Posts Tagged With: Japanese people

In Japan, Young Women Rent Out Their Legs As Ad Space

A good way to get your advertisement plenty of exposure is to place it where there will be a lot of people looking.

With that in mind, Japanese advertising company Absolute Territory PR is offering a unique service that gives brands a ‘leg up’ on their competitors—by renting the legs of young Japanese girls as ad space.

Using the notion that ‘sex sells’, this clever marketing strategy was reported to be a big hit with businesses across Tokyo—especially to Japanese men.

Girls who are interested in renting out their legs will have to get their legs ‘stamped’ with an ad, after which they can go about their daily routine.

They will have to wear the ad for eight hours or more a day to get paid—and preferably dressed in miniskirts and high socks.

To prove that they are ‘advertising’ the stickers, participants must also post pictures of themselves wearing the ad on Facebook, Twitter or other social media networks.

Eichi Atsumi—a spokesperson for the ad company—said that the only guidelines for the job is that the registered person should be connected to “at least more than 20 people on some social network and that they are over 18 years old”.

According to The Daily Mail, about 1,300 girls have already “registered their legs as ad space” with the company, and the numbers are only increasing.

‘Thigh-vertisements’—yay or nay?

 

 

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Categories: Japanese customs, Japanese technology, News about Japan, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When do Japanese People Have Their First Kiss?

When do Japanese have their first kiss?

When do Japanese have their first kiss?

Japanese men aren’t known for being the most romantically aggressive bunch. Many young Japanese women lament over having to take the lead just to get out of the dugout and onto first base.

If Japanese guys are so reluctant to get touchy-feely, you’ve got to wonder: at what age do Japanese people have their first kiss?

 

 Japanese mobile company NTT Docomo conducted an online poll that asked respondents to divulge when they first closed their eyes and puckered up. The poll was conducted during the two weeks of September 6-19 and received 36,818 entries.

Before we looks at the results, it’s important to realize that dating and kissing as we know it in the Western world is still something relatively new to Japan, a country where arranged marriages still exist and, until recently, kissing was something traditionally reserved for the bedroom. While Japanese women may be ready to adopt the kiss as a form of showing affection, their male counterparts might just need some time to adjust.

That said, here are the juicy details you’ve been waiting for:

■  When did you have your first kiss? (36,818 votes total)

1. High school (9878 votes)
2. Never kissed (6119 votes)
3. Middle school (6021 votes)
4. After entering workforce and before 31 (5771 votes)
5. College (4262 votes)
6. Preschool/Kindergarten (2423 votes)
7. Elementary school (2029 votes)
8. After 31 (331 votes)

Putting together high school, middle school, college, preschool/kindergarten and elementary schoola little over 60% of respondents had their first kiss by their early 20s. 

On the other hand, some 6000 respondents didn’t have their first kiss until after they entered the workforce, and another 6000 or so have never kissed at all. Perhaps these people just place more value on their first kiss than others. But looking at the growing ranks of frustrated Japanese women, general apathy towards romantic relationships seems the more likely suspect.

 

 

 

Categories: Japanese customs, News about Japan, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why actions in Japan speak louder than words

 

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Behind-the-Facade

Foreigners are often upset when their Japanese counterparts break verbal commitments or fail to live up to the signed agreements. Where the foreigners themselves “fail” is that they are ignorant of the etiquette and ethics of the Japanese and do not realize that what they think is wrong, may be regarded as right in Japan.

The reality behind a pleasing facade

In formal official dialoge in Japan, especially with government bureaucrats and politicians, what you hear is generally not what you get. Rather than speaking frankly and fully, the Japanese way is to speak in vague and esoteric terms, particularly when they cannot or do not intend to cooperate or follow through in any way. Generally in order to communicate effectively in Japan, one must be able to interpret relationships, the circumstances, and the behaviour of individuals and groups rather than words- something that requires a comprehensive knowledge of the history and culture of the country. The reason for this extraordinary situation is that a long time ago Japanese culture and society developed in such a way that appearances took precedence over reality and were used to obscure reality behind a pleasing facade.

This development apparently came about because of the etiquette system that derived from the imperative of maintaining minutely prescribed harmonious relationships between individuals based on their social class, rank, gender and other factors. As this etiquette became ritualised, it took on a life on its own, became a vital part of the moral standards of the Japanese, and was often given more importance than the substance of dialoge between individuals.

Again in formal situation in particular, what was only alluded to or was left completely unsaid was often the message. The reason why the Japanese themselves could communicate with each other fairly well within this system was that they shared the same beliefs and life-styles, had a common base of knowledge, and generally shared the same values and aspirations.

The orientation of Japanese society into groups, contributed enormously to this cultural and social homogeneity because living in close quarters and working together, made the Japanese intimately familiar with the character , personality, likes and dislikes, and goals and aspirations of all of the members. Furthermore, a combination of the universal etiquette and the house and group rules under which the Japanese lived for centuries both controlled their behaviour and limited their choices, to the point that everyone thought and acted pretty much alike, making detailed, lengthy conversations – about anything – generally unnecessary.

facade masks

Obscuring your ‘honne’ (real intentions)

In this environment, nonverbal communication, something the Japanese refer to as ‘haragei’ or “art of the stomach”, accounted for much of the communication between individuals. In the words of the Japanese, they communicated more by “atmosphere” than by words. This in turn, led to emphasising external appearances (tatemae, and obscuring reality (honne)). This cultural conditioning of the Japanese was so strong and pervasive over so many centuries that it is still characteristic of most older Japanese today – again, especially those in more conservative and traditionally oriented organisations such as the government.

