Articles

Simple Japanese Word(2)

投稿日:

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.

Japanese words you should know

There are some words that you’ll hear Japanese people say constantly. If you live in Japan, you’ll know that Japanese is a very terse language and there are some full sentences that can be expressed in a couple of syllables in Japanese. While this can be difficult to adjust to, it also means that you can achieve some basic level of communication with a few words. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:
Ganbatte. Often translated to “do your best”, you’ll hear this word constantly. The feelings ganbatte conveys are varied and expressed in different ways in English, such as “do whatever you can”, “good luck”, “hang in there”, “go you!”, or just “do it”. Whether the task at hand is within your control or not, and whether a good result can be expected or not, ganbatte is a blanket statement that is applied to everything. This is a reflection on Japanese society, as effort is often as important as results. While “good luck” is passive, ganbatte expects something of the other. If something doesn’t go as expected, we can use this next word!
Shouganai/Shikataganai. You could literally translate these to “it can’t be helped”, or more naturally “it is what it is”. While we do say this now and then, the phrase is extremely common in Japan. Ganbatte expects you to put an effort into it, while shouganai expresses resignation, no matter how hard you tried. It is more often used outside of the work space though. It is often bad manners to complain in Japan, so shouganai is a good substitute!
Otsukare. This, when translated literally, means “you are tired”. It may seem strange to tout being tired as a positive, but the Japanese language is often very literal and the actual meaning is much more complex. Otsukare is actually a greeting meaning something akin to “good job today”. It is used when saying goodbye to coworkers, or meeting friends for a drink after work. While in English there are plenty of ways to bid goodbye to someone, this is essentially the way Japanese workers do it every day.
Itadakimasu. You should say this every time before you start eating, it can be rude not to do so. It literally means “I will receive” (again, Japanese tends to be very literal!) but it’s used more like “bon appétit”. You’ll often here people merrily saying in restaurants, and some people do it even when they’re alone.

Articles

Obon Festivals

投稿日:

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.

Japanese festivals: Obon

If you live in Japan, you will definitely have noticed that it is a country that loves yearly events and festivals, from cherry blossom viewing festivals, to coming-of-age celebrations (these all take place the same day), to the bean-throwing tradition of setsubun. There are many such events spread out throughout the year that make a great topic of conversation if you’re living or staying in the country.
One of these traditions is Obon (お盆), a holiday that takes place in either mid July or mid August, depending on the region. However, the August date has become more common as of late, and this is when most people will have a few days off work.
Obon is originally a Buddhist custom where people honor their deceased ancestors. It is said that the spirits of these ancestors come back to visit the living at this time of the year, so it is tradition to visit their graves, clean the tombstones with water, and leave some food or drink the deceased enjoyed in life – it is not uncommon to see bottles of tea or rice balls on a grave, not only during Obon but any time of the year. The ceremony ends with lighting of incense and a prayer.
More generally, Obon a good excuse to see your family and visit your hometown. There is also a traditional dance performed during Obon called “Bon Odori” (盆踊り), literally “Obon dance”. This dance also varies region to region, and normally consists of traditional folk songs to welcome the spirits of the dead. People usually line up in a circle around a stage where the dance is being performed.
Many companies are closed during this time of the year, and despite only being a few days long, for many people this is one of the longest holidays they can get all year, together with Golden Week and New Year’s. While many of them choose to go back home to honor old traditions, there are some who choose to travel around Japan or abroad. Flight and hotel prices go up dramatically during this time of the year, so it is not a great time to visit or leave the country, unless you’re willing to pay a hefty premium.

Articles

Fascination With Blood Types

投稿日:

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.

Japan’s fascination with blood types

Do you know what your blood type is? If you’re not Japanese, there is a good chance that you don’t. After all, if there is an emergency, it’s the doctor’s duty to check. How about your friends’, family members’ or coworkers’? Do you know their blood types? Of course not, why would you, right?
In Japan, a practical totality of the population know what their blood type is, and even the blood type of those people around them. Weird, huh? Well, if you tell a Japanese person that you don’t know your blood type, they will be as shocked.
You see, there is a particular superstition in Japan that everyone is aware of, and that is that blood types dictate your personality. While not everyone believes that this has any scientific merit, surveys show that a good percentage of the population still does. Everyone else knows about their blood types due to cultural influence, just like everyone knows their horoscope in Western countries, even if almost no one believes in it.
It is not rare in Japan for someone to comment on something you did and say something along the lines of “oh well, can’t be helped, you’re blood type B!” Or for someone to ask you what your blood type is to show interest and try to find out something about your personality. There is probably a bit of confirmation bias involved, and in some cases it can perhaps become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where people start acting like they are expected to. Whatever it is, it is deeply ingrained in the culture.
There are way too many personality traits that blood types are associated with, but here is a short summary of them:
people with blood type A are kind, calm and neat, but can be stubborn and anxious. Those born with blood type AB are spiritual, rational, and talented, but can be too introverted and eccentric. People with blood type O are realistic, hard working and good leaders, but can be insensitive. Finally, those with blood type B are free spirits, optimistic and sociable, but are not empathetic or reliable. Sometimes these people can be even discriminated against, as they are minority and not considered good coworkers by those who really believe in this.
If you’re moving to Japan and don’t know your blood type, you should definitely try to find out. At least it will give you something interesting to talk about.

Articles

Train Etiquette In Japan

投稿日:

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.

