1. Lateness is pretty much the worst sin of all times: If a train is late by ONE minute, there is an announcement apologizing to everyone waiting, and conductors give “proof of lateness” slips to people on their way to school or work so that they have proof that it was the train that made them late, and not snoozing their alarm clocks 24 times.
2. Chindogu is a thing. This is the art of inventing a gadget that seems to solve a problem, but using it would create other, possibly bigger problems or cause incredible social embarrassment. Click here for visual examples.
3. The word for boobs and father are the same. It’s “chichi,” if you were wondering.
4. Japan is where sushi, ramen, and mochi ice cream were invented. If I had to eat only these items for the rest of my life, I would cry…. From JOY.
5. Japanese pranks: they take it to the NEXT level.6. Studio Ghibli Films. If you don’t know what they are, you are missing out, I promise.
7. They have crazy train etiquettes. Talking on the phone is basically forbidden on the train as well as eating on the train. My friend who lives in Tokyo told me that when she doesn’t wake up in time to eat breakfast, she packs a rice ball that she has to sneak while she’s on the train. A rice ball is usually around the size of your fist… She puts the whole thing in her mouth while nobody is looking, chews very slowly, and prays that she doesn’t choke in the process. I could only imagine how hilarious she must look while doing this.
8.They abbreviate everything. Starbucks? No, it’s “staba.” Bank of America? No, it’s “bankame.” Don’t mind? No, it’s “donmai”
9. Tipping is considered rude. Did you catch that? TIPPING IS RUDE.
10. Employees work overtime without pay because they want to show good workmanship/ be a good employee to their boss
11. Rent is actually… reasonable?! My friend in Tokyo told me that the investment banker she’s hooking up with lives an incredible apartment in the middle of Tokyo. She then sent me this via text message: “He pays $4,000 per month for a one-bedroom!!!!” I was confused by the exclamation points because I’m from New York and paying $4,000 for a one-bedroom in the city is pretty normal, but she told me you can get an apartment in a decent area of Tokyo for about $800 a month.
12. Everything else is super expensive. Like $50-watermelons.
13. Capsule hotels. You literally sleep in a gigantic capsule. It’s crazy and I want to have this experience soon.
14. We celebrate the return of the dead. Okay so I sound crazy every time I try to explain this holiday to someone, but basically, your ancestors come back for a few days during the summer and you eat good food and have good family bonding time. It’s called “Obon.” I remember sitting at my aunt’s house during Obon and she casually said to me, “hey Becky, grandma is right behind you right now.” And instead of running away or suggesting that my aunt visit a psychiatrist, I would turn around and say, “hi grandma! Let’s play!” On the last day of this holiday, my aunt would construct a horse using an eggplant and chopsticks and my family and I would all walk to the beach together with this eggplant-horse. We would go by the water and set eggplant-horse sailing because the spirits of our families would ride this horse back to heaven. Oh, and when walking back from the beach, we couldn’t look back, because then the spirits would see our faces and would want to follow us back, but they have to go back to heaven!
15. There are cat cafes, dog cafes, owl cafes, maid cafes, mom cafes… The servers play specific roles or there are physical animals that you sit with at these cafes. Proud to say my house is pretty much a cat café because every time I sit at the kitchen table my cats join me…
16. You can’t go to certain beaches and definitely not hot springs (which I’ve heard are the best) if you have a tattoo. It’s not really because Japanese people hate tattoos, but mainly because Yakuza (notorious Japanese gang) members always have tattoos and people do NOT want to be in an enclosed area with Yakuza members.
17. They call staplers “Hotchkiss.” Can someone please explain this one to me?! Did a guy named Hotchkiss invent staplers??
18. The paler the better. Tanning salons would probably close in a day there. Sun umbrellas are also a thing.
19. Well actually, there exist people in Japan called ‘gals.’ Here is an example of one. (Note: they love to tan…)
20. The flag is a red circle on a white rectangle. Everyone got 100s on their “draw your flag” project back in the first grade…
21. There are no janitors at schools (at least public ones like the one I attended…) So who cleans the school? Yes, that’s right, the students. I have memories of zooming across the hallway on all fours with a rag to clean the floors. I also remember sweeping and cleaning the bathrooms… This all started in the first grade.
22. You also stand after lunch with your classmates and brush your teeth for five minutes. The whole school brushed it at the same time over some song they would play in the loudspeakers.
23. Unicycle was the way to get around when I was a kid. I don’t think everyone in Japan relates to this, but boy was it huge where I come from.
24. Catching cicadas is common summer entertainment for children. TOUGHEN UP if you’re squeamish.