February 26th, 2008 – by: skydiver
My friend Klemens who doesn't know which softdrink he should try first.
What else can be said about the Japanese? Last time I tried to describe what a foreigner experiences and faces when he comes to Japan for the first time. The following are impressions I gained step by step living and moving around Japan:
- Let’s start with something simple. For example the prejudice that Japanese are small isn’t really valid anymore. They are becoming taller, especially the men. I read somewhere that it comes from the changes in the nutrition the Japanese society went through in the last decades.
Nowadays they eat much more milk products then they used to in the past. They are adapting in general more and more to Western food, especially the young people. The question is why? The Japanese food is so much healthier. And sooo good. And it’s not only about sushi as many Europeans or Americans might think. The country offers a big variety of different dishes like tempura, okomiyaki, takoyaki, udon, ramen, soba, etc, etc.
School girls in Nara.
- Maybe it’s the food, maybe something else. But very often it’s very hard for foreigners to guess the age of Japanese. In the case of girls it’s even much more difficult then in the case of boys. Once I watched on TV a show where three Japanese celebrities were trying to guess the age of about 20 girls/ women.
And they weren’t always succesfull. One time they guessed a 30 years old woman to be under 18!!!! I would say she looked like 15, maximum 16. The truth is that I met once a girl named Makiko who looked like…let’s be generous…14. But she was 20. This tiny girl with a childish face was 20!!!! Another Japanese girl explained me once that the young looking skin of the Japanese women comes partly from the fact that they avoid the sun rays. The sun makes the skin look older after a while because it dries it out. When the sun is really shining it’s not very unusual to see women wearing umbrellas on the streets. While we consider it beautifull to be bronzed by the sun, the Japanese women try to reach the opposite. Talking about the beauty and youth of female skin, let me add something else. Once a Japanese friend told me that European women are attractive when they are beautifull. But Japanese women are attractive to Japanese men when they look cute. And being cute is not exactly being beautifull.
- To improve my Japanese skills quickly a friend gave me the advice to buy a TV.
Of course it wouldn’t make much sense to invest in a new one as my exchange semester lasted only for 3 months. But there are special places which can be called as “recycle shops”. People who don’t need
Matsuri festival in Tsukuba.
their stuff anymore sell it there, it’s still a better option then to throw it away as trash.
I got my 2nd hand TV with remote control for 4.000 yen.
When I zapped later through the main 9 or 10 channels I had the impression that 85% of all the programs were related to these 3 topics: baseball, food and crazy gameshows.
The rest were news, soap operas, maybe some reports or sport events. It might sound strange for some people, but baseball is the sport number 1 in Japan. Almost every guy I met was crazy about it. And they found it strange that on the other hand I had no idea about it, hahaha. Sometimes I saw programs where some comedians were just fooling around pretending to play baseball using either incredibly big balls or wearing funny big costumes so they couldn’t run properly.
Umeda Sky Building in Osaka.
From all the channels I had I could be sure to find at any daytime one showing something related to food. The commentator was usually able to speak about the specific dishes for ages, then he tried it together with the others in the studio with the following words “oishi” or “umai” which are the words for delicious and tasty. Oishi, umai, take another bit, umai, oishi. This is how it went on. I’ve never seen that the protagonistst didn’t like a dish. And I wished so much that at least in one case they would say “buah, disgusting”, hahaha.
Of course no Japanese would be so unpolite to say that in public. Anyway, I got often pretty hungry watching these programs. What can I say about the Japanes gameshows? Some of them were really crazy. The goal here was to get the participants into ridiculous or crazy situations and to see how they react or challenge. After few weeks I realized one thing. The participants of most of the gameshows were Japanese celebrities and it seemed to be their main job to appear every week in different gameshows. Very popular in these shows were of course comedians as they managed to turn a ridiculous scene into a ridiculously funny scene. Well, sometimes I just guessed it was ridiculously funny, because I just didn’t get the joke, but all the spectators were laughing, hahaha. I don’t mean only the spoken ones. I suppose it’s just a different sort of humor the Japanese have…not better, not worse…just different.
- Foreigners who meet Japanese for the first time might wonder about one thing.
I mean the sounds they make when they wonder about something or find it incredible, awfull, whatever. In such cases you can hear their long “aaaeeeeehhh” or “whoooaaaa” for example. It’s like when we use to say “wow” or “heey” or the American “duuude”. What you might often hear by Japanese is the word “sugoi” as well. I think it’s the word I heard the most when I’ve visited Japan. It means something like “cool” or just “wow”. Sometimes it comes in combination with the long “aaaeeeehh”, hahaha. Even to say “yes” the Japanese have a sound they can use sometimes instead of the spoken word. It sounds like “uhm”. OK, it might seem now that the Japanese get along only with funny sounds, but that’s not true of course, haha.
- Japanese seem to see certain things from a different point of view then us.
A year after my first visit to Japan my Japanese friend Masato came to visit me in Slovakia. I took him to several places and he met my grandparents in eastern Slovakia as well. I don’t remember how it started, but once I was translating between him and my grandma. She was announcing proudly that her doctor told her in how good shape she was for her age. And then unexpected she told me to ask Masato how old he would guess her. Before I tell you what happened next let me point out that she was 67 that time. Masato took a breath and I couldn’t believe my ears what came out of his mouth…85!!!! My blood froze in my venes for a second, but I reacted quickly enough. I turned to her and said in Slovak…55. Uffff…that was close. My grandma was satisfied and Masato didn’t even know from what he escaped, hahaha. The point is I’m sure he didn’t mean it in a bad sense. I guess what he tried to make clear was probably that even if she looked younger she could be already 85.
Foreigners fooling around with Japnese.
To be continued.
Beer vending machine in Kyoto.