors and even locals of Japan.  The vending machines sell a wide variety of goods, from obvious items such as drinks, including beer and alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and food, toys, card games, books and even umbrellas.  In relation to prices, there were times that we noted some vending machines are priced low than in supermarkets and convenience stores. 



Japanese people love to drink.

This is the best part of living in Japan.  No explanations needed.



And the obvious scenes are the hardworking Japanese people not to mention the colorful fashion sense that comes with their everyday lives. 











  

My notes may not be comprehensive but apparently, these are some observations made on how to live in a first world country with an interesting culture and the kindest people I have known.  


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