Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2015

Repost: Angry single men stage anti-Christmas rally in Tokyo

Christmas in Japan is all about romance
photo credit:

I saw this news report on a Philippine online newspaper. I found it both funny and sad. 

In a nutshell: 20 single Japanese men were protesting Christmas because it's a symbol of capitalism and commercialization. 

What they're using is absolutely true but I think the deeper cause is they have no one to celebrate Christmas with. 

In Japan, Christmas is an event for couples much like how Valentines is celebrated in the West. If you're unmarried, single or no guts to ask someone to a date, then you can just forget a Christmas celebration. No wonder these single men are protesting!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Repost: Making Friends in Japan

A display in Meiji Mura, Aichi

I came across this post a few days ago about making friends in Japan. I find it really enlightening. It made me realize why I'm not in deep friendships with Japanese people. 

This excerpt below really got me. Basically, the writer is saying it's hard to find a Japanese friend who would like to discuss things beyond the usual polite topics of hobby, weather and activities. 

I wholeheartedly agree with this insight. In more than 3 years of staying in Japan, I only met 2 people who enjoy a good discussion on politics, social issues, and other topics that need some kind of thinking. Interestingly, these two people are not the usual Japanese. One is a divorcee from an American husband who lived abroad for several years. The other is my student who refused to be part of the Japanese workforce. He's a freelance businessman who doesn't care about the society's expectations. 

Now here's the problem. These two people don't consider me as a "friend." To the divorcee, I'm just a co-worker. We don't hang out. We only get to talk when the students are doing something in the classroom. To my student, I'm a teacher. We can't be friends even though we're almost of the same age. So I've found people to talk to but they won't consider me as friends. Just great.  

Anyway, here's the excerpt: 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

6 Useful Japanese Words You Can Use in Conversations

Wakarimasen- I don't know
photo credit: from Photobucket
I've been in Japan for more than 3 years but my Japanese speaking skills is still horrible. I can rarely string a full grammatically-correct sentence. When I speak in Japanese, I just usually throw Japanese words that I think can convey what I mean. This is accompanied with lots of hand movements, sound effects and, sometimes, even drawings. 

On the other hand, I think my listening skills and vocabulary are great. I usually understand what the people are telling me. I know how I should respond- in English. The problem is, most Japanese people I've talked to would suddenly shut off once I respond to them in English. They would stop whatever they're telling me or they would look rattled. *sigh* To avoid this from happening, I've learned to use five common words that Japanese people usually say in conversations and one word that would end conversations. 

You can use the following words in various situations: 

1. Kawaii! 
Meaning: cute, beautiful, nice
How to say it: Ka-wa-yiiiieeee! in a high pitched voice. 
When to use it: 
  • When a Japanese shows or points something nice to you, you can say "Kawaii!"
  • When you receive a gift, you can exclaim "Kawaii!"
  • When somebody introduces their kids to you, just say "Kawaii!" even if it's not true. 
  • When you want to compliment a coworkers clothes or appearance, say "Kawaii!"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Should You Visit Japan on Winter Vacation?

Japanese woman enjoying an onsen with monkeys
photo credit:

And we're at the end of another year. Where did the year go? Time flew so fast!
It's winter again, my 4th and last winter in Japan. How I survived the last three winters amazes me.

Anyway, a couple of people have asked me if winter vacation is good time to visit Japan. I'd like to say, it depends but I'd be required to give more explanations. So, I just wrote them the pros and cons of visiting Japan in winter. I'll share here what I wrote to them. 

A. Why You Should Visit Japan in Winter

1. It's a great time for winter sports.  

If you love skiing or snowboarding, then by all means, come to Japan on your winter break. The snow is simply perfect at this time. You don't need to go all the way to Hokkaido. You can enjoy winter sports along the slopes of Mt. Fuji, on the mountains in Nagano or in the northern prefectures from Tokyo. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Guest Post: 5 Strange and Beautiful Facts About Japan

Pretty lamp with Japanese painting, Meijimura
Japan’s one of the world’s largest economies, but it’s also one of the most remote. Did you know that of the 127 million people in Japan, only two percent are foreign immigrants?

