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20 More Differences and 3 Similarities Between Japan and the USA

December 5, 2010
It’s becoming harder and harder to discover subtle differences between Japan and America, both because I’ve likely found almost all of them and I’ve been here long enough that everything Japan throws at me now seems normal.  But this time I’ve found 20 more!  So let’s get to it:
  1. There is zero tipping in Japan and it can even be considered rude to attempt to.  I’m told that in certain circumstances you can tip taxi drivers, but I haven’t paid tip since the moment I stepped foot here.
  2. Soda just is not popular.  Yes,  there is Coca-Cola and some of the other big names, but it just isn’t nearly as popular.  In the States there are entire aisles devoted to all the different flavors, but here attention is shifted towards teas, coffees and juices.
  3. Shoe sizes rarely go larger than 28cm, that’s a size 10/10.5 in American at stores, they just don’t carry things larger.  Unfortunately for me, I’m a size 11, 29 cm.  When I went looking for shoes, it took me a good month or two of looking before I found a single pair of red Converse Chuck Taylor’s, the only pair of size 29cm shoes I found anywhere in Fuji City.
  4. The drinking, smoking and voting age in Japan is 20.  The driving age for a standard car is 18, but for a motorcycle, moped and “small special car” it’s 16.
  5. The U.S.A. is always called simply “America” (or “Amerika” in the proper Japanese spelling), not a translation of “The United States of America.”
  6. Gas stations are called gas stands.
  7. Denny’s is just not the same.  The breakfast menu you may know and love is only a single page, with more Japanese style dishes involving rice are more prevalent.
  8. In school, notebooks have two rings.
  9. The major expressway in Japan, the Tomei, is damn expensive.  To go from Tokyo to Nagoya (358km/223 miles), it costs ¥10,000, roughly $100.  As where a similar journey on the Florida Turnpike would cost you less than $20.  However, on weekends, if you have an ETC card, an electronic device installed in your car to automatically pay tolls, you can drive unlimited on the Tomei for only ¥1,000, about $10.
  10. Facebook is not nearly as popular.  Mixi is Japan’s leading social networking service with 80% market share and over 17 million users.
  11. Lost hasn’t finished yet.
  12. Students often go to school on Saturdays mornings.
  13. Your familiar tally marks are not used in Japan.
    Western vs Japanese tallies

    On the left we have western tally marks and the right the Japanese.

    The process goes like this:
    Japanese tallies

  14. The emergency telephone number is 1-1-o for the police and 1-1-9 medical or fire, rather than 9-1-1.
  15. Comb-overs are referred to as barcodes
  16. Snow-men are done with 2 snow balls instead of 3.  This fact especially boggles my students.

    A well to do snowman in Japan.

  17. I’m told most everyone peels their grapes before eating them.
  18. As with a lot of other Asian countries, almost all cars are parked rear-end in first.
  19. Baseball games and most concerts don’t run too late so that the audience members are still able to catch their last trains home.
  20. Maps typically show Japan as being in the center, instead of the Prime Meridian.

    Your typical world map in Japan.

To mix things up I’ve also come up with some interesting similarities, unfortunately I could only think of:

  1. Starbucks is exactly the same, from the music to the interior decoration.
  2. Converse Chuck Taylor shoes are popular.
  3. Teenage girls still love Justin Beiber and they often try to talk to me about him during lunch for whatever reason.

If you’d like to check out my prior lists of differences between the USA and Japan you can find them here and here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2010 10:22 pm

    >The U.S.A. is always called simply “America” (or “Amerika” in the proper Japanese spelling), not a translation of “The United States of America.”

    It’s true that the U.S. is usually called 「アメリカ」 (“America”) in Japan.
    The full name is 「アメリカ合衆国」 (“Amerika-gasshuu-koku”) which mean “United States of America“.

    And sometimes 「米国」 (“Beikoku”).

    Also the tally marks for “five” is the kanji character for “correct” (正).

    “Tokyo Five”

    http://tokyo5.wordpress.com

  2. Mom permalink
    December 10, 2010 12:38 pm

    That is the coolest snowman! I noticed they have hung Christmas lights on the house too.

  3. Glop permalink
    February 5, 2011 2:15 am

    So snow-men in USA are done with 3 balls? Pretty strange to think that I learn this fact of USA reading those Japanese’s facts ^^ (I’m from France, where snow-men are made with 2 balls too ;o)
    By the way, your blog is very interesting!

    • Caedes permalink
      September 10, 2012 1:22 pm

      Bigger is better in the USA :P

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