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Posts Tagged ‘cultural differences’

It’s true – everyone is a gaijin (outsider) somewhere! No matter where you go, there will always be somewhere where you don’t quite fit in. So always be nice to foreigners – one day it might be you.

I stumbled across this video the other day and it made me laugh. A lot. This is how the British are viewed through Japanese eyes.

My brother quickly responded by sharing this video, how we view Japan.

At least we can laugh about our differences!

This video captures the awkwardness of Japanese interacting with gaijin…

And finally a rather tongue in cheek look at “racism” in tokyo…

This one made me laugh, particularly because it sums up how sometimes gaijin in Japan make themselves the victims of racism stares… and if you will wear a Pikachu suit in a starbucks… well you bring it on yourself!

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Q: What is Para-Para?

A: It is a style of dancing which is very popular amongst young people in Japan.

YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS VIDEO TO UNDERSTAND!

OR THIS ONE

I went to my first para-para club the other day and it was interesting to see such a cult part of Japanese culture live and kicking. If I compare it to line-dancing, then it I’m sure it would give you completely the wrong idea about what it is – there are no badly dressed, cowboy hat wearing middle-aged folk here, this is where the young and the stylish come to show off their arm-waving skills in strict routines set to euro-beat/trance/techno music.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of geeks here too. Para-para is not something you can just rock up to a club and “do”; you have to study hard and learn the moves. As a result there are a large proportion of “otaku” who study daily (probably) to perfect routines, and once they know them they go to a para-para club to show what they can do. Normally “Gyaru” (the really girly girls with tonnes of makeup, short skirts and perfectly curled hair) and “otaku” (geeks with no dress-sense, bowl haircuts and a curry based diet) never mix together under any circumstances, but this is perhaps the main exception to that rule!

My friend Mina took me. She is actually an instructor back in Texas, and its because of this style of dancing that she came to like Japan in the first place! She knows a good 300 or so routines, no mean feat if you ask me. Although the moves all look kind of similar, and there is a lot of repetition, naturally every song is different.

At the club itself, everyone dances in lines and the most experienced dance on the stage to remind everyone of the moves. Occasionally the DJ pulls out a record from the early 90’s which nobody knows and at that moment, there is usually one geek who will know it, and that is their moment to shine!

After a while the music really got to me though so I don’t think I will be trying to pick it up anytime soon, but then again its always fun to try things out so who knows! Let me know what you think of the two videos!

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Just when I thought I had seen it all in Japan, I realised I have only been scraping the surface of bizarrity. (That isn’t a word but it sounds right somehow. My English ability has dropped to the level of a 6 year old.) I went for a mosey around the public library at Tsurumai Park the other day, and was more than a little surprised to see that there is a Sugakiya (ramen restaurant) inside. Not attached to the outside, but actually inside the library. I was thinking how amazing it would be if SOAS had something similar – during the exam period and 24hr opening a ramen restaurant in the library would be the perfect antidote to a hard nights revision!

But it gets even weirder than that. After a hunger fuelled stroll in search of a new and exciting restaurant, we found the perfect place that the producers of Hells Kitchen would probably commit acts of indecency in public places for Gordon Ramsey to sort out. A restaurant called “Mountain”, which specialises in interesting types of rice and spaghetti. Naturally, amongst the list of about 60 types of spaghetti (which actually turned out to be more like a noodle-pasta hybrid; best not to ask) you have standard sauces such as bolognese, carbonara and Japanese style flavours such as Mentaiko (spicy roe). What is surprising however, is seeing strawberry pasta make an appearance on the menu. Or kiwi pasta. Or banana pasta. There were a lot of very strange combinations – none of which sounded very appetising! I saw someone eating said strawberry pasta, and it seemed that it was the sauce and not the actually pasta which was strawberry flavoured. I must say it looked truly horrific. However the absolute worst item on the menu had to be the “Italian Tomato Parfait”. What part of  mixing ice cream and tomatoes seems like a good idea?! And what sort of person orders such a vomit inducing concoction?! Whats more, the portion sizes were bigger than American sizes, enough for 2 very hungry people or maybe even 3! After eating about a third I had to give it up to Michael who has the appetite of an mammoth. I would love to see Gordons reaction to the menu and restaurant…

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Question: what whips Japanese girls into a fury of baking, borrowing sugar, and locked kitchen doors? Valentines day of course!

Valentines Day in Japan is the complete opposite to what you would expect. The tradition here is that on February 14th WOMEN give MEN chocolates! And as if that wasn’t unromantic enough, they are nicknamed called “obligation chocolates” for the reason that they have to be given to male work colleagues, superiors, teachers, and all men who you interact with on a frequent basis. Its not all bad for women though; exactly a month later the men who received these chocolates have to return the favour by giving presents such as handkerchiefs or hand towels on what is known as White Day.

The fun part for the men is working out whether the chocolates are “Honne” (a gift from the heart) or “giri” (given out of social obligation). Obviously the more time you take to make them or the more expensive they are, the more love they show.

Rebbekah and I spent the best part of Saturday afternoon making home-made chocolates for our friends with fairly good results:

Valentine Chocolates

Valentine Chocolates

Oh and one other thing. To add another twist into the mix, and apparently due to the “influence of western customs”, one of the major chocolate manufacturers has brought out “reverse chocolates”. These are exactly the same as the normal chocolates except for the fact that the packaging is printed in reverse, and MEN are meant to give them to WOMEN in accordance with the usual Valentines day customs. And before you ask, no I am not joking.

Essentially, noone knows who to give chocolate to anymore.

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Japan can often seem like a bewildering place for a gaijin (outside person = foreigner) and I still get surprised about some of the little things that occur on a daily basis.

Once you get over all the obvious differences like vending machines every 50 metres, height difference, the cutsie cartoons that tell you how you should behave/how to operate a water fountain etc, the abundance of advertisement (even on handrails on escalators in a major station – now THATS thinking outside the box!) you start to notice the smaller things.

The following are a couple of things which really stuck out.

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