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One last hurrah, 22 More Subtle Differences Between Japan and the USA

May 23, 2011

While I’ve been back in the US for nearly two months now, when I was still in Japan I kept a running list of differences that I would add to whenever I came across a new one. These are the last set that never made it out before I left the country, mostly small observations, but hopefully you can still find them interesting.

  1. Since an eye test using the Latin alphabet wouldn’t make much sense to use in Japan, one developed by Russians in 1923 using circles is used instead, seen on the right side of this picture.
  2. For the most part streets don’t have names or even numbers, but it is instead the blocks are numbered. Watch this video for a great explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1zh49J5rsg
  3. Newspapers are far from in trouble, some even publish twice a day. Japan is second only to Iceland in newspapers published per 1,000 people (634.5 newspapers, source).
  4. Japan has 12 cities with a population of over 1,000,000 people, the U.S. has 9.
  5. Japan is approximately 4% the size of the U.S..
  6. You know how Philly has Cheesesteaks, New York and Chicago have Pizza and Louisiana has Gumbo and Jambalaya and not many other regions have their own signature dish? Well virtually all cities in Japan have their own signature dish. Part of this has to do with the tradition in Japanese culture to bring back gifts for friends and family when you go on a trip and those gifts are typically food. As a result, most train stations and gift shops have a huge selection of individually wrapped snacks for your loved ones. Fuji City’s signature food is boiled peanuts, I have no idea why.
  7. Light switches are typically horizontal.
  8. Most houses have car ports instead of garages
  9. Cream Soda is not a golden drink in Japan, instead it is actually a melon soda float with vanilla ice cream, and even though melon soda tastes nothing like cream soda (though equally as delicious) the added ice cream makes it taste exactly has the golden variety in the States.
  10. Valentine’s day gift giving is reserved solely for females to give the men in their lives as where a separate holiday, White Day on March 14th, is when men give chocolates and what not to their lady friends.
  11. Power outlets have 2 prongs instead of 3.
  12. The entire country of Japan is on a single time zone, even though eastern and western extremes of the country see the sunrise an hour apart.
  13. Trash is burned as there is no where to put it on such a small island.
  14. Very few kids, if any, bring lunch to school.
  15. Handicap access is not mandatory and quite scant.
  16. When you move into a new apartment you have to provide what is called “key money.” It’s usually one to three months rent you have to pay up front. However, unlike a security deposit, you will never see this money ever again. I personally believe this to be bullshit.
  17. Houses are typically pre-fabricated and modular.
  18. People tend to own small dogs. Popular breeds being Dachshund, Chihuahua and anything else tiny and super cutesy.
  19. Toothpicks are one sided.
  20. Convenience Stores have a “warm drink” section that keeps coffees and hot teas at a great temperature for the winter.
  21. Almost all cars have a GPS unit.
  22. Soda and beer cans have a little dimple under the top of the tab, making opening cans extremely easy.
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4 Comments
  1. Susan permalink
    June 25, 2011 11:29 pm

    Jon, you’re probably not aware of how many people have enjoyed your blog. So many people have told me how much they have enjoyed reading it, and that you are such a talented writer. People like Rodrigo’s parents and Johnny and James’ mom always loved it when you had a new post. I’m glad that you had such a rewarding experience in Japan!! Love, Mom

  2. Dave Horst permalink
    July 9, 2011 2:31 am

    Jon, I just moved to Japan and have my own blog. But, I found yours to be very much the same experiences I am having. I will tell my friends to read your blog and save me the time from having to write it!

    Nice work to pointing out so many little details. I may copy some of your ideas so that my audience can enjoy as well.

  3. May 29, 2013 5:22 pm

    I dunno, here in the States you don’t usually ever see the security deposit again either, because the landlord usually cites the stain in the rug or the sagging under the sink that was there before you moved in as reasons for him to keep your security deposit.

    • June 5, 2013 2:27 am

      I suppose mileage may vary, but I’ve always received my deposits back.

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