Thursday, December 10, 2015

27 Things I Learned About Japan This Week

 * I gave myself a week off from blogging so I could get our new digs (hello 70s lingo; where’d you come from?) all ready to be lived in and stuff. It was well worth the break. Thank you, retroactively, for your patience. *

This week found us in a classroom for 40 hours participating in a Japanese Crash Course, not to be confused with a very similar class, the Japanese How NOT To Crash Course where I earned my driver’s license—which I have used four entire times all by myself…without crashing! *self-five*

From this experience, I have narrowed down the gems I came away with to this simple list. Consider it your crash course in Japan. You’re welcome.

1.    Just as there is a stereotype about all Japanese people being either samurais or ninjas, there is also an on-going stereotype that all Americans are gunslingers or sharp shooters. In the words of our sensei, Mitsuo-san, “Not all American carry gun! I was shock!”

(*all future quotes belong to Mitsuo-san unless otherwise noted*)

2.    Speaking of samurais, did you know that many of the Japanese customs and/or mannerisms were born of samurai defense tactics? For instance, the whole chopsticks-in-noodles and drinking-from-your bowl things are simply more effective ways to eat when you constantly have to watch your back for enemy samurais! If you were bending over your bowl, they could “chop your neck off!” Anther example is the bow vs. handshake. A handshake could easily be a trick to pull you in and “chop your neck off”, but a bow can be as short or as deep as your trust in the other person.
Little trust = little bow.
Deep trust = deep bow.

3.    In order to explain this to us even further, our 2nd teacher, Takahashi-san compared it to how the biblical Gideon found his 300 soldiers. How they drank at the river showed their aptitude for alertness and battle readiness. Those who knelt to drink and brought the water to their mouths versus those on their bellies drinking straight from the river like dogs. Obviously, the kneeling soldiers were better ready for attack, but God had Gideon choose the lappers for His team. He chose the weak to defeat the strong so He could come through for them without them thinking they did it on their own. This is the beauty of the upside down kingdom of God…in other words, if you’re in Japan and you have noodles in broth, PICK YO BOWL UP FOOL!

4.    Japanese people can tell Americans from other foreigners/Japanese because our dryer sheets smell so good. Most local families hang their clothes to dry, depriving them of the fresh Mountain Clear scent we’ve all come to know and love.

5.    Remember that Georgia vending machine I snapped a shot of for my last blog post? Turns out, it is in fact owned by Coca Cola for distribution in Japan and the name is a nod to my good ol’ hometown where Coca Cola was invented: Columbus. TAKE THAT ATLANTA! Also, fascinating fact, the vending machines here serve cold and hot drinks. If you order a coffee in a can and the price is in red, it will be hot; blue will be cold. What is this world?

6.    I was told in class that COSTCO stands for Chinese Off Shore Trading Company and was in China & Japan before it ever hit the states. I was floored! Our Costco? Our beacon of warehouse shopping experiences a la Sam’s Club started in China?? Turns out, after a quick verification search on the ever-reliable SNOPES, this was just our teachers pulling our legs/lying to us. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

7.    Along with thinking we’re all pioneers in buckskins, the Japanese are also in complete awe of our steaks’ sizes calling them “sandal-sized’ and “way better” than the famed Japanese Kobe beef, as far as bang-for-your-buck. I mean, since we all have a herd of cattle on our ranch outback, we might as well enjoy the steak, ammiright, pard?

8.    In the morning and evening there are trains to Tokyo designated for Women Only. The trains here can get VERY crowded, so this is an option provided for women’s safety and comfort on their commute to work. #girlpower #yesallwomen #taylorswift (ok, you gotta give me that one. It totally worked…)

9.    In the Japanese language, the numbers 4 (shi), 7 (shi-chi) and 9 (ku) rhyme with words that mean ‘death’, ‘death-place’ & ‘suffering’ respectively, so these are considered unlucky numbers and were all given alternate names (yon, nana & kyuu). I would say something clever about this, but I mean, come on. You can’t make this stuff up…

10. On a happier note, ‘puppy’ (a stand-alone cute word on its own) is ‘wan-chan’ in Japanese and that’s just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. So now, you get a wan-chan picture. You’re welcome. [
Ok, FINE. You get two. 

But we HAVE to move on now. P.S. It’s called a pomsky and I won’t judge you for squealing with pure delight at the height of adorableness.

11.  And speaking of cute, those tamagotchi’s from the 90’s? The ones you had your friends babysit when you had to go to the bathroom for 5 minutes? Yeah, those. Tamagotchi means ‘cute little egg’ in Japanese. 

*small epiphany causes your mind to be blown* 
yeah…me too.

12. 'Shabu shabu' is a delicious style of food where you cook meat in hot broth.
'Shabu' alone is slang for heroin.
So be careful out there, kids.

13.  And speaking of illegal drugs, the mafia here is alive and well and goes by Yakusa. Because of their gangs, tattoos are very taboo here and can get you banned from most hot springs & beaches. Glad I held off on those barbed wire arm rings…and you can stop pressuring me to make my love for you permanent, MOM.

14. In related news, if you get in bad with the mafia, they won’t kill you or blow you up (mostly because they can’t get their hands on any guns or explosives due to stricter laws), they’ll just start showing up at your place of business, ordering food and not paying for it and scaring the other customers off (who then tell all their friends not to go there anymore). Next thing you know, you’re closed down. Simple, yet effective. Moral of the story…pay for your food…or something like that.