As is well known, Americans and most Europeans prize frankness, detailed presentations, and lively debate based on facts as well as assumptions. In contrast, for more than a thousand years the Japanese were programmed to speak publicly only in tatemae terms and reveil their honne (real thoughts) only in private settings.

heian_gaming

Doing business in the Heinan period

In fact, the tatemae/honne system was officially embraced by the government of Japan during the late Heian period (794-1185). In 1185 the founder of the shogunate system of government, Yoritomo Minamoto, took the tatemae/honne concept even further. He formulated extralegal posts and regulations that gave all power to the shogunate in Kamakura, while leaving the Emperor and the Imperial Court intact, but powerless, in Kyoto. This system of real power being in the hands of a shadow government was to persist in Japan down to modern times and to have a fundamental influence on the overall culture, eventually permeating virtually every level of society, down to small companies whose owners would retire early and manage these from the back ground.

Still today, Japan’s government on every level is basically controlled by people “behind the scenes”. Furthermore, much of the administrative actions of government agencies and ministries is extralegal – not based in law, but on the agendas of those running them.

Many Japanese corporations as well are directed by people behind the scenes – lower level executive managers, consultants, or retired executives – something that the Japanese know only too well, but that is generally unknown to foreigners.

The tatemae/honne concept is so fundamental to the Japanese way of thinking and doing things that it applies to the laws of the country and to written contracts. Broadly speaking, contracts and laws are tatemae – facades that are general expressions of intent. They are not meant to be binding.

In the Japanese context, the important thing is not what contracts and law say. It is the intent of the individuals who created the laws and signed the contracts that is important. Therefore, contracts and laws can be disregarded, when the circumstances change or when they do not ful fill the intent of their creators.

As for the Japanese government, most laws are designed to satisfy the expectations and demands of specific constituents. However, as far as the bureaucrats who are responsible for carrying out the laws are concerned, they are all just tatemae. Bureaucrats generally do whatever it is they have been doing, or what to do, by extralegal means.

Salarymen in Izakaya

Sex talk

In the same vein, business meetings in Japan are primarily designed to establish an “atmosphere”; not to discuss concrete details and come to quick conclusions. It is only after several such meetings, when a fairly clear-cut consensus has emerged, that decisions are made.

In government agencies and ministeries, the purpose of the first of these meetings, which often take place after normal working hours and include food and drinks, is commonly referred to as “free talking”. This means that participants don’t discuss issues at hand. Instead they engage in group-bonding rituals of chatting (often about sex), drinking and eating.

One of the primary reasons why foreigners, especially government officials and those in the professions, have so many problems dealing with their Japanese counterparts is that so much of the administration in Japan is, in fact, extralegal. So many things are done outside of the law and contractual agreements, that it sometimes seems to outsiders that the whole legal contractual system is a sham.

When pressured by outsiders, the Japanese government, as well as other entities, mag change the laws and regulations governing their operation, but typically they will continue to operate the way they did before the change as long as they can get away with it. Not being contract or law oriented, most Japanese still toda do not see anything intrinsically wrong with ignoring contractual agreements and laws in order to do what they think is best. Thus what you see, in Japan, may not be what you get.

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How the Japanese perceive and use knowlegde vs. the Western way

 

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Until 1990, when Japan’s so called “bubble economy” began to lose steam, many Western business and political leaders were frustrated at the continuing momentum of Japan’s economic juggernaut- and their seeming inability to understand it, much less slow it down. The feeling that Japan was playing unfairly resulted in a backlash against Japanese management practices that were once touted as worthy of copying. This irrational reaction was soon translated into political rhetoric that had a negative effect on Japan’s image abroad, reducing the possibility that those nations and businesses with the most to gain would learn anything of genuine benefit from their relations with Japan.

There were of course a number of reasons, both internal and external, for Japan’s extraordinary economic succes between 1945 and 1990. Suffice to say that the external conditions surely made more of a contribution to that success than any special talents or unique character the Japanese may have. Yet it is obvious that without those special talents and their distinctive way of looking at and doing things, the Japanese could not have succeeded to anywhere near the degree that they did.

Most of the special talents of the Japanese, along with their management systems, are visible for all to see and have been fairly well analysed and described both by Japanese and Western authorities. There is one aspect of the Japanese way of viewing and doing things that is too subtle to to be readily recognised and has so far remained hidden from virtually everyone. Not surprisingly, this still so far unrecognised factor is one of the most important ingredients in Japan’s past and ongoing economic succeses, beginning with the transition of the country between 1870 and 1900 from an agricultural and cottage industry economy to an industrialised power. In simple terms, this is still secret Japanese recipe for success is a way of perceiving, accumulating and using knowledge that is quite different from the way that prevails in the West- and also not surprisingly, it is a cultural manifestation of which the Japanese themselves are not fully aware.

information gathering

Bits and pieces

Generally speaking, westerners are conditioned to look at information or knowledge as bits and pieces that are inclusive within themselves and (except for scientists and a few other professionals) to expect nothing else and look no further. Books, teachers, the news media- the whole mass of information- presents the world to us in finite bits that more likely than not are almost always worthless in helping us understand the reality of the complex interrelated world around us. Thus while we are flooded by a continuous avalanche of information, we do not have the experience to use it to understand what is actually going on – in education, in business, in politics, or whatever- and we are therefore unable to fully benefit from it. On the whole, if outsiders were to judge the Western world from the viewpoint of our daily news, especially news carried in local paper and by local television stations, they would have to assume that we were all doomed and had very little time left.

