The other day Anita asked several questions about Japan that I’ll try my best to answer in the post. Here are the questions she had for me:
Do most people have cats or dogs, or horses?
Cats and dogs are probably the most popular pets followed by fish. Owing a horse as a pet would be considered a luxury. Most people do not own a lot of land here. Houses are spaced close together so there isn’t room to keep a horse. There are a few people in the country that may own a horse but it isn’t a normal thing. If you see a “horse ranch” in the country it is usually a place of business where people can ride a horse mostly around a circle inside a small corral.
Are older people still respected as they were in the past? We live in the countryside and I see that the elderly are respected in many ways. They are provided with special seats on buses, trains and in public places. There is also a different way of speaking to an elderly person versus speaking to someone your own age or younger. Certain words are or are not used. So I would say that yes-in our area the aged are respected.
Do college age people feel “entitled” as they do here in the USA? The answer is a definite NO. The culture in Japan is very different from the US culture. People are expected to pull their load and this is really permeated throughout society. Japan does not make it easy to get food stamps or public assistance. If you have any sort of public assistance it’s because you REALLY need it and the government made sure of that before giving it to you. For example, if you apply for food stamps (at least in our area) you must list down all your relatives. The government will send a representative to each one of them to see if they can help you out. Only after it is discovered that none of your kin can help you will you receive food stamps for a while until you get a job and can support yourself. Kids have a lot of responsibility right from the start. Even the little ones are responsible to get themselves to school-there are no school buses here. Many parents can’t drive their children to and from school so the kids walk. They can’t get a driver’s license at age 16 either-they ride bikes to school in all kinds of weather. Kids have to go to school from early morning and I see the Jr. High and High School kids walking from the campus after dark. They have a LOT of studies and responsibility- even on weekends! The entire culture is different here. There is no room for anyone to feel “entitled”.
Are there many younger people who are Christians or is it mostly older people? Japan is only about 1 % Christian. I’ve seen people of all ages attending church so I’d say it’s kind of even but we live in the countryside and I haven’t had a lot of experience with churches in other places though. Christians are the minority for sure.
Are most people happy? Content? I think the best way that I can answer this question is to say this-the culture here does not leave a lot of room to express discontent. Ingrained into you from birth on are several phrases that are more than just words. They embody the spirit that people live by. One phrase is : shoganai- there is nothing we / you can do about it (so just continue on without complaining). The other is ganbatte- persevere, do not quit, try your best (because we are all rooting for you). There is also this feeling of -hey, look, everyone has difficulties, you aren’t the only one so don’t complain, suck it up and get going (something like that). I’ve learned that it is definitely NOT cool to complain about anything. No one appreciates it. So- that said, people learn to be content with situations here and make the best out of them. At least that is what I have seen in my husband’s family and from Japanese friends.
Do many people travel outside Japan? If so, where? I can only answer from what I have seen. Most people that I have met here have not traveled outside of Japan. Domestic travel is very popular. The few that have traveled outside of Japan have traveled to Hawaii or LA, California, Korea and Europe (Germany, Italy, Spain..etc). Tours to these destinations are readily available from tour companies.
Are there many (any) American foods the Japanese people like? That is kind of a funny question because on the one hand the answer is yes, several. On the other hand Japanese love to take American food and change it to suit their own tastes so in the end…it is really different from what Americans are used to in the States. A general listing of foods that have been taken and changed are: pizza (nothing like the American version) Chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Subway, the hamburger in general and fried chicken which I think tastes better here-although we don’t eat much fried food. I prefer Japanese food, actually. Even products like Coke and such taste different here. The Japanese have a very different preference when it comes to taste. For example-Subway sandwiches only come in small sizes (not even 6 inch) and the taste would probably be considered bland to most people in America.
Is there any fear of earthquakes & tsunamis or do most people not focus on it? Japan has a great early warning system which gives us about 11 seconds or something like that to prepare for an earthquake. We get alerts on our phones and thru loudspeakers in towns and cities. I wouldn’t say there is a “fear” more like an awareness that isn’t spoken but just sort of in the back of your mind. We just carry on with life…if and when the alarms sound then we do what we have to do for safety. But we do have emergency preparedness plans and there are drills in schools etc. Preparedness is part of life here.
What do most Japanese people generally think of Americans? Again, I can only answer this from experience- by talking to people around me. Here is a basic list of standard answers I have heard often: Americans are loud, aggressive, spoiled/selfish, eat too much/ don’t eat healthy food,friendly,have long noses, America is a violent and dangerous place to live. I think a lot of this comes from the media and the way Americans are portrayed in movies.
Are American movies or books at all popular? Some movies are. I’m not a TV or movie watcher so I couldn’t really tell you which ones- however I do see posters for American movies at the mall. They are subtitled in Japanese. Not every movie that shows in America is shown here. Some books are translated into Japanese. I see popular American children’s books in Japanese book stores (The Hungry Caterpillar..etc.) and the Harry Potter books are popular. A friend of mine loves to read and she has read many classics that have been translated into Japanese. As far as the newer books..? There are not too many that have been translated as far as I know.
Do many Japanese people speak English? In our area, no. Unless you go to the big cities like Tokyo, Osaka etc. where hotel staff and such speak some English, it is difficult to find people who really speak English. They might know a few words here and there but generally Japanese are not proficient English speakers.
What’s the best & worst thing about living in Japan? I think this question is one that will be answered differently by everyone. For me personally the worst thing about living here is missing my kids and my grand-kids. We are a very tight-knit family and to be so far away from them has been really tough on me and also on my husband.
The best thing about living here….wow…I could write a novel about all the things I love about Japan! Japan is a stunningly beautiful country. I love how the culture is preserved in the architecture. I love the food, I love the orderly way society is run. I feel “safe” here generally. I don’t drive in Japan. I walk everywhere or take the train and I have never felt threatened or afraid, ever. Despite that fact that I mostly go exploring alone. Yes, there are small inconveniences but really- I can’t complain.
Which time of the year has the best weather? For me personally that’s a toss up between April-May or October-November. But this also depends on which part of Japan you are talking about. There are varying seasons and climates throughout the country. We live in Kyushu which is subtropical. We have scorching hot summers and cold winters however, we don’t get a lot of snow. We have a rainy/monsoon season in June that I hate. Our houses do not have central heat or cooling so we live pretty much by the natural temperatures. In the winter we only heat the room we are in – the rest of the house is freezing cold! In the rainy season everything is terribly damp. I am not fond of that at all.
Hope I answered your questions! Thanks for asking!
Other Japan bloggers feel free to chime in and add your experiences!