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Archive for the 'Etiquette' Category


Wacky anti-smoking ads in Japan

Japan is actually doing pretty well in its efforts to cut down on smoking in public. Like most Asian nations, it still has a long way to go, but at least you don’t see as many cigarette butts on the street as you did years ago.

Here’s an unusual campaign that I came across online. It’s a series of anti-smoking posters from More than a few of these are a little bit strange. Have a look at these three and let me know if you agree. My personal favorite is the second one with the snowman! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by 3yen in Etiquette | No Comments »


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Pachinko, Japan’s favorite pasttime


At first thought, Pachinko seem to be like the Japanese version of the pinball except that it’s not. It is actually a cross between a slot machine and a pinball machine. You amass these balls and then you win and if you’re lucky you get trays full of them. Pachinko is fun and so addictive it should be illegal because people are gambling money away for that euphoric feeling of WINNING.

I found an article which teaches even FOTB gaijins proper Pachinko etiquette, and was rather amused at the matter-of-factly tone of the write-up. It’s serious business when it comes to Pachinko, don’t let the colorful lights fool you.

Pachinko feature article at

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Japanese Culture, Misc, Nightlife, Social | 4 Comments »


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Useful Japanese Expressions

Guys, if you’re new in Japan, these Japanese expressions will get you blend in, in no time.

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Japanese Culture, Misc, Social | 2 Comments »


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Traditional Kindergarten Graduation

Highlights from the 2007 graduation ceremony at Udo kindergarten in Shizuoka City, Japan. This particular kindergarten is very old fashioned and adheres to some interesting Japanese traditions. For example the children are encouraged to go barefoot at school and wear traditional geta wooden clogs every day in or out of school. Also, in accordance with an old Japanese believe that outdoor exposure will make children strong and healthy, this school therefore operates with all of its doors and windows open every day of the year, even in the heart of winter. This school’s uniform is very distinct and in our community it is a common sight to spot kids from Udo kindergarten running about in the dead of winter wearing just a light shirt, short pants and clomping along on their wooden shoes. The belief about cold air and healthy kids seems to hold water in this regard as the kids from Udo kindergarten appear perennially healthy and happy.

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Japanese Culture | 7 Comments »


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Smokers to pay double in cigarette taxes.

Smoking should be banned. At least, that’s what I feel anyway. Smoking kills not only the smoker but also the people around them. It’s crazy to be smoking these days when you have other cooler and more addictive activity to do like videogames. :P Just kidding. I know that for smokers, the addiction takes over their lives – I see friends going out every now and then to take a puff, which i find rather distasteful. And I don’t hold back too with my opinion. Thankfully, my smoker friends do not hold it against me – in fact, they’re fine with it because they know what a disgusting habit it is.

Now, the Science Council in Japan are looking to double cigarette taxes, which i Think is a great thing. Since tobacco cannot be banned, why not make smokers pay until it gets too expensive to maintain that sort of lifestyle. Maybe tobacco companies will die off by themselves from bankruptcy. Wishful thinking, I know.

The Science Council of Japan has proposed tough new measures against smoking including doubling tobacco tax in a bid to protect the environment and people’s health, it has been learned.

The council submitted a suggestion to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Tuesday to introduce tightened regulations in seven areas, including a major increase in tobacco tax. The council had been considering measures since June 2006.

Under tobacco regulation criteria produced by scientists in Europe, Japan was found to score only 25.5 points in its smoking countermeasures, placing the nation last when compared to 30 other countries in Europe. Ireland had the strongest measures against smoking, scoring 71 points.

The science council’s proposal to the ministry includes banning cigarette vending machines, setting numerical targets to reduce smoking rates, and doubling tobacco tax, which currently stands at 189 yen per packet. Under the suggestions, yearly consumption — now standing at about 27 billion cigarettes — would fall by one quarter and at least 2 million people would stop smoking, calculations showed. Tax proceeds would increase by about 1.2 trillion yen from the current 2.3 trillion yen under the measures.

Read the rest …..

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Misc, Social | 2 Comments »


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Titles to Address People

I am sure this will come in handy. If you just know the title -san, well, let me assure you that there is more with usage to address different types of people.

* san: (for example Sato-san)
This is the most neutral and famous title, and can be used in most situations. Only in formal situations, san may not be polite enough.

* sama: (for example Sato-sama)
This is a more polite form of san, commonly used in formal situations and letters, but too polite in a casual context.

* kun: (for example Yusuke-kun)
This is an informal title used for boys and men that are younger than yourself.

* chan: (for example Megumi-chan)
This is an informal title used for young children and very close friends or family members.

* sensei: (for example Sato-sensei)
This is a title used for teachers, doctors and other people with a higher education and from whom you receive a service or instructions.