The Japanese, on the other hand, have a different approach to viewing and using information- an approach that is both above and below the conscious level and is of vital importance when it comes to end results. Apparently because of the influence of Shinto, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs, Japanese people have traditionally looked at life and all of its facets, including knowledge, as part of a continuous flow of events, all interrelated, all essential to each other. Unlike Westerners, who tend to seek and utilize just enough information to get by or to accomplish the immediate, short range goals, the Japanese treat the search for, and utilisation of, information as an ongoing thing, without end, regardless of how or when they intend to use it.

This trait led the Japanese to automatically take an active rather than a reactive approach to information. In other words, Westerners tens to wait for events to take place, and then react on them, while the Japanese tend to anticipate events based on the flow of information coming in and act in a way to influence or take advantage of their outcome.

Until around 1990, this very substantial difference had a profound effect on the ability of better Japanese companies to control their destinies by giving them the information and guidelines they needed to make continuous, minute corrections in their policies and practices, in the same way that a ship constantly makes corrections to contend with the shifting wind and water.

dictators

Westerners wait for a crises

In Western business, it generally seems that it takes a crisis before managers can make fundamental changes in their operations, and these changes often cannot occur without top management being changed first. To add to the disadvantages of this approach, it seems that even these forced changes only take place in fifteen- to twenty year cycles. The reactive management philosophies of most Western companies is made even more disadvantageous because, at least unit recent times it has been common for the presidents and a few other individuals to run the companies by themselves, more or less like a dictatorship, eventually with the same inflexibility that come with this management style.

Japanese companies, despite the image they give to outsiders, are run more like democracies, in which the power of the presidents and other high executives is limited and a substantial number of employees play a direct role in management decisions. Section chiefs in Japanese companies- the famous ‘kacho’- along with special teams, spend a great deal of their time researching product and project concepts and the activities of competitors and reporting on them to the higher echelons of management.

All of Japan’s larger corporations have a steady flow of information being fed into them from their branches overseas. The huge trading combines such as Mitsui and Mitsubishi have international information-gathering networks that in many ways surpass the scope and efficiency of the largest government intelligence agencies! The overall body of information that goes into the management of Japanese companies therefore tend to be substantially larger and often of a much higher quality than what goes into the management of an average Western company. This despite the setbacks that the Japanese economy experienced since 1990, when the “bubble economy” began to collaps- a phenomenon that was brought on as much by government policies and practices as anything else.

Japan is struggling to reform the underlying tenets and structures of its economy, to internationalise it in a process known as ‘kyosei’. As this process moves forward, the information gathering and long range approach that is so much a part of the Japanese character will continue to provide them with tangible advantages in competing with the rest of the world. The term ‘kyosei’ means “symbiosis”, and it is used in the sense of loving and working in a totally cooperative manner- in harmony.

 

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10 Things Japanese People love to do in Autumn

1. Dig up the old camcorder for Sports day festivals at schools.

Health and Sports Day (体育の日 Taiiku no hi), also known as Health-Sports Day or Sports Day, is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle.

The first Health and Sports Day was held on October 10, 1966, two years after the 1964 Summer Olympics. October was chosen for the unusually late Summer Olympics to avoid the Japanese rainy season, and Health and Sports Day continues to be one of the fairest days of the year.[1]

In 2000, as a result of the Happy Monday Seido, Health and Sports Day was moved to the second Monday in October.[2]

As Health and Sports Day is a day to promote sports and physical and mental health, many[citation needed] schools and businesses choose this day to hold their annual Field Day (運動会 Undō-kai?), or sports day. This typically consists of a range of physical events ranging from more traditional track-and-field events such as the 100 metres or 4 x 100 metres relay to more uncommon events such as the tug of war and the Mock Cavalry Battle(騎馬戦 Kiba-sen?).

Most communities and school across Japan celebrate Sports Day with a sports festival which is similar to a mini Olympics. These festivals include many of the traditional track and field events, such as 4 x 100m relay, 100m sprinting, and long jump, as well as many other events. Some of the events include: ball toss, tug-o-war, rugby-ball dribbling races, sack races, and so on. Another common event is often simply called the “exciting relay”, which is an obstacle course relay including any number of different challenges: Three-legged races, making a stretcher with a blanket and bamboo poles and then carrying an “injured” teammate, laundry hanging, crawling on hands and knees under a net, and doing cartwheels across a mat.

The festival usually begins around 8:30 am with a parade featuring all the different teams that will be participating: it could be divided by neighbourhood, class, geographic area, or school. There is sometimes a local marching band providing music. Once the parade has gone around the field and lined up in the middle, the band will play Kimigayo and the Japanese flag will be raised. Local officials will make speeches welcoming everyone. Often everyone will spread out across the grounds for group stretching (this stretching routine was developed by the government and is done daily by many Japanese people; the stretching routine music is broadcast daily on the radio and TV). Then it is time to start the events.

Every event has prizes for the winners, usually something useful for around the house such as boxes of tissues, laundry detergent, dish soap, hand soap, saran wrap, wax paper, cooking oil and so on. Around 12:00 noon, the events will take a pause for lunch and sometimes traditional dancing. Lunch is usually a Bentō (lunchbox), typically including rice, fish, stewed vegetables, sushi,onigiri (rice balls) and other small Japanese treats.

As with the Olympics, the final event of the day is the 4 x 100m relay or 100m sprint. Following this, the points totals are tallied and the ending ceremony involves congratulatory speeches by local officials and the handing out of prizes to the top teams.

2. Bring along a book for reading at your favorite outdoor spot as the temperature cools to bearable instead of the swealtering hot temperatures and humidity that comes with a Japanese summer.

