Japan is one of those countries that never fail to charm and intrigue foreign observers, especially those from Western countries. On the one hand, culture and tradition are given great importance in the country. On the other, Japan is one of the most innovative and modern countries in the world.
Given this harmonious coexistence of tradition and modernity in Japan, it’s easy to understand why a lot of foreigners are intent on visiting the country. Should you find yourself visiting the country, here are some interesting facts about Japanese culture you might want to know about.
Like most Asian countries, the Japanese place great emphasis on authority and tradition, making them one of the most polite – if not the most polite – people in the world. Even tourists from countries where being civil in public are the norm will be surprised by the extreme politeness of the Japanese people.
Unlike in Western countries where calling people by their names are quite common, using honorifics when addressing others is the norm in Japan, with very few exceptions. In certain cases, even spouses or close friends would still use the honorific –san to address each other as a sign of respect.
Unlike in Western countries where people regularly walk around the house wearing shoes, it is a common practice in Japan to remove the shoes first before entering homes. In fact, this practice is so customary that the Japanese have devised a precise way of doing it.
For example, at the entrance of homes in Japan, the floor will usually be raised by about 6 inches as an indication that the shoes must be removed. The shoes are, meanwhile, arranged neatly pointing towards the door.
The Japanese would often provide house slippers for guests. However, if the home has a tatami mat room, house slippers must be taken off as well before entering. The floor to tatami mat room will usually be raised by an inch or two to indicate that house slippers must be removed.
Slurping when eating soup or noodles is frowned upon in most Western countries and is considered sloppy and rude. However, the contrary is true in Japan.
When eating soup or noodles in Japan, it is somewhat mandatory to slurp loudly as this an indication that the food is delicious, and you are enjoying your meal. Not slurping is considered rude in Japan.
With the sheer number of take-out joints, street food stalls, and vending machines in Japan, you would think that the Japanese would be inclined to eat food on the go, but this is certainly not the case.
Unlike in most cosmopolitan cities and buzzing urban centers, eating while walking or during a commute is considered rude in Japan. So if you want to eat right away, it is advisable that you find a bench to sit on first before munching on your takeaway meal.
The Japanese are known for their work ethics and industry, so finding employees sleeping on the job may come as a shock for foreigners, especially since this practice would be a tell-tale sign of slacking off in Western countries.
In Japan, however, sleeping on the job is a sign of diligence and hard work. In fact, something the Japanese would praise, seeing as it is an indication that the employee is working very hard to the point of exhaustion.
The sheer number of people wearing masks, especially in Tokyo, might be alarming for foreigners who might mistake such for the outbreak of an epidemic. But this is not the case.
Japanese people would often wear masks in public places to protect themselves from pollution and/or viral infections. In some cases, however, they would wear masks of various colors and designs solely for aesthetic purposes and not necessarily to prevent the transmission of viral infections.
Japan is certainly a unique culture, with its reverence for tradition and customs existing alongside an innate desire for modernity and innovation. This unusual combination of elements of the past and the future makes Japan irresistibly charming and enigmatic.
Having preserved its traditions and practices, the Japanese culture remains in stark contrast with the cosmopolitan air in most of the significant economies of the world. As such, foreigners often find themselves simultaneously amused and confused at the country’s unique customs.
Do you know any other interesting facts about Japan? Do let us know in the comments below.