If you call your sushi teacher, -san, it may not be quite appropriate. A sensei or -sama would be better suited. Bet you didn’t know that ;)

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Misc, Social | 1 Comment »


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No Need For “Excuse Me”

One aspect of train culture that visitors will either get used to very quickly or never get over (just ask some of my friends who visit) is the fact that people often bypass the etiquette of saying “excuse me” when squishing past people getting on or off a train. This would come across as rude to a lot of visitors, but at the same time it’s reasonable to figure that if you were to say “excuse me” to every single person just to get off, let’s say, the Chuo line at Shinjuku station during rush hour, (focus on the people crammed inside the train) you would never reach the doors in time before they closed. This isn’t to say that people never say “excuse me” at all, but there’s no reason to really consider it as being “rude” when they don’t.
This was actually an interesting point of reverse-culture shock for me during my first return back to the States from Japan about two years ago; there were occasions during rush hour in Boston where a fellow passenger would literally order me to step outside the train during passenger disembarking because I was being “rude” standing in the way. In Japan such a scenario is virtually impossible; I would simply either get pushed into or out of the train depending on the direction of the movement of the crowd. When it comes down to it–at least in Japan—everyone’s just too busy trying to get from point A to point B with the least amount of difficulty to be bothered with directly confronting anyone to get them to move out of the way. The best thing anyone can do in such a situation is just “go with the flow” and enjoy the fact that for a society so centered around manners, this is one code of etiquette that is okay to completely disregard.


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Bowing your way

The Japanese greet each other by bowing. It’s a very interesting social action that can be categorized by the way you bow and how low you bow. It can range from a small nod of the head (it means you’re not very important) to a low 90degree bow (it means you’re very important). The way you bow also shows the social status of you and the person you’re bowing to.

If the person in front of you is older and/or have a higher status than you, you’re suppose to bow deeply and longer than s/he does. But the Japanese do not keep this rule to foreigners so usually they just do a bried nod of the head. That’s just to show how important foreigners are :P Just kidding!

The japanese do not usually shake hands althought sometimes they do greet foreigners with a hand shake. Well, ponder over this for a moment, ladies and gents, it’s a very peculiar thing. Most Japanese people (except old people) know the the customs of foreigners but most foreigners don’t know the customs of their asian counterparts unless they’ve studied the subject or have been with a Japanese person (a friend/gf/bf). This is a perfect example of westernization. I wonder if there will ever be an asianization :P

Anyway back to bowing, i found a very cutesy video of a bunch of japanese kids bowing. It’s an ad for Kleenex tissues. You’ll see the bow at the end :)

Source: Japan guide

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Japanese Culture, Misc, Social | No Comments »


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Japanese Daily Etiquette

rei_rai.gifPreviously I wrote about Japanese Table Manners in hopes that it’ll help some of you, expatriates, out there. Now I’m going to round it off with the daily etiquettes that you should know. I think with this, you will be more than safe from the hazards of looking like an uncultured buffoon in another culture. Well it’s just nice to know, that’s all, and no you won’t look like a buffoon the first time around if you didn’t know any better but it’s better if you know :D


Japanese Etiquette:

In a Japanese house
Upon entering a house, you should always take off your shoes at the doorway and slide into the slippers provided by your host. To which, you will wear those slippers to walk around the house except in tatami rooms, which in this case are mostly dining areas, living rooms, guest rooms, etc etc, you will need to take your slippers off and walk barefoot or with only your socks. And if you need to go to the toilet, take your slippers off and change into a special toilet slippers that is provided.

Sitting Techniques
Many westerners are not used to sitting on the floor; so I can imagine your shock when you are to have your meals close to the floor. Anyway, there is a universal sitting position for both men and woman, which is the formal way called the Seiza. See the picture below:



The casual sitting position for men is usually crosslegged and for women, with both legs on the side. Look at the pictures below:


For women


For men

Seating order
The most important guest sits on the honored seat (kamiza) which is located farthest from the entrance. If there is a tokonoma, or a decorated alcove, in the room, the guest should be seated in front of it. The host or least important person is supposed to sit next to the entrance (shimoza). Of course, there are more factors to be considered in every specific case.

There are two types of toilet in Japan; the Japanese style and the Western Style. Public washrooms are usually equipped with Japanese style toilets; which is basically a hole in the ground. Look at the picture below:-


Japanese Toilet

But worry not, more and more western style toilets are popping up in touristic areas. However, since toilet paper may not be provided, it’sadvisable to carry a pack of tissue yourself. In cases of emergencies, a tissue pack can save lives…*nods* I am speaking from experience.

So how do you use the Japanese toilet?
1) Face the hood of the toilet.
2) Pull down your trousers completely below your knees.
3) Squat down as closely to the hood as possible. In case of elevated toilets (see picture), you need to stand on the raised platform while squatting.