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Japan in the not-too-distant future, here are a few fun facts to tickle your fancy.

Napping on the Job Is Perfectly Normal
 In most parts of the world, napping on the job would be an immediate cause for termination. Not in Japan! Japanese culture sees napping on the job as a proof of an employee’s commitment and thoroughness. The practice is referred to as “inemuri”, and is perfectly acceptable in Japan.

A few rules do apply: you need to remain upright while napping and only people in specific positions within the company are allowed to nap. Some people actually fake sleeping to show their bosses how hard they’re working.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Craze in Japan

I've been dealing with fatigue lately, it's hard to find the strength to write. I went to the doctor and he prescribed some pills for iron deficiency. It must also be seasonal fatigue brought by the autumn climate. Anyway, I'm just explaining why I haven't written lately. Also, this information might help you if you're feeling tired all the time. 

I just finished my classes with a Halloween-themed lesson. My Japanese teachers asked me to do it. They want the students to be more familiar with Western celebrations. However, the students don't really need a lesson on Halloween. They already know the traditional scary characters, the costume parties and the trick or treats. The younger Japanese generation are all too familiar with Halloween.

You see Japan has perhaps the longest Halloween celebration. Since August, stores have been peppered with Halloween decorations. Halloween goods have been displayed in almost every mall I've been to. Even the seasonal pumpkin pudding I like has been available since summer. With only a day to go before Halloween, commercializing this event has come full force. When I visited Tokyo last week, each Ward has an advertised Halloween party particularly in the areas of Roppongi, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ueno. Even in Hamamatsu, the main station is full of Halloween-related displays. 

So, why is Japan so in love with Halloween? 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Working, Taking Care of Oldies and Having Fun with Babies

Himeji Castle, The White Castle
I have work today but no class. All classes from first year to third year have some "social awareness" activities. They do these things every year around this time.

So what do they do exactly?

The first year students are spending time with old people. They'll be talking with them and conducting interviews. Maybe they'll ask how's life as an old person. They'll also be playing cards and other board games. Then, they'll be presenting a traditional dance. It's like spending a day in a nursing home and making sure the oldies have fun.

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to Pray in Shinto Shrines

Before Sunset at Miyajima Island 
If the Catholics have a pattern for praying the rosary, Shinto also has a pattern in praying.
Praying in Shinto shrines is so much simpler and so much shorter.

Here's how: 

1. Throw a coin in the box in the offeroty box.
    You can throw any amount.
2. Ring the long rope hanging in front of the box.
    This is a means to call the gods of the shrine.
 3. Deeply bow 2 times.
4. Clap your hands 2 times.
5. PRAY or make a wish.
6. Deeply bow once then leave.

That's it. It doesn't take more than 10 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Famous Word in Japan

Farm Tomita, Hokkaido
There's an English word that's very famous in Japan. This is the word  "FAMOUS."

"Famous" is "the word" when the Japanese want to describe anything related to Japan- food, place, person, movie, shows, thing, festival. It's like everything in Japan is famous.

I must admit that there are indeed many famous Japanese things, places,  food, shows and festival. Even people who haven't been to Japan can probably name things related to Japan such as sushi, cherry blossoms, Mt. Fuji, anime, manga, kimono, World War II, etc. etc. But there are also a lot of things that Japanese people claim to be "famous" when in fact, other Japanese don't even know about them.

But, how do I know that Famous is NOT Famous at all?

I've been handling group business classes. All students are Japanese. Several times, I ask them to talk about Japanese culture including food, places and whatever they want to talk about. Half of the things students mention are described as "famous" but half of the students don't know about it. So, how can something be famous when it's not even known to a group with less than 10 people living in the same place?

Friday, September 25, 2015

How the Japanese Contain their Emotions?

Small floral diorama of the Clock Tower in Sapporo, Hokkaido
Yesterday was my school's Sports Day or Undokai in Japanaese. It's my fourth time to attend but I'm still amazed by how the Japanese control their chaos. 

What do I mean with controlled chaos? 