 

3. Picking, roasting, and eating “kuri,” or chestnuts.  Recipe for “kuri gohan”

Harvest The Largest Chestnuts of Japan in the Largest Katakuri Fields of Japan!

Saimyoji is an area in Nishiki Town, Semboku City. Saimyoji-guri (西明寺栗)is a chestnut species known as the largest chestnut of Japan.
Saimyoji-guri (Photo/Semboku City)
It is said that Lord Satake of Akita Clan has brought chestnut seeds from Tanba (Kyoto) and Mino (Gifu), and promoted the cultivation in Kitaura Area, which is now known as Semboku City.

The record shows that the Saimyoji-guri used to be called “Kitaura no Kuri” (Chestnut from Kitaura) and had been dedicated to the Lord of Akita during the Enpo and Genroku Era (1673 – 1703) and sometimes even in place of Nengumai (Annual Tax Rice).

What it is proud of is the size – the largest in JapanThe large size (L) would measure over 3 cm/ 1.18 in and weighs about 25 – 30 g / 0.88-1.5 oz! Imagine it could be as big as a infant’s fist. Quite impressive!

A champion of the Annual Samiyoji-guri All Japan Competition has brought a huge one that was about 5.7 x 4.7 cm/ 2.2 x 1.9 in and 66g / 2.23 oz!
Size of an infants’ fist! (Photo/Semboku City)
The nut is rather yellow and starchy with a delicious taste; the inner skin is thin; boiling hardly makes it mushy – therefore, it is often favored in Shibukawani, a dish in which chestnuts are cooked in syrup with the inner skin fully intact.
Such delicious dishes are being offered at restaurants around Semboku City during the harvesting season.
Why So Rare?
Regular chestnuts are harvested by shaking the trees, making the spiny cupules fall, from which the brown hard nuts were collected; however, Saimyoji-guri is so large and dense that is waited until they fall from the trees on the natural gravity!
That is why, to prevent the pests from damaging the fully ripe nuts, the farmers mown and take care of the orchard field very carefully.
The great quality of Saimyoji-guri has been attracting a lot of people. It is often questioned why they are not produced on larger scale to make it more available at markets for consumers.
It is because today there exit no more than a few orchards, and barely maintained by the veteran farmers. Cultivating each Saimyoji-guri tree and maintaining its quality cost enormous amount of care and efforts, so that the new farmers have been steered away. That is what makes the species so rare!
Katakuri, Dogtooth Violet, blooms in the Chestnut Orchards! (Photo/Semboku City)
The Orchard is Full of Chestnuts in Autumn and Dogtooth Violets in Spring:
While the trees there bares the delicious nuts in autumn, the fields are covered with beautiful vibrant purple flowers in spring – Katakuri, Dogtooth Violet, is the name of flowers.
Katakuri (Also called “Katanko” or “Katakko” in Nishiki) naturally covers the orchards as large as 20 hectare (4.2 times as Tokyo Dome) –that is one of “the Largest in Japan”!
The orchards are mown and maintained so that the soil is very fertile. The chestnut trees also provide the perfect sunlight condition for the Katakuri flowers to spread. Thanks to such efforts by the farmers, we could enjoy both the delicious chestnut and the beautiful flowers.
In the average years, the Katakuri flowers bloom from mid-April to early May.
Harvesting experience is popular for families. (Photo/Semboku City)
Chestnut Harvesting Experience:
The orchards are open to the public for harvesting experiences.
Kyunosuke Kuri-en (久之助栗園)
 TEL:0187-47-2407
 Address:秋田県仙北市西木町小山田字高野6
 Entrance Fee: 200 yen (Adult) /100 yen (Under 12)
 Take-Home: 800 yen/kg
Sasaki Kuri-en (佐々木栗園)
 TEL: 0187-47-3046 (Reservation is required.)
 Address:秋田県仙北市西木町小山田字鎌足186
 Entrance Fee: 200 yen
 Take-Home: 800 yen/kg
4. Tsukimi (moon-viewing), Tsukimi dango (rice cake) to eat while “celebrating the beauty of the moon”

Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi, literally moon-viewing, refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar; the waxing moon is celebrated on the 13th day of the ninth month. These days normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar.

The tradition dates to the Heian era, and is now so popular in Japan that some people repeat the activities for several evenings following the appearance of the full moon during the eighth lunisolar month.

Tsukimi traditions include displaying decorations made from Japanese pampas grass (susuki) and eating rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. Seasonal produce are also displayed as offerings to the moon. Sweet potatoes are offered to the full moon, while beans or chestnuts are offered to the waxing moon the following month. The alternate names of the celebrations, Imomeigetsu (literally “potato harvest moon”) and Mamemeigetsu (“bean harvest moon”) or Kurimeigetsu (“chestnut harvest moon”) are derived from these offerings.

Tsukimi refers to the Japanese tradition of holding parties to view the harvest moon. The custom is thought to have originated with Japanese aristocrats during the Heian period, who would gather to recite poetry under the full moon of the eighth month of the lunisolar calendar, known as the “Mid-Autumn Moon.” Since ancient times, Japanese people have described the eighth lunisolar month (corresponding to September on the contemporary Gregorian calendar) as the best time for looking at the moon, since the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon cause the moon to appear especially bright. On the evening of the full moon, it is traditional to gather in a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate the scene with Japanese pampas grass, and to serve white rice dumplings (known as Tsukimi dango), taroedamamechestnuts and other seasonal foods, plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest. These dishes are known collectively as Tsukimi dishes (月見料理 tsukimi ryōri?). Due to the ubiquity of sweet potato or taro among these dishes, the tradition is known as Imomeigetsu (芋名月?) or “Potato harvest moon” in some parts of Japan.

