Monday, May 30, 2011

Japan VS America

I will probably be doing many posts like this over my time here, but here goes part 1 of the  some differences and similarities I have noticed so far during my stay here

1.     Bathing:
In America most people take showers in the morning before heading out and maybe the occasional bath just to relax. 

In Japan, people tend to take a quick shower to clean up and then take a long bath to relax, it is also common for family members to bathe together and even wash each other, and then share the same tub water. Most people also do their bathing right before bed time.

2.      Hand washing:
In America, it is pretty much unheard of to have a bathroom (at home or in public places) that lacks soap and a method to dry your hands once done. Also, bathroom sinks are, well, in the same room as the bath and toilet.

In Japan, a lot of places do not have soap of any kind, and you will be lucky if they have anything to dry your hands with. That being said, a lot of public places that do have something use communal towels, that aren’t that clean, or dry. Also, in homes bathroom sinks, the tub/shower and toilet are all in separate areas.

3.     The toilet:
In America, they all look pretty much the same, there’s nothing special about them and most are not water efficient.

In Japan, almost all toilets have heated seats and many (including the ones at my school and the mall) even sing to you, have built in bidets and have 2 flush levels so that you use less water for less waste. The one in our apartment also has water flow through the top of the tank as it fills, so you can wash your hands, it is very neat and efficient.

4.     Being sick:

In America, you aren’t feeling well, so what do you do? Most likely call out of work and either go to the doctor or rest at home. Also, if someone has allergies or is ill, they take meds and blow their noses when needed.

In Japan, you aren’t feeling well? Too bad. Most people still go to work while sick, and just wear masks and/or look miserable all day. Just recently my principal actually told me he was wearing a face mask because he had influenza, and I sort of wanted to just yell “why the hell are you here?!” 
Also, people who are sick or have allergies simply sniffle loudly all day because it is “rude” to blow your nose. It is maddening.

5.     Cleaning at school:

In America, we have custodians that take care of the entire place for us and are sadly often underappreciated for the work they do every day.

In Japan, they have an army of students that clean the schools daily, not all that well mind you, but for 15mins a day the students become the janitors. And while they don’t do too well at cleaning, it is nice that it teaches them a bit about responsibility, and they can’t blame anyone but themselves for how the place looks.

6.     Shoes:

In America, you have a pair of dress shoes that you wear to and from work, slippers for lounging at home, and tennis shoes / sandals for wandering around. You can wear your shoes anywhere you want and except for more formal occasions, you can pretty much wear tennis shoes / sandals anywhere.

Oh Japan and shoes…
In Japan, you have a pair of shoes for being outdoors, then when you arrive somewhere, you take those off, put them in a locker and put on your indoor shoes, if you don’t have shoes there, you wear “guest slippers” (which tend to be gaudy). Then, if you want to go to the gym (here comes the fun part), you need to take off your indoor shoes and, in my case, put on your outdoor shoes, walk to the gym that is a separate building, and then put on your gym shoes. This can get annoying if you have special events taking place in the gym.
Then, you get home, promptly take off your shoes and put them in your shoe cabinet and either go barefoot or put on your indoor slippers.

7.     Teacher’s Clothes:
In America, teachers go to work, work in, and go home in the same clothing.
In Japan, teachers typically go to work wearing a suit and then change into casual wear in the teacher locker room. This often also involves their indoor shoes being tennis shoes or sandals.
8.     School Security:
In America, there is at least a few security guards, if not also a cop or two and metal detectors. A lot of schools also now lock their doors during school hours to keep “strangers” out.
In Japan, there is no security at all and most doors are never locked beyond a few classrooms that aren’t in use (mostly so students don’t goof off in them during breaks)
9.     Pets
In America, most pets are treated as part of the family, they are all fairly well trained and it is almost unheard of to leave your pet outside at all times, especially during inclement weather.
In Japan, areas like Tokyo tend to have tiny dogs that they dress up in elaborate costumes and residents often parade them around in shoulder bags or strollers, it is not uncommon to see a dog that looks like it never walks on its own. While in the more rural areas, dogs are simply guardians and not only do they barely get attention usually, but they are considered “spoiled” if they are ever allowed inside the house, even during a typhoon. Either way though, many Japanese see their pets as a status symbol instead of a living creature.

While we’re on the subject of animals…..
10.                        Animal Shelters:

In America, they are everywhere. Many of them are also non-kill, they commonly offer free/cheap spay and neuter and people see adopting shelter animals as “saving a life.”

In Japan…. They are incredibly rare from what I have seen, in fact, from what I can tell, there is not a single animal shelter in the prefecture I live in. On top of that, most are not no-kill and the most recent figures (2009) show that many shelters only adopt out around 20% of their animals. That means roughly 80% of shelter animals are being kill each year.
This is mostly due to the fact that Japanese people hate “used items,” and so most do not want a “used” pet, or anything that is no purebred. Also, it is sadly common for Japanese people to simply get rid of their pet or completely neglect them once they get tired of them, leaving countless strays and abused animals all over the country. 

11.                        School:
In America, you start learning about lots of subjects at a very early age, and unless you get into a charter/magnet school, chances are you will already know what ES, MS and HS you are going to by 1st grade.  In Middle School (junior high) and High School (senior high), students also get a say in what classes they take outside of the mandatory core subjects (i.e. math, science, English and social studies).
Lastly, most schools have a cafeteria where all students eat and nearly all have school buses to help students to get and from school.

In Japan, from what I have seen and heard, elementary school is only about learning the language and having fun. Seriously, there does not seem to be a lot of actual learning going on there besides language skills and touching on the basics of a few subjects.  Then middle school is suddenly very strict and quite hard, and it always surprises me how many of the students seem like they have already given up. This look of defeat is also because on top of middle school being difficult, at the end of it, you have to take a test to get into high school, and if you do not get into a good high school, chances are you won’t get into a good college, which means you won’t get a good job, which means by the age of 14, most of your life is already decided. Did I mention that students also do not get a say in almost any of the classes they take too? Yup, in middle school almost all of the classes are predetermined, and most high schools are “specialty schools,” where students will be primarily focusing on one end destination. Oh, and your classmates are the same, in every class, which is supposed to be to help build a sense of unity, but it can also be horrible if you do not like said group of people (I have multiple students that clearly fall into that group, and they seem miserable every day.)
Lastly, students do not eat in a cafeteria, a couple of students go get all the food and supplies, then they all eat in their homeroom class, once again, with that same group of people. Also, most schools do not have buses, so it is up to the children and parents to figure out how to get to and from.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I hate....
  • how usually the highlight of my day is going to sleep
  •  how David is always telling me my homesickness will go away if I stop talking to people back home, then he spends most of his freetime talking with people overseas in computer games
  • not having a car (sucks for getting groceries, going to school and going pretty much anywhere)
  • how most Japanese people treat their pets. It breaks my heart everyday
  • going between fine and borderline crippling depression throughout the day
  • sometimes being literally bored to tears
  • how bad my hives get here
  • listening to David talk to his friends online all day and ignoring me
  • how this place makes me want to smoke just so the nicotine would give me a temp lift
  • myself