It's like this. During the games and the cheering competition, the students are full of enthusiasm and noise. They'd be cheering ever so loudly and running around in circles. Then as soon as the games finished, everyone will be quiet, behave and disciplined. There was no cooling down of emotions nor fading out of voices. It's just like a rock music that ended abruptly. 

Even in the classroom, the students would be all attentive when I'm presenting the lesson. I learned not to expect any reactions, just attentiveness. Then, when I say it's "Game Time!", the room would suddenly erupt with cheers. The students would do the games or activities with surprising energy. As soon as I say, time's up, everybody would just quietly go to their seats with very few and very rare hushes. The shift of emotions is so distinct, it's worth thinking about why.

Monday, September 21, 2015

To Be a Filipina in Japan

Beer Museum in Sapporo, Hokkaido
There are numerous posts on how foreigners are treated in Japan. They're usually from the white people, you know the Americans and Europeans. The tall blue-eyed blondes with high noses. And yes, I'm stereotyping because really, that's the concept of ''gaijin'' in Japan. Actually, in this side of Asia, that's the perfect poster image of a ''gaijin.''

So anyway, I'll throw in my share on the blog-o-sphere on how foreigners are treated in Japan. Although I'm Asian and my features can pass as a Japanese, I am a foreigner. And not just a foreigner, but a FILIPINA. I can probably say that the experience of Filipinas in Japan is different from the white, yellow and black ladies outthere. (No racism intended just being literary.)

As a Filipina in Japan, here are the most common assumptions about me. Other Filipinas, I'm sure, can relate too. 

1. I was an entertainer before being a teacher. 

Before the bubble economy hit Japan, Filipinas came to Japan to work as entertainers. There was a massive industry for dancers and singers in Japan. In fact, one of my late uncles was a trainer for dancers who are bound to Japan. Then the economy slowed. Suddenly, the entertainers' wages got lower and so the women had to resort to other entertaining activities. Hence, the term ''entertainer'' got a different connotation. 

Fast forward to now. Most Filipinas in Japan have been an entertainer but now doing other things including teaching English. I was very young when the entertainment industry boomed but some people think that I used the ''entertainer ticket'' before becoming an English teacher.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Repost: Why Japanese People Lie?

Aoi Ikke, Hokkaido (Blue Pond)
On our way to Kyoto, my husband discreetly pointed to a group of Japanese employees saying goodbyes in the station. He said they look "too polite" and their voices are "too pleasing." He said they look unnaturally cordial. Even without looking at them, I perfectly understood what he was talking about. Japanese employees are like that. He also noticed how the cashiers would say a lot of things in a polite way but they wouldn't really look at you. He compared them to robots, like everything they do and say were programmed to please the customers. 

His remarks reminded me of an insightful post, Why Japanese People Lie? on  Japanese Rule of 7. It may help explain why Japanese people act in a seemingly unnaturally polite way.   

Here's an excerpt:

Two Things All Japanese People Know

Japanese people are imparted at birth with two pieces of knowledge. The first is fanatical customer service. At school and at home, they’re drilled for years in how to walk, how to stand, how to greet people, how to bow. Year in and year out, they march in formation around school yards, in the sun, rain, and snow, responding on command in loud voices to their senseis. Visitors often remark on the polite customer service of the Japanese, and you better believe it didn’t just happen by accident. It took years of military-style training, preparing a nation of children to be the world’s best waiters, cooks, and convenience store clerks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Amazing Japanese Woman

photo credits:

There's a picture circulating on social media about how clean the floods are in Japan. They look like swimming pool. I personally haven't seen a flooded area in Japan but I can attest that the rain water on the roads look really clean.

But do you know what's more amazing than the clean flood waters? It's how a Japanese woman remains so put together come hell or high water.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Japanese Customs I Can't Apply in the Philippines

Escalator scene shot in Roppongi Hills
Riding the escalator in Japan (Tokyo style)

I've lived in the Philippines for 26 years and only 3 years in Japan. Although I've lived longer in the Philippines, it still takes time for me revert to my ''Filipino ways'' whenever I visit. There are some Japanese customs that I've grown used to.