From 862 until 1683, the Japanese calendar was arranged so that the full moon fell on the 13th day of each month. In 1684, however, the calendar was altered so that the new moon fell on the first day of each month, moving the full moon two weeks later, to the 15th day of the month. While some people in Edo (present-day Tokyo) shifted their Tsukimi activities to the 15th day of the month, others continued to observe the festival on the 13th day. Furthermore, there were various regional observances in some parts of Japan on the 17th day of the month, as well as Buddhist observances on the 23rd or the 26th day, all of which were used as pretexts for often late-night parties during the autumn throughout the Edo period. This custom was brought to a swift end during the Meiji period.

Festivals dedicated to the moon have a long history in Japan. During the Heian period elements of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival were introduced to Japan. Members of the aristocratic class would hold moon-viewing events aboard boats in order to view the moon’s reflection on the surface of the water. The writing of tanka poetry was also an element of such mid-autumn moon viewing festivities.

There are specific terms in Japanese to refer to occasions when the moon is not visible on the traditional mid-autumn evening, including Mugetsu (無月 literally: no-moon) and Ugetsu (雨月 rain-moon). Even when the moon is not visible, however, Tsukimi parties are held.

5. Grill sanma (saury/mackerel pike) over an open flame BBQ

Saury, or sanma, is one of the most prominent seasonal foods representing autumn in Japanese cuisine. It is most commonly served salted and grilled (broiled) whole, garnished with daikon oroshi (grated daikon) and served alongside a bowl of rice and a bowl of miso soup. Other condiments may include soy sauce, orlimelemon, or other citrus juices. The intestines are bitter, but many people choose not to gut the fish, as many say its bitterness, balanced by the condiments, is part of the enjoyment. Salt-grilled saury is also served in Korea, where it is known as kongchi gui (꽁치구이).

Sanma sashimi is becoming increasingly available but is not common. It is rarely used for sushi; howeversanma-zushi is a regional delicacy along parts of the Kii Peninsula, especially along the coast of southernMie Prefecture. It is prepared by pickling the sanma in salt and vinegar (depending on the region, bitterorange or citron vinegar may be used), and then placing it on top of vinegared rice to create the finished sushi.

The fish can also be pan-fried or canned kabayaki. It is also used for fish meal and pet food in some Western countries, while in Alaska, pollock is more often used for this purpose.

6. Visit Kyoto to enjoy the changing autumn leaves.  Or, see “Kouyou” in Tokyo and Nagoya

In autumn, the leaves on most deciduous Japanese trees change their color to red, yellow or orange. The mountains, which I love to look at during this time of the year, are transformed by the beautiful colors of the leaves. The leaves are called, “kouyou” or “momiji”. The Japanese admire “kouyou” just as they admire cherry blossoms in spring. Their beauty has been expressed in poems and songs throughout Japanese history. The Japanese also enjoy, “momiji-gari (autumn leaf viewing)”, which is regarded as a seasonal event as important as, “hanami (cherry blossom viewing)”.

7. Spend a little extra on the ever-popular matsutake mushrooms.

Matsutake (Japanese松茸, pine mushroom, is the common name for a highly sought-after mycorrhizal mushroom that grows in AsiaEurope, and North America. It is prized by the Japanese and Chinese for its distinct spicy-aromatic odor.

Though simple to harvest, Matsutake are hard to find, causing the price to be very high. Domestic production of matsutake in Japan has been sharply reduced over the last 50 years due to a pinenematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, and it has influenced the price a great deal. The annual harvest of matsutake in Japan is now less than 1,000 tons, and the Japanese mushroom supply is largely made up by imports from ChinaKorea, the North American Pacific Northwest (Northern CaliforniaOregon,Washington, and British Columbia), and Northern Europe (Sweden and Finland).The price for matsutake in the Japanese market is highly dependent on quality, availability, and origin. The Japanese matsutake at the beginning of the season, which is the highest grade, can go up to $2,000 per kilogram. In contrast, the average value for imported matsutake is about $90 per kilogram.

 

8. Head back to the countryside and help out with the rice harvest

In Japan the harvest festival is the rice harvest. None of the rice is to be eaten until a special event has happened. There are dances and a procession and a huge feast.

Koshogatsu means literally “Small New Year” and starts with the first full moon of the year usually around January 15th. The main events of Koshogatsu are rites and practices praying for an ample harvest.

In the autumn harvest festivals are held, and the first fruits of the paddy field are offered to the gods.

In rural villages the entire community celebrates this autumn festival, and in many places floats carrying symbolic gods are paraded through the streets. At the Imperial Palace the Emperor fulfills the role of presenting offerings of new grain and produce to the gods.

The Shinto rites at New Year’s were originally festivals at which people prayed for a bountiful harvest in the coming year, and the rice-planting and other paddy-field festivals that are still celebrated throughout Japan also involve prayers for a good harvest. Kimono-clad girls, their sleeves tied back with red sashes, plant the rice, while musicians perform nearby with drums, flutes, and bells. The dance traditionally associated with such festivals gradually evolved as a part of the noh theater.

Yagan Orimi is a traditional harvest festival in Aguni, an island near mainland Okinawa. In recent years, have been visiting the island to see the festival, where islanders offer prayers not only for a good harvest, but, also for the safe delivery of their infants.

In Japan long ago, the new autumn rice harvest could not be eaten until after a festival in honor of the rice spirit. There was dancing, singing and waving of fans. Everyone joined in a great feast. Now that day is a national holiday and it takes place on November 23. The name of the festival has also been changed it is now called Labor Thanksgiving Day. At midnight the Japanese emperor offers the first fruits of autumn at a special altar.

