22 More Subtle Differences Between Japan and America
June 2, 2010
This is the second in my series of posts listing the subtle differences between Japan and the United States that I have been noticing. If you haven’t seen the first post, you can find it by clicking here.
- If someone in Japan is counting to ten using their fingers, when the time comes for them to use that other hand (6 and higher) they don’t show their hand side by side like they do back in the US. Instead, they display the smaller amount of fingers in front of the larger.
- There are still smoking and non-smoking sections in most restaurants.
- There also still cigarette vending machines, however they require a special card that you can apply for from a convenience store after verifying your age and filling out some forms.
- Although much less common, beer is also sold in vending machines (I’ve only seen this is Tokyo). The ones I’ve seen did not require any sort of I.D. card.
- Nothing is said when someone sneezes, you just go on about your business.
- There’s no such thing as male or female bicycle shapes. Mountain bikes will typically have the male configuration, with the bar from handles to seat (crossbar or top tube) going parallel to the ground, and the normal commuting bike’s bar dips down towards the ground. Also, everyone usually has at least one basket on their bike. I have two, front and back.
- Every two years you have to get your car inspected and pay a tax, called “shaken”. The inspection insures that your not driving an vehicle that’s unsafe for yourself or others and meets emissions standards. The shaken increases every single time you get your car inspected. Because of this there are very few old cars on the road, the shaken just gets too high and it makes more sense to just purchase a new car. I’ve been told that because of this there’s a very healthy used Japanese car market in Australia and New Zealand (if only because you know that the cars were very well taken care of).
- In 2007 the Japanese postal system was privatized. Also, you can open a savings account with the post office (this started before the privatization). The bank part of the Japan Post operates separately from the mail handling part, as such it has different staff and different operating hours.
- We all know that the currency in Japan is the Yen and its symbol is ¥, right? Well here in Japan it’s actually referred to as “En” and its symbol is 円. The ¥ symbol is not uncommon, usually international chains will display that symbol, but you’ll most often see 円.
- Similarly, the name for Japan itself is actually “Nippon” or “Nihon.” I’m not entirely sure why one is said over another, but in Fuji everyone calls it Nihon and banknotes say Nippon.
- Months don’t have names, they are simply numbered. January is “ichigatsu,” literally meaning “month one”, October is “jugatsu” (month 10), etc.
- The mullet is making a comeback.
- There is no turning at red lights at any time. Not even if there is no traffic and you’re making a left-hand turn (which would be a right-hand turn in the states).
- You have to stop at a railroad crossing as if it were a stop sign.
- Stop signs are triangular.
- Unicycles have a pretty strong presence at Elementary schools. I’ve even seen a mother teaching her daughter how to ride one in my neighborhood.
- Trains don’t suck and they go everywhere.
- Envelopes are vertical.
- In the US when someone lets you into traffic, the standard “thank you” gesture is just a bit of a wave. Here you flash your hazard lights after they let you in.
- Reading is very, very popular in Japan, even with teenagers. I regularly see lines out the door at my junior high school’s library with kids returning piles of 6 or more books. When I was in middle school, getting kids to read during silent reading time seemed like an unwinnable battle for the teachers.
- I’ve heard that it’s actually against the law to sell new books at a discout, which is why the used book market here is extremely huge.
- Kick stands on bikes are a little different, and much more stable because of it.
If you have been to Japan, or live here, feel free to e-mail any differences you’ve noticed, email@example.com