Here are some of them:

1. Automatically bowing when saying thank you. 

It's well-known that Japanese people bow a lot. Whenever I visit the Philippines, I can't stop my head from bowing whenever I say thank you. My head seemed to have been auto-programmed to bow when my mouth utters ''thank you.'' But instead of bowing back to me, people in the Philippines probably think I'm strange.

2. Flushing the toilet paper in the toilet bowl.

In the Philippines, people throw the toilet paper in a trash bin. When I shared this fact to Japanese and other foreigners, they thought it was gross and unsanitary. They've always flushed the toilet paper in the bowl. If we do this in the Philippines, the bowls will be clogged. Even though I know this could happen, there were some instances when I would flush the toilet paper in the bowl. By the time I would remember I'm in the Philippines,  it would be too late to retrieve the toilet paper.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Is There Racism in Japan?

photo credits:

I haven't been blogging lately because my right wrist is not well. It's hard to type with one hand. I want to write a lot of things, my head's already bursting with ideas but they have to wait. In the meantime, I'll just post something I've started last week before my wrist got painful. I'll write a conclusion once I can type with both hands.

Is there racism in Japan?

My answer: There's racism everywhere, in any country- rich or poor, developed or developing, communist or democratic. That's the reality of life simply because all people have certain assumptions about other people from different culture. Before you call me a liar and claim that you don't have assumptions and you don't have stereotypes, try to do this activity:

Think of the first word that comes to your mind about citizens of any country - Chinese. Australian, Brazilian, German, etc. etc. The words you associate with them are most probably personal assumptions. (I'd like to explain this from a philosophical standpoint but you might get bored so let's leave it at that.)

So, is there racism in Japan? Yes, there is.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Things to Do in Golden Week

Hattasan Soneiji Temple, Fukuroi
Golden Week in Japan is a collection of 4 holidays in a week. It starts from April 29, then May 3 to 5. A lot of companies also cancel work from April 30 to May 2 completing a full week as a holiday. Hence, the term "GOLDEN WEEK."

Golden week is one of the three busiest times in Japan. The other two are during Obon and New Year's Celebration. Tourism is at its peak both locally and internationally. I tried booking a tour for Fuji Five Lakes 2 weeks ago but the agent said it's already full until May 6th. It's probably the same with other tour agencies. If not fully booked, prices are expected to be more expensive. Airports and train stations are anticipating a large influx of tourists. If you're a foreigner who's planning to come to Japan, this is not the best time to go.

If you're not up for travelling during this time, you can do these things instead.

Monday, April 27, 2015

How to Help Earthquake Victims in Nepal

In case you don't know yet, a 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal last Saturday. Earthquakes hitting 7 in the Richter scale is considered a major earthquake and causes serious damage. As of today, more than 3,000 people have died and thousands more are injured. Some parts of China, Tibet, Bangladesh and India were also affected by the quake. Strong aftershocks are still being felt. Tent dwellings have sprung up in Kathmandu with the locals scared to go back to their homes. Many others and still missing or trapped. 

Historical temples, shrines and buildings were destroyed. About 29 districts in Kathmandu were declared crisis zones. Hospitals are overcrowded and supplies are running out. Stores are expected to be closed for at least a week. Food and water are in short supply. 

I could write more sentences to describe the devastation in Nepal. A quick search in on Google Images will show you how horrible and sad the current situation in Nepal is. 

I'm no stranger to calamities since the Philippines face 20 typhoons in a year. I have families and friends who suffered during Haiyan and Ondoy. I've also seen the devastation of the March 11 earthquake in Japan. I've visited the ghost towns in Tohuko and talked with children orphaned from the disaster. So my heart goes out when things like this happen. I can't just pretend that everything is fine in the world when I know that in another part, thousands of people are hanging on for their lives. 

I'm writing this post to ask help and prayers for the people in Nepal. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

3 Great Things About the Senpai System


Senpai (or sempai) generally means senior or mentor. By virtue, a senpai is older and has more experience than his junior/ protege termed as the kohai. 