In Japan there is a custom of tsukimi or also known as Moon-viewing which is observed on September 15 at the time of the full moon. Everyone sets up a table facing the horizon so as to see the moon rising, and place offerings on these tables to the spirit of the moon. These offerings include a vase holding the seven grasses of autumn, cooked vegetables and tsukimi dango or moon-viewing dumplings made out of rice flour.

9. Pack tents for one last camping trip before winter comes.

Unlike most European countries, the weather in autumn in Japan (unless you go farther north towards Hokkaido) tends to be rather mild and nice. The sun is out quite a bit and temperatures usually range between 10 and sometimes even up to 25 degrees. Perfect for camping!

10. Go to a conbini and get a nice warm sweet potato

 

 

 

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Masked Hero to the Rescue at a Tokyo Subway Station

 

Tokyo's super subway hero

Tokyo‘s super subway hero

In a green outfit with silver trim and matching mask, a superhero waits by the stairs of a Tokyo subway station, lending his strength to the elderly, passengers lugging heavy packages and mothers with baby strollers.

Japanese people find it hard to accept help, they feel obligated to the other person, so the mask really helps me out,” said Tadahiro Kanemasu.

The slender 27-year-old has spent three months being a good Samaritan at the station on Tokyo’s western side. Like many in the city, it has neither elevators nor escalators and a long flight of dimly lit stairs.

Inspiration came from the children he met at his job at an organic grocery store, which also prompted the color of his costume. He picked up the green Power Rangers suit and two spares at a discount store for $41 each.

Since Kanemasu can set aside only a couple of hours each day for his good deeds, he hopes to recruit others in different colored suits. Already he has inquiries about pink and red.

 

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Must see: ハーフ (hafu) A new movie about what it is to of mixed ethnicity

Synopsis

With an ever increasing movement of people between places in this transnational age, there is a mounting number of mixed-race people in Japan, some visible others not. “Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern day Japan. The film follows the lives of five “hafus”–the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese–as they explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that once proudly proclaimed itself as the mono-ethnic nation. For some of these hafus Japan is the only home they know, for some living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and others are caught somewhere between two different worlds.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, one in forty-nine babies born in Japan today are born into families with one non-Japanese parent. This newly emerging minority in Japan is under-documented and under-explored in both literature and media. The feature-length HD documentary film, “Hafu – the mixed-race experience in Japan” seeks to open this increasingly important dialogue. The film explores race, diversity, multiculturalism, nationality, and identity within the mixed-race community of Japan. And through this exploration, it seeks to answer the following questions: What does it mean to be hafu?; What does it mean to be Japanese?; and ultimately, What does all of this mean for Japan?

Narrated by the hafus themselves, along with candid interviews and cinéma vérité footage, the viewer is guided through a myriad of hafu experiences that are influenced by upbringing, family relationships, education, and even physical appearance. As the film interweaves five unique life stories, audiences discover the depth and diversity of hafu personal identities.

 

Featured Hafus

David

David (28) was born in a small village in Ghana, to a Ghanaian mother and a Japanese father. After spending 6 years in Ghana, they moved to Tokyo. However, due the to difficulty of adjusting to their new life in Japan, his parents separated when he was 10, after which he spent the next 8 years in an orphanage with his two brothers. When David went back to Ghana for the first time in his early 20s and saw the disparity in quality of life between his two countries, he realized how blessed he was to have grown up in Japan. He now uses his talents to raise funds to build schools back in Ghana.

Sophia

Raised entirely in Sydney, Sophia has only a few memories of Japan, where she visited her relatives as a child. At 27, Sophia decided it was time to explore her Japanese heritage, and so she has relocated to Tokyo, leaving behind friends, family and a job she enjoyed. She is determined to make a life for herself in Japan while attempting to learn the language from scratch. Will Japan live up to the expectations she’s held for so long? Will she be able to assimilate? And, ultimately, how will she identify herself after spending some time here?

The Oi family

Gabriela (Mexican, 37) and Tetsuya Oi (Japanese, 41) met when they were students both studying abroad in the United States. They fell in love, married and moved to Nagoya, Japan. In 2002, they welcomed a baby boy, Alex Oi, and two years later Sara. Alex (9) and Sara (7)have been attending Japanese elementary school. However, worried about how her children will straddle three languages (Spanish, Japanese, and English), Gabriela has started to investigate whether she should send her children through the international school system in Nagoya. Alex has also been increasingly showing physical symptoms of stress due to the teasing he receives from his classmates for being hafu. Through the Oi’s, this film looks at the tough decisions parents have to make in raising multicultural children.

Ed

Venezuelan-Japanese Edward (28)dreams of a multicultural Japan. Raised entirely in a single-mother home in Kobe, Ed received his formal education through the international school system.  There he found himself feeling disconnected from the surrounding Japanese community and upon leaving for university in the US, he felt no desire to return. But a few years later, he returned to Japan to take care of his aging mother and discovered a vibrant online community of mixed people, prompting him to form the offline community Mixed Roots Kansai (MRK). Through MRK, Ed is working toward realizing his dream of raising multiracial and multicultural awareness by pushing forward public dialogue and understanding of the changing demographics of Japan

Fusae

No one can tell that Fusae (35) is hafu just by looking at her. Fusae was born and raised in Kobe, to a Korean father—now a naturalised Japanese citizen—and a Japanese mother.  Until she was 15, she was raised to believe that she was entirely Japanese. Upon finding family documents alluding to her Korean roots, she confronted her mother to discover her mixed heritage–a traumatic experience for her at the time. After this revelation, she began looking into the differences between Japanese and Korean cultures. But 20 years later she is still struggling to redefine her place in society as a Korean/Japanese descendant. She has become actively involved in Mixed Roots Kansai. She feels by helping to organize such social events, she is helping younger people like her find acceptance with their mixed identities.