What you should know about train etiquette in Japan

One of the things people are most pleasantly surprised about when they come to Japan is the efficiency and convenience of the transportation system. There are train stations everywhere and the trains come just on time. The station staff will help people with disabilities get on the train, and will even personally bring your baby carriage up or down the stairs if asked. This convenience means that most people don’t drive in Tokyo, and you won’t ever have to worry about traffic jams.
However, there are a few rules you should follow if you don’t want to get the side eye. First of all, while you might see someone breaking this rule now and then, talking on the phone on the train is frowned upon and you should avoid doing so if possible. Japanese commuters tend to appreciate silence, as they are often exhausted from work and want to take a nap. If you must absolutely make a call, try to leave the train or be as quiet and brief as possible.
Something else to keep in mind is that many Japanese commuter trains have carriages for women only. This is due to a groping epidemic that affects particularly school girls in uniform. Men should avoid getting on this train during the designated hours, normally in the morning. You don’t want to be the one man standing out and getting stared at!
Priority seats should be offered to elderly people, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. There are rules in place trying to prevent people from using their phones near these seats, in order for them not to interfere with pacemakers. This rule is hardly ever followed by anyone and, let’s be honest, a pacemaker that laughably flimsy would be a guaranteed death sentence and would never be actually installed. So don’t worry about it.
Finally, we have to talk about crowded trains and lines. Japanese people seem to love lines. If something has a line, it means it’s popular, right? 80% of the Disneyland experience is lines, and everyone loves Disneyland! When it comes to taking the train, too, you should respect the lines outside the doors. You might be surprised that people dash to empty seats as soon as the doors open, as they are desperate to sit down after an exhausting day at work and an hour or two of commuting time ahead. You will also probably have seen Japanese train staff pushing people into the train on TV. These are real and you’ll see them on particularly busy lines and at busy times. Avoid the rush hour if possible and you’ll have a great time. If you can’t, at least you’ll have a wonderfully Japanese experience.

Articles

About Credit Card Payment

投稿日:

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.

The struggle with credit cards in Japan

Japan is known for its passion for technology. It is not rare to be greeted by robots, order food with touchscreens, or buy drinks from vending machines. Not to mention talking toilets.
However, Japan is also a country that likes to stick to traditions in many situations, which may leave some people wondering how such a technologically advanced nation can seem stuck in the past.
There are some cases where this may seem almost like a charming throwback to our childhood, such as with the prevalence of video rental stores over streaming services until very recently. Browsing disks in a store sure brings back memories. You can even rent CDs!
However, one case most people would agree is not as amusing is the country’s general apprehension towards credit cards.
To the surprise of many who visit the country, credit cards are not as wildly accepted here as they are in other developed areas of the world, where they reign supreme. While many countries are on their way to becoming cashless societies, Japan still can’t let go of cash.
The country has been making strides towards accepting our little plastic friends more as of late, but it is still never a good idea to leave home without some cash in hand. There are still many people who fear their credit cards being stolen and feel safer knowing that they only have a certain amount of cash, and most family owned business don’t accept cards.
Even when it comes to paying bills, you’re generally not allowed to do so by credit card, having to bring cash to a nearby convenience store. You better make sure you have a few “man” (10,000 yen bills) if you ever want to pay your health insurance or residence tax at once, or otherwise you’ll have to go back every month to pay in installments.
It is also not easy for foreign residents to get credit cards from the major banks. There are some easier alternatives like Rakuten (a Japanese online store) that will give you an easier time, or you can top up IC cards with cash, as these are accepted by many shops that won’t take credit cards.
In any case, the best way to make sure that you never have to struggle to buy even the most basic things, you should make sure to have some cash on you at all times.

Articles

Halloween In Japan

投稿日:

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.

Celebrating Halloween in Japan

Halloween is a celebration with roots in Celtic harvest festivals and celebrated to some degree in several Western countries, and especially popular in North America. It might then surprise some that Halloween has become very popular in Japan as of late.
Halloween wasn’t celebrated in Japan at all until just a few years ago, it was something Japanese people would only see in movies. Everything changed in the year 2000, when Disneyland held its first Halloween event. Disneyland is a huge trend setter in Japan, and Halloween has been growing in popularity ever since that year. People will often go to Disneyland around Halloween and wear their favorite Disney character’s costume. It is in the last few years, however, when it has been really gaining traction outside of the theme park, and it is now very common to see Halloween decoration everywhere in October: cafes, restaurants, shops and even homes. After all, Japanese people tend to really enjoy celebrating yearly events, and Halloween is one more to add to the list.
Despite all of this, the way Halloween is celebrated in Japan is not all that similar to how it’s celebrated elsewhere. There is not treat-or-tricking or jack-o’-lanterns (not real ones at least, you might see some made out of plastic) and everything is more of a cute kind of spooky, rather than outright scary. On the other hand, there are Halloween sweets and drinks everywhere for you to enjoy, consisting of things like pumpkin cookies or tea.
The custom of wearing a costume on Halloween made it to Japan, though in a bit of a different form. This has merged with the Japanese custom of “cosplay”, or dressing as popular characters. So, while some people do go for more scary-looking costumes, most people dress as anime characters or wear cute or sexy costumes. And yes, sexy costumer are popular because it is mostly young adults that wear costumes. If you go to Shibuya on Halloween, be prepared to be greeted by a horde of people in their 20s and 30s in a costume, drinking and partying. If you decided to celebrate Halloween in Japan, this is the go-to place. Enjoy the spectacle of seeing thousands of costumes and have a great time!