Using bathrooms

Japanese toilets and bathrooms are almost always separated. And the bathroom, aside from cleaning yourself is also used to relax yourself. The typical Japanese bathrooms usually consist of an entrance room where you take your off your clothes and the actual bathroom where the showerhead and bathtub is.

When bathing Japanese style, you should rinse your body outside of the bathtub first with water from the bath using a washbowl. Afterwards, you enter the bathtub, which is used for soaking only. THe water tend to be hotter than what you usually might be accustom to, so what you do is just try to not move so much while you’re soaking. the more you move the hotter it seems you see…some scientific thing about exposure to a larger surface area. Anyway, you won’t be scalded, that’s for sure. After you have soaked yourself in for a while, leave the tub and soap your body. Make sure no soap gets into the bathtub. Rinse yourself clean with the shower head and soak yourself in the tub again. Once you’re done, do not drain the water as other members will be using the bath water.

Yes, I cannot fathom using the same bath water like that too. I’ll take a shower any day.

Related Links:

Japanese Table Manners
Practice your Japanese Etiquette
Coming to Japan

Source: Japan-Guide

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Japanese Culture, Social | 1 Comment »


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Japanese Table Manners

Eating in a different culture sometimes have different rules or etiquette that one has to follow. Here are some basic rules to Japanese table manners that will save your skin when you’re dining in Japan, especially in private homes.


Eating Etiquette

Tables & Sitting
In Japan, some restaurants and private houses are equipped with low sitting tables and chairs. It’s very much different from the western type of tables and chairs because in Japan, sitting on the floor with your feet crossed (for men) or kneeled down (for women) is a common thing. It is important to know which way to sit, esp for men and women. Only men are supposeto cross their legs and women kneeled.

Itadakimasu and Gochisosama
In Japan, it is polite to say “itadakimasu” (”I gratefully receive”) before starting to eat, and “gochisosama (deshita)” (”Thank you for the meal”) after finishing the meal.

Individual vs. Shared Dishes
It is common to have several dishes being served that is to be shared. Unlike western culture where food is served individually, in Japan, dishes are shared because it’s part of their food culture. If you are being served shared dishes, you are supposed to move some food from the shared plates onto your own plate by yourself, using the opposite end of your chopsticks (if you have used them already) or with special chopsticks that may be provided for that purpose.

The proper use of chopstick is the fundamentals of Japanese Table Manners. Click HERE to learn how to use chopsticks properly.

Some Table Rules
* Blowing your nose in public, and especially at the table, is considered bad manner.
* It is considered good manner to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
* Talking about toilet related and similarly disappetizing topics during or before a meal is not appreciated by most people.
* Unlike in some other parts of East Asia, it is considered bad manner to burp.
* After finishing eating, try to place all your dishes in the same way as they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lid of dishes which came with a lid and replacing your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or into their paper slip, if applicable.
* Read more about chopstick rules.

Drinking Rules
When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is a Japanese custom to serve each other, rather than pouring the beverage into one’s own glass. You are supposed to periodically check your friends’ cups, and serve them more once their cups are getting empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you more alcohol, you should quickly empty your glass and hold it towards that person.

While it is considered bad manner to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, for example in restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), the same is not true for other types of restaurants such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.

Do not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a drinking salute, which usually is “kampai”. Avoid using “chin chin” when drinking a toast, since in Japanese this expression refers to the male genitals.

How to eat:
Rice – take rice bowl in one hand and chopsticks in another and lift it to your mouth, while taking your chopsticks to “scoop” the rice into your mouth

Sushi – Pour some soy sauce into the small saucer provided and dip your sushi in (just a little bit, do not dunk). You don’t need to add wasabi as sushi usually already contain wasabi and there are some that are to be eaten without wasabi. But if you do want some wasabi anyway, take a small amount as you do not want to offend the sushi chef. Take sushi with your chopsticks and pop it into your mouth in one go. Or if sushi is too big, just take a bite of the sushi using your chopsticks to hold them. But it is preferable that you eat it whole.

Sashimi – Pour some soy sauce into the small saucer provided and mixed in some wasabi. Just a little bit because you do not want to overpower the taste of your raw fish and also, you do not want to offend you sashimi chef…he weilds a very sharp knife. Dip your raw fish into the soysauce and pop ‘em into your mouth. Savour.

Miso Soup – the ingredients in the miso soup are eaten with chopsticks and the soup, drank from the bowl

Noodles – eat them with your chopsticks and slurp them (not too loud), copy your neighbor’s slurping noise if you want to gauge how loud you can slurp.

Kare Raisu – dishes where rice is mixed with sauce is usually eaten with a spoon

Big pieces of food – this can be harder as it requires you to maneuver your chopsticks well but you should cut the pieces with chopsticks and pop the smaller pieces into your mouth. OR you can just bite off a piece and put the rest on your plate.

Source: Japan-Guide

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Etiquette, Social | 1 Comment »


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