Meaning of “Hafu”

Hafu refers to somebody who is Half Japanese. The word Hafu comes from the English word “half” indicating half foreignness. The label emerged in the 1970s in Japan and is now the most commonly used label and preferred term of self-definition. Half-Japanese persons commonly introduce themselves by saying “I’m Hafu (Hafu desu)”. In modern Japan, the Hafu image projects an ideal; English ability, international cultural experience, western physical features – tall with long legs, small head/face, yet often looking Japanese enough for the majority to feel comfortable with. Yet the label Hafu highlights the genetic make up of half Japanese people, emphasizing the existence of foreign blood. Fashionable images of half Japanese people have become prominent especially with the increased appearance of Hafus in the Japanese media. Hafus now fill the pages of fashion magazines such as Non-no, Can Can or Vivi equivalent to Teen Vogue or Elle in Europe. Hafus are frequently seen on TV, often in the role of newsreaders, celebrities or DJs. To name a few, these include people like Becky (British/Japanese) – a young celebrity, Christel Takigawa (French/Japanese) – a newscaster, Kaela Kimura (British/Japanese) and Anna Tsuchiya(American/Japanese). The appearance of Hafus in the media has provided the basis for a vivid image of half Japanese people.

Why Hafu and not Daburu

In order to correct the negative nuance of half foreign-ness, a new term was created in the 1990s: “daburu,” deriving from the word double. It emphasises that Hafus are not half anything but one person with two different heritages. However this word has largely not been adopted by the Hafus themselves due to its overemphasis of positive self-assertion, and many feel that the term Hafu is acceptable.

Hafus in Japan

Japanese governmental statistics tell us that there were only 5,545 recorded international marriages in 1980. This more than doubled in 1985 when 12,181 international marriages were recorded. The figure doubled again 5 years later in 1990 with 25,626 marriages consisting of one foreign national. The number has steadily increased since then. It reached its peak in 2001 with 39,727 interracial marriages – this is 7 times the 1980 figure. Multiracial individuals or more specifically Hafus are therefore growing dramatically in Japan. Owing to the fact that data on ethnic/racial background is not collected anywhere in the Census in Japan (i.e. only nationality), it is hard to say exactly how many Hafus or mixed ‘race’ individuals live in Japan. However in 2004 we know that there were 39,511 international marriages, which accounted for about 5.5% of all marriages in Japan. A high number of them were between Japanese and Chinese (13,019), Philippines (8,517) and Korean (8,023) individuals. There were only 1,679 American Japanese, 524 Brazilian Japanese, 403 British Japanese marriages. So we can say that visible Hafus are a minority of the minority.

Internationalization in Japan

The number of foreign nationals living in Japan has increased in recently years. In 1985, about 850,000 foreigners lived in Japan. That figure doubled to 1,700,000 in the year 2000. Over the last few years the number has been steadily growing and in 2006 there were about 2,100,000 residents with foreign nationality. Therefore the number of foreigners in Japan in 2006 was almost three times that in 1985. This is a firm indication of Japan’s increasing internationalization.

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Only in Japan: A restaurant with monkeys as waiters

A Japanese restaurant has changed the face of customer service by employing two monkeys to help with the table service.

The Kayabukiya tavern, a traditional ‘sake house’ north of Tokyo has employed a pair of uniformed Japanese macaque called Yat-chan and Fuku-chan to serve patrons.

Twelve-year-old Yat-chan is the crowd-pleaser as he moves quickly between tables taking customer drink orders.

Monkeys working as waiters

Monkey business: Yat-chan moves quickly between tables taking drinks to customers at the Kayabukiya tavern

The younger of the two, Fuku-chan is quick to give the diners a hot towel to help them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.

Yat-chan and Fuku-chan, who are both certified by the local authorities to work in the tavern are well appreciate by customers, who tip them with soya beans.

‘The monkeys are actually better waiters than some really bad human ones,’ customer Takayoshi Soeno said.

Tavern owner Kaoru Otsuka, 63, originally kept the monkeys as household pets – but when the older one started aping him he realised they were capable of working in the restaurant.

Yat-chan first learned by just watching me working in the restaurant,’ he said.

‘It all started when one day I gave him a hot towel out of curiosity and he brought the towel to the customer.’

A regular of the tavern, 58-year-old Shoichi Yano, says the animals are like her children.

‘Actually, [they’re] better,’ she said. ‘My son doesn’t listen to me but Yat-chan will.’

Some clients, like retiree Miho Takikkawa, say Yat-chan appears to understand their exact orders.

We called out for more beer just then and it brought us some beer,” she said. “It’s amazing how it seems to understand human words.’

The monkeys work in shifts of up to two hours a day due to Japanese animal rights regulations.

But the owner is hoping to bring up the next generation of monkey waiters, and is already training three baby monkeys to work as waiters.

Watch the skilled monkey waiters at work

Address:

かやぶき

栃木県宇都宮市御幸本町4688

028-662-3751

Categories: Japanese customs, Must see, News about Japan, Stories about Japan, Things to do, Where to drink, Where to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The importance of social etiquette in urban Japan

Ask someone to describe the Japanese people in 10 words or fewer and more often than not “polite” or “reserved” will appear somewhere in the mix. Japan is known the world over as a safe, pleasant place to live where people are on the whole helpful and courteous; few people visit Japan and return home with tales of rude airport staff or inattentive waitresses.