15.  Still want more on the mafia? May I recommend Black Rain? Please note, I haven’t seen it and it’s rated R for violence and language. It was recommended in class as a good example of how their mafia works, but if it doesn’t sound like your thing, please refrain from watching it, horrified, and then sending me hate mail.

16. Colors in Japan are not associated with gender. Pink and purple are abundant and are enjoyed for their beauty no matter the gender. #somanypinkcars

17.  Ironically, here’s a story about how safe Japan was known to be about 50 years ago. Mitsuo-san told us a story of a man who owned a solid gold watch. He stopped one day to sit on a bench and wait for the bus. It was warm that day so he removed his wristwatch and jacket and laid them on the bench. Later, he grabbed his jacket, but left the watch. Not remembering where he lost it, he forgot about it. A few years later, he happened back by that part of the country and there on the very same bench was his watch in a plastic container, still keeping time because someone had protected it and then continued to wind it each day until its owner returned. 
*jaw on floor* 

18. Japanese read vertically and left to right. Oh yeah, and it’s all in kanji. Which looks like this: 


19.  Roads are so twisting in Japan that GPS devices are known for their faulty directions. Here is Mitsuo-san explaining this: “I cross bridge. It says turn left. I say, I will die.”

20.  In related news, another quote from Mitsuo-san, “American straight roads are dream for Japanese!”

21. American coffee is considered weak in Japan. Therefore on most automatic coffee machines, you have the options: Blend Coffee & Weak Coffee.  I guess they’ve never had Mr. Ron coffee………………

22.  Japanese people never say, “I love you” after they are married. They just show each other and stay together.

23.  And on the topic of love, on Valentine’s Day, the girl gives the guy chocolate & on Wives’ Day (March 14th), the guys give the girls the normal American Valentine’s Day gifts, jewelry, roses, chocolate, etc.

24.  Japanese weddings are paid for by the wedding guests via monetary gifts at the wedding. Then the couple, in turn, donates to another young couple’s wedding down the road.

25.  Don’t put business cards in your back pocket, as they interpret the proximity to your…ahem, behind…quite insulting.

26.  “Sake is considered a holy liquid here. Except when you drink too much…”-Takahashi-san

27. Japanese people have a phobia of western foreigners speaking English to them (even though most people learn it in school). They’ll go so far as to move away from you if you sit next to them on a train. They’re afraid their English will be too broken, too elementary. Y’all. Don’t I just feel their pain? But a simple ‘sumimasen’ (excuse me) will put them right at ease. If you are willing to speak broken Japanese, they are willing to speak broken English and we meet halfway 'round the world at the halfway point. Thank you, Lord, for language classes that teach me more than how to say, “I don’t understand you.”

This week’s Holiday Headlines brought to you by Home Depot:
“You can do it. We can help.”
The Great Christmas Tree Hunt Of 2015 was a rousing affair complete with a three-hour round trip search for a real live, needle-dropping, forest-smelling Douglas Fir. We explored the nearby Naval Air Base (Atsugi), the nearby IKEA, and the (actually) nearby PX, only to realize that there just weren’t any left. I’ve always been a live tree kinda girl, but this year, the love I feel for my little baby artificial Christmas tree with the douglas fir candle burning next to it, is off the charts.

beautiful, isn't it?

Here she is...

And my first ever batch of gingerbread (oakie's fave)...

This is a year of firsts for me.
First Christmas tree of my marriage.
First artificial tree.
First time in Japan.
First time weekly blogging.
First time making gingerbread cookies.
And I couldn’t be more grateful.

::thank you Jesus for this big and wonderful world::


  1. ohhh it looks so cozy at your place with your warm mugs and glowing tree! I wanna come sit with y'all and drink hot beverages and eat gingerbread!

    1. Ooooh! We wish you were here with us too!!!! Can't wait to see you :)

  2. Clever hint re: March 14. ;-) I love you!

  3. Another lovely, fun filled post! :) It is so wonderful reading about your adventures! Gorgeous tree and curtains too! Looks beautiful and awesome job on the ginger bread. The cookies and drink look YuMMy! Love yall!

    1. You're so sweet!!!!
      I'm glad you like the blog.
      We love and miss y'all!!

  4. First of all: WHY DON'T WE HAVE A WIVES' DAY IN AMERICA??? Priorities, geez....

    Second of all, oddly enough, I knew about #11. Don't ask me how or why, but that is one little-known fact that was already in my brain.

    Thirdly, I read "heroine" as, you know, a female hero, so it took me a minute to follow your train of thought on illegal drugs. #innocenceisblissforever

    I love, love, love your Christmas tree, but I think you should have gotten that adorable tiny one too. So stinkin' cute.

    And finally, did you ever get my text about our wan-chan? Because for real, Colonel is getting a little brother-buddy for Christmas. We're calling him Major. Love you!!

    1. P.S. I love your blogging; don't ever stop.

      P.P.S. If you can get Oakie driving a pink or purple car before you guys come back to America, I will consider you both fully assimilated.

    2. I'm WITH you in the wives' day. We should start a trend...
      #11 I'm so proud of your Japanese skillz and knowledge ;)
      And the reason you read it that way is because I spelled it incorrectly! Heroin the drug doesn't have an 'e'. #innocencex2forever
      I'll work on the pink car situation. #goals