There seems to be a strange dichotomy between the outrageous and the restrained here in Kamikawa. For example, while this tiny town in the countryside is famous for a long strip full of themed love hotels, it also extremely conservative. While folks are taking an hour long “rest” inside, outside, on the street, women cannot be seen with bared shoulders or cleavage. Safe within closed doors, the neatly pressed business man who had just been sitting docilely on the train home an hour earlier, may be drinking to excess, lounging sloppily on the tatami, or ordering his wife about the house. These differing images of the same person juxtapose startlingly. In a certain way, it makes a strange sort of sense. The Japanese workplace is so regimented and the hours so long (exceeding 60 hours a week) that the workwoman or workman can only indulge her or his particular sins in the private sphere, during their precious few free hours.
I am extremely interested to discover how I fit into this culture, for apparently I look so Japanese that I am often mistaken for a native, until I open my mouth or wiggle absurdly in public. There are some foreign habits I will maintain and some more conservative traditions I am sure to pick up. It will be quite the challenge to respect the local culture while staying true to my colourful individuality.
Customs which I have encountered:
(I am really looking forward to understanding all the reasons behind these customs. It is sure that each custom has a long rich history.)
- Cover your shoulders, chest, and back. You can wear skirts, shorts, and skorts as short as you please.
- Never wear outside shoes inside. Change into flip flops or slippers before you enter a home.
- Never eat the offerings placed at a shrine or misfortune will strike you. (No, I have not done this.)
- When paying or offering money in public, place it in an envelope and offer it in two hands.
- When offered a business card, scrutinise it for several minutes and offer a strategically placed compliment. Offer them your own card.
- Do not be loud in public. That means don’t sing in public.
- Do slurp noodles very loudly and with pleasure.
♥An incredible movie about a ramen shop called Tampopo (dandelion). This scene is especially vivid, with a master ramen-slurper coaching his disciple.♥
- Conform. Do not wear colorful clothing to work. Whoops!
- Use the proper formalities when speaking to your elders or strangers.
- If you are a Japanese woman, cover your mouth when you laugh.
- Do not get into a bath while still soapy.
- Do not eat or drink while walking in public. Oops. You need to be sitting down with a table in from of you. Eating on the train is acceptable.
- Do not leave your chopsticks sticking straight out of the top of your rice ball. That means the food is an offering to the deceased. It is extremely rude to eat their food.
- Do not be late for appointments. Rather, show up 10 minutes early.
- Do not wear toilet room slippers outside of the toilet room.
- Hide your tattoos if you are attending a public bath (onsen). In Japan, people with tattoos are primarily the mafia, or yakuza. Tattoos give people the creeps.
♦Do you look like this richly decorated fellow?♦
For more rules and explanations, click this link.