Japanese customer service is amazing. The biggest culture shock I get when I go back to the States is when I go into a store or restaurant and the staff there don’t even know that I exist. Or even worse, when they act like I’m destroying their lives by forcing them to do the unthinkable – their jobs!
It starts at the airport (especially if it’s San Francisco International), ends at the airport going home and is usually pretty consistent throughout the trip. I have to say, though, that people are a bit nicer in the South where I come from. Continue reading
In the West, we’ve got the 12 signs of the Zodiac (or 13 if you’re up on the latest new age gibberish – Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer!). In China, they’ve got an animal for each year. Japan has something a little different – blood types that determine personality.
Lots of people in Japan believe that your blood type – A, B, AB, or O – determine the characteristics of your personality. People will often ask you your blood type and after you answer, they’ll nod knowingly as if to say, ‘I knew it.’ It’s pretty odd but kind of interesting at the same time. Continue reading
I come from a place where people are really serious about religion and it’s everywhere you go. No, I’m not from the Middle East – try the Middle West. Missouri, to be exact. So I’ve always found it refreshing that Japanese people aren’t so religious.
But when you look in all the Japan guides, they tell you that Japan has two religions – Shinto and Buddhism.
Shinto is the old-time religion with spirits in the trees and wind and the ghosts of your ancestors watching over you. Buddhism came from China starting about 1,500 years ago along with civilization. What happened was that Buddhist practice was basically slapped right on top of the old gods and now the two peacefully coexist. The Shinto gods live in the shrines (神社) while Buddha hangs out in the temples (お寺).
If this is true, why don’t I have old ladies coming to my door with magazines asking if I’d like to learn about the Shinto spirits? Why aren’t there Buddhist televangelists thumping sutras on TV every Sunday morning and telling me that in order to attain true enlightenment, I have to call now and giving my credit card? Where’s the religion of Japan that I keep hearing so much about?
Here is how you can find out if you’ve given the wrong amount of money to a disheveled septuagenarian convenience store clerk in Japan.
First, she spreads the coins out on the little mat so that they’re all visible. Once this is done, she counts them very slowly six times.
That should tip you off. They usually only count the money three or four times. If she counts more times than that and the counting slows down slightly each time, this means something is wrong. Continue reading
People in the US always ask me if I have a car and driver’s license in Japan. How do I explain to them that you don’t need it? And that it would only be an extra expense? (The parking space at your apartment might cost as much as your rent!)
It’s strange to say this, but I realized on a trip back home recently that the trains were one of the things I missed about Japan. I’m not a train nerd or anything like that; I guess I’ve just gotten attached to riding them. There are several reasons why I think the trains in Japan are awesome. Continue reading