Recently, I have become quite hooked onto Reddit. I find it amazing that I can go there and find people who are into the same very niche things as me, and can discuss things that I rarely find people up for discussing in real life.
One of the subs I follow is the Japan travel one, and time after time I see people asking about how to go around Japan and not offend anyone. Like, how to follow Japanese customs and not seem to be impolite.
There are so many little things to remember in Japan; little rules that Japanese people follow that restrict their daily life. Things like not eating while stood up in public (like grabbing a sandwich and eating it as you walk along the street because you’ve got no time to stop). Or waiting for the green man before you cross – even if it’s late at night and there are no cars and no one is watching. One time, when I was living in Japan and it was around 37c, I went into work wearing a dress with capped sleeves. It covered my shoulders, but stopped shortly afterwards. The nurse in the school came to me alarmed; “Charlotte-sensei, aren’t you cold?!” “No. It’s 37c and I am sweating like a pig.” “But… your arms! You must be so cold!!” What she meant was that I was not covering enough of my arms and this was offensive somehow.
Japan is a very safe and largely nice country, and it is all these little rules and the social pressure put on people to act a certain way (even when common sense says otherwise) that make it this way. Without all the funny little differences it would not worth travelling 12 hours to come here.
A lot of people put Japanese people on pedestals. Say they are much better people, they are superior because they are nicer, kinder, cleaner. But let me tell you a secret:
Japanese people are human.
Yes, they are. Japanese people can be really awesome, but they can also be absolute knobs. They can push in front of you in a queue. They can purposefully ignore you when you are walking towards them to ask a question. They can see non-Japanese around and start saying racist things loudly. In the Japanese population, there are people just like the ones you sneer at back home.
There was a time when I was here and I was obliged to follow rules. When I was working I had to make sure I was in line with how society expected me to be, so that if my students saw me, I was setting a good example. But this time it’s different.
There’s a thing called “gaijin smash” where “gaijin” means non-Japanese and the whole where means “doing something you know is wrong but getting away with it because you are not Japanese”. This time, in Japan, I am gaijin-smashing to the max.
I am eating food while walking down the street, because I ain’t got no time to sit and eat. I am crossing the road when I can see no cars around. And you know what? MY SHOULDERS ARE BARE. Yes, people. You can see the skin on ALL MY SHOULDERS. Cover the eyes of your young.
For those coming to visit Japan, I’d recommend reading up on regular social rules like when to take off shoes and stuff like that, but honestly, don’t go crazy over it. When you come to Japan you’ll meet all kinds of people, and people who go to Japan are all kinds of people. As long as people try to be nice to each other, then that’s OK.
Can we all just calm the fuck down now please?