Compared to China, Japan is known for being more Westernized and modern. Despite this fact, Japan still has a culture of its own, and life there can be different from life in the United States of America, and we are not just talking about anime and maid cafes. If you are planning to take a trip or work in the Land of the Rising Sun, then here are some things that you should keep in mind.
Punctuality is Vital
In America, it is cool to be fashionably late, but in Japan, things work like clockwork. You will be expected to be places on time, and being just a few minutes late is considered rude. If you are the type of person that likes to sleep in or show up to outings, or worse, to work late, then Japan might not be the place for you.
Safe and Clean
Compared to the United States, Japan is a safe and clean society. One can walk outside at three in the morning without much fear of being mugged or harmed. When I was living in Osaka, one of my girlfriends lived in Tobita Shinchi, a rough area of town. I was able to walk through this neighborhood without any problems at all. Being in such a safe environment was a welcome change from living in the United States, where even safe areas can become dangerous after dark.
The streets are also clean as well, with relatively less litter than can be found on streets in America. People are known to clean up after themselves in Japan, as famously demonstrated at the 2014 World Cup when Japanese fans cleaned up the bleachers that they were sitting in.
Women-Only Subway Cars
Although Japan is much safer in general compared to the United States, women are still in danger of perverts at times. Japan might not be a land of anime, but otaku nerds that watch too much hentai do exist, and there have been cases of men groping women inappropriately. Instead of creating a “rape culture” hysteria like feminists in the USA and other Western countries have, Japan has instituted segregated subway cars to prevent women from being exposed to perverted men that might use the confined space to cop a feel. In theory, this would do nothing to prevent lesbians from making unwanted advances.
Cramped Living Spaces
Although major urban centers in the States may seem crowded, there are entire expanses of the country that are unpopulated. Since Japan is such a small country, they must make the most of the living space that they have. This has lead to vertical expansion, the development of artificial islands, and small living spaces. If you visit Japan, you can save money by staying in a capsule hotel, which is similar to sleeping in a Star Wars escape pod. Saving on lodging in Japan is not for the claustrophobic!
Like its distant cousin, China, Japan still uses squat toilets in some facilities and even homes. The difference is that in Japan, such toilets will be clean, and you will probably be able to find toilet paper and soap if it is a public restroom.
When Japan really shines in toilet technology, however, is its high-tech Western-style flush toilets. These toilets are really like sitting on a throne, and often feature bidets with multiple settings, seat warmers, and many other features that will blow your mind. Always at the cutting-edge of technology, health sensors are in the making to check users blood pressure and blood sugar levels, then use Wi-Fi to send the information to a doctor. Talk about the Internet of Things!
Here's a Tip: Don't Tip
Paying tips to waiters and other members of the service industry to considered polite and even necessary. This can be very upsetting, particularly when one receives poor service. In Japan, however, paying a gratuity is almost unheard of, and can even be regarded as insulting!
In America, we like to believe that anyone from any walk of life can climb the wall and change their class. This is somewhat true, and there is therefore less of a respect for being born into a particular class. Although discrimination, racism, and classism still exist in the USA, judging people b their class of birth is less common than in other places in the world, including Japan.
Japan still has strict gender roles, despite women making major strides in society (this can e a breath of fresh air for Western men tired of dealing with feminism). Elders are expected to be respected, and subordinates will bow before and wait for the directives of their superiors. Foreigners can find themselves exempt from these social mores, but we should still keep them in mind so as not to rock the boat too much.
Even though Japanese people tend to be polite, they are known to slurp noodles. Such behavior would be considered incredibly rude in America, but in Japan, it is their way of paying compliments to the chef. At least the Japanese do not loudly smack their lips while eating food like many people do in Mainland China.
The Japanese are known as the “British of Asia,” not just because of their position as an island nation, but also due to their bad teeth. If you are out hunting for a member of the opposite sex, make sure that you get them to smile before committing to anything.
Moving to Japan will not be as much of a drastic change as moving to China, but there are still differences that we should be aware of. For this reason, Japan is a great gateway into Asia for those that want to take the plunge to teach or work in the Far East. Japan has many of the comforts of home while still featuring its own culture, making it well worth the trip. Just be advised that travel to Japan can be prohibitively expensive compared to other locations in East Asia!