The senpai system is prevalent in Japanese schools and companies. In schools, younger students consider the upper classmen as their senpai. You can see the senpai system at work especially in sports and music clubs. The freshmen will be under the "mentorship" of an upperclassman. In companies, an entry-level employee will be placed under the responsibility of a senior member. Whether in school or companies, the senpai is expected to train and to guide his kohai, usually for a year. In return, the kohai is expected to respect and obey his senpai. The senpai and kohai relationship may last even after the mentorship term. 

Since I'm a foreigner, I've never been actually under a senpai. But I saw how it worked in my schools and business classes. It may have its downsides but what I have seen, so far, are the good things about it.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Princess Festival in Hamamatsu

If you have nothing to do tomorrow, if it doesn't rain and if you live near Hamamatsu, I'm inviting you to see the Princess Festival in Hosoe-cho, Kiga, Hamamatsu,

Kiga is about an hour away from Hamamatsu Station by train or bus.

All the information about the Princess Festival are here:

The Princess Road Procession

Friday, April 3, 2015

6 Things in the Train that Will Tell You You're in Japan

old train in Hamamtsu
at Tenryu-Futamata Station

1. Almost everyone is on their phone or some handheld console.

You're definitely in a Japanese train when most of the people around you have some gadget on their hands. It's noticeable how train commuters would instantly bring out their phones or game consoles as soon as they find a place in the train. It doesn't matter whether they're standing or sitting, or whether the train is packed or not. 

2. Those who are not on their phones are either reading or sleeping (or pretending to sleep.

Those who are not part of the ''ALMOST EVERYONE'' population are either seriously reading something. It's usually a small paperback covered in light brown paper similar to a doggie bag. You'd be amazed how these reading public can walk in and out of the train without tearing their eyes off their books. That's Japanese secret power!

Those who aren't reading are sleeping- in varying degrees. 
a.) Some are napping lightly- like truly taking a power nap. 
b.) Some are pretending to be napping because they're sitting down and there are old people standing near them. (This is the ''I'm-sleeping-and-I-can't-give-up-my-seat'' nap)
c.) Some are sleeping with heads banging on another person's shoulder. 
d) Some are sleeping like there's no tomorrow. Take the trains on a Friday night and you'll know what I mean. 

3. The train is quiet even if it's packed.

I always had this equation:  crowd= noise. Then I came to Japan and debunked this equation. No matter how packed the trains are in Japan, it's generally quiet. If you're blind and can't see the number of people in the train, you wouldn't think it's filled to the doors because of the hushed noise levels. If there are chattering sounds it's usually from school girls, old ladies and foreigners. Still, the chattering noise couldn't drown the general silence. 


The noisiest thing in Japanese trains is the announcement system. The speaker wouldn't stop telling passengers where the train is heading, what time it will arrive in all the stops, what stop is the train about to stop, what things can we see in that stop, etc, etc. In major cities, all the information would be translated in English so the speaker system is just drowning all the silence and chatter. 

4. There's a train conductor that make rounds.

Japanese train conductors usually walk back and forth in the trains. They'll open the connecting doors, bow and mutter something under their breath. Then they'll walk to the other end, bow and mutter again. Then they go to other car. 

Why do they that? I'm not sure. It's probably for security reasons. Not because there are possible criminals hiding in the train but maybe they're checking the train for chikans (the Japanese gropers in the train)or for loud or messy drunk men. Or they're just possibly bored with simply standing so they walk. 

5. There will always be students in uniform- even if it's a holiday.

Japanese students have an affair with their uniforms. They just wear it all the time On school days- uniform. On weekends- uniform. On holidays- uniform. On vacation- uniform. They just wear it all the time I wonder how they wash it. Since they love their uniforms so much, you will always see a student in uniform on the trains. A Japanese train is not complete without a student in uniform. 

6. There's an unspoken rule of boarding and getting off the train.

The Japanese are truly disciplined even when it comes to using the train. You can easily notice the following: 

a.) People who will board the train REALLY fall in line. 
b.) When the train doors open, people who are in line will step aside to give way to those who are getting off. 
c.) People who will board the train usually steps in from the side of the train doors. 

There's some pushing but boarding and getting off the trains in Japan is comparatively more systematic.

Next time you board a train in Japan, check these 6 things out and you'll definitely agree with me. 
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