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Japan is a Confused Place

Now, I was going to type “Japan is a Confusing Place” for my heading, but then I realized that confused actually makes more sense.

Don’t get me wrong, Japan is plenty confusing. The language seems to be a hodge podge of languages with alternating rules of nonsense. They drive on the “wrong” side of the road. They don’t use street names in their addresses. Hell, they even sell placenta on TV. That qualifies as confusing to me.

But they’re confused in other ways. For example, banking. They don’t have online banking like they do in the states. Randy can’t set up automatic monthly payments for our rent or furniture rental…he has to do wire transfers individually each month.  Fine, you say, he can just write checks, right? Wrong. Checks don’t exist in Japan. They have no concept of what they are since they don’t have them. Every bill being paid must be done by wire transfer. Instead of that hassle, why not offer online banking?

Another example…we live over the Minato-ku pool. During the winter, the pool area is used as three soccer fields (it’s a large pool). At the end of June the floor is dropped and the area turns into a pool starting on July 1. First, I don’t understand why it’s not turned into a pool sooner since temperatures are regularly in the 70’s as early as May and the pool would provide welcome relief.

But the confused part comes from what the Japanese consider acceptable at the pool. I find it hilarious that men can wear the skimpiest of bikinis around the pool…and I’m talking borderline pornographic…but they are not allowed to expose a tattoo. I’m serious. Men prance around in string bikinis with a pouch that barely covers their private parts and outlines absolutely everything underneath in a thin, tight, spandex layer…often times semi-transparent (when wet)…yet any sort of tattoo is considered taboo.

People with tattoos aren’t exactly banned, they’re just banned from showing their tattoo. The accepted solution is to wear waterproof bandages to cover their arms, chest, or legs. And this just brings more attention to them because often times these bandages are bright blue or yellow. So, a little skin ink proclaiming your love of mom is offensive, but basically showing the world your religion is okay.

And what’s up with with their excessive etiquette? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for saying my pleases and thank yous. But do I need my elevator to thank me? Do I need every single employee in a shop or restaurant to welcome me upon entry? It’s the strangest thing to open a shop door and hear a chorus of “Iraasshaimase!” And when people start talking, it seems like every sentence spoken begins or ends with either “kudasai,” “arigato,” “domo arigato,” “arigato gozimashita,” “arigato gozaimasu,” “shimasu,” “itadakimasu,” or “onegaishimas.” Every single one of those phrases means some form of please or thank you. And you hear all of them constantly, from people and even from machines.

I get it, you’re a polite people. Yet with all of that courtesy they can’t be bothered to say “bless you” if somebody sneezes?

And what’s up with not stocking stores? I’ve read (and seen photos) of grocery stores after last year’s earthquake. Shelves were barren within hours and there was limited food to be found even in Tokyo. The reason for this? They put one or two items on the shelf at a time. I’ll go to the local market to get yogurt and the deep shelf has only 3 or 4 containers of any flavor…the rest of the shelf behind it is empty. Consequently, if I go to the market in the afternoon, the items I like best are gone and there are empty holes in the shelf where product should be. I know that it’s bad business to have high inventory in stock rooms…but on the sales floor? Especially after last year’s disaster, you’d think they would actually have enough product for the consumer on a regular day or, more importantly, in an emergency.

This doesn’t mean I don’t like it here…quite the opposite. Perhaps Japan isn’t confused as much as I am?

Nah…it’s Japan.



  1. Comment by Keith on July 19, 2012 12:45 pm

    Hey darlin’ – been loving your adventures – keep blogging!!

    As for the stock levels – the Japanese freaking PIONEERED “Just-in-time” inventory management in the auto industry – it’s no surprise to me it’s practiced in the extreme in retail, to the point for not considering the costs of stock out. You tell those shopkeepers about how we do it in ‘MERICA and that if they don’t have your yogurt your gonna take your yen to another store and won’t they be sorry then!

    Take care!

  2. Comment by snarl on July 20, 2012 9:12 pm

    WOW! I Still have readers. Correction:I still have a reader! hehe

    Thanks for posting (and congratulations on graduating).

  3. Comment by Jennifer on July 23, 2012 6:42 pm

    Belgium also didn’t have checks and we wired our monthly rent payments. HOWEVER, we did set that up automatically through our online banking system with our high tech chipped bank card and fancy card reader. Japan has robots – they can figure this out. 🙂

  4. Comment by Ryszard Kilarski on July 24, 2012 5:59 pm

    From my understanding Poland has some similar banking issues, not because things don’t exist but because you have to pay for them. So using checks means paying additional fees. Ditto even just having a savings account! I kid you not that some in my family keep their cash at home rather than in a bank. And forget credit cards–when i was there (mid 90’s), it was all cash. This is slowly changing, of course, as the need for these transactions increases. But it’s hard to turn a big ship.

    And I’m a reader too!

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