When I first came to Japan, I had the pleasure of living for five years in a pretty little town in Fukushima Prefecture, surrounded by rice fields, rivers and some of the deepest greens I have ever seen. Of course, I experienced the warmth of locals’ hospitality and kindness first-hand, but it was only in when I moved south to Tokyo in 2011 that I came to understand the real meaning of the word “mana” (manner), and began to appreciate how much more important it is in urban living.

An English word adopted into the Japanese lexicon, “mana” is used to describe everything from not sticking your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice to putting your mobile phone in discreet mode during a meeting. During my time in Fukushima, I had become accustomed to Japanese customs and rules of social etiquette — saying “itadakimasu” and “gochisosama deshita” before and after a meal, respectively; reversing into a parking space so as not to make others wait while I reversed out later; saying “ojamashimasu” when entering someone’s home or office — but city manners, I soon came to realise, is an entirely different beast.

With its population of more than 12 million, to say that Tokyo is crowded would be putting it mildly. Add an extra 3 million to that figure to include those commuting into the city from outside areas each day to arrive at a staggering 15 million. With so many people squeezed into such a small space, it’s little wonder that manners are such an important a part of daily life.

Every year, numerous surveys are carried out both by independent groups of statisticians and the three big rail companies – JR (Japan Rail), Keio, and Odakyu. Their goal: finding out what really gets on commuters’ nerves.

When it comes to interaction with other people and a lack of personal space, nothing can trump the rush-hour trains in Tokyo, so it’s only natural that, crammed into these steel tubes twice a day, five days a week, little annoyances are eventually going to take their toll on commuters. With this in mind, transport companies endeavor to keep abreast of the things that irk their customers, and hopefully take steps to dissuade such activities.

So what really ticks Tokyo’s commuters off? Of all the surveys and tables of data published in the last few years, the most common annoyances reported include:

1. People eating and drinking on the train

2. Not waiting for others to alight before boarding

3. Not removing backpacks when it’s crowded

and my own personal pet hate

4. Listening to music too loudly through headphones.

On those busy trains, there’s plenty to get on your nerves before long, it would seem.

But these are all merely insignificant niggles when compared to the two top-ranking offenders, which have remained unchanged for years: using mobile phones and sitting inconsiderately and taking up seats.

Mobile phones are nothing new, but since the birth of the smartphone, allowing us to browse the internet, check our Facebook account or tweet about the annoying guy beside us who keeps peering at our screen, just about everyone has a mobile in their hand during their commute. While operating a mobile phone inside a train is not in itself considered rude, talking on the phone, or allowing it to ring, beep, or — as once happened to me and caused me a great deal of embarrassment — accidentally play an obnoxiously loud YouTube video, is a definite no-no.

Perhaps the reason Japanese people have such a reputation for impeccable politeness and consideration is due to the very architecture and shape of their society. In city areas, where land is sold at a premium and buildings are designed with ever-ingenious space-saving features, people often live in extremely close proximity to others. Thinking about others and how one’s own actions may affect, or bother, those around us, is more of a necessity here than it is in many developed countries. So when people violate these codes of conduct it stands out.

A friend of mine once told me of an incident he’d witnessed on his way to work that at once surprised him and made his day. On a crowded Shinjuku Station platform early one weekday morning, a pair of young foreigners were waiting for a train, both looking a little dishevelled as though they were making their way home after a night on the town. The taller of the two lit a cigarette and started smoking, seemingly oblivious to the glares he was receiving from those around him. Mere seconds later their train pulled into the station, so, with no time to finish his cigarette, the young man threw it on the ground, gave it a half-hearted stamp and moved to board the train.

To their right, a young Japanese couple looked on, their expressions a mixture of anger and frustration. The smoker suddenly noticed the couple looking between him and his discarded cigarette, but merely affected an apologetic smile while putting his hands together and making a small, sarcastic bow. Chuckling, he and his friend jumped on the train.

My friend was about to lose his temper, and felt that, as a foreigner himself, he ought to say something. But before he could even open his mouth, the young Japanese woman had already walked over to the discarded cigarette and picked it up. She hopped on the train after the pair, approached the smoker and calmly popped the cigarette into his breast pocket, before turning on her heel and stepping off the train. The doors closed and the train swept the young men, literally open mouthed, out of the station. The young woman, meanwhile, rejoined her partner wearing a huge grin and exchanged a cheesy high-five.

It’s still rare to see people take a stand like this, especially since incidents of “gyaku-gire” (where the offender turns angry after being reproached) are being reported more and more in the news, and it is simply not in most Japanese people’s nature to cause a scene in public, but there is a definite feeling of transition in the air in Tokyo when it comes to upholding rules with regard to appropriate manner. Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that all Japanese are champions of courtesy and politeness (nor do I share my friend’s story to suggest that non-Japanese are the villains here), and there are plenty of people who will happily ignore the rules, but these occasional outbursts seldom go unnoticed. In a city where people spend the vast majority of their time either in shared spaces while at work or commuting, or in close proximity to others while living in apartment-style housing, it’s difficult to imagine Tokyo functioning any other way.

Smoking has been prohibited in Tokyo’s stations since 2009 after many complained of passive smoke while waiting for their trains. And while it’s still legal to smoke in many public places like restaurants and “izakaya,” attitudes are slowly changing. A number of cities within the Tokyo area, for instance, now have no smoking emblems emblazoned on many roadways and pavements, and people are asked to smoke only in designated smoking areas. Anti-smoking poster campaigns, which are almost always based on manners and public perceptions of smokers rather than health risks, are a regular sight around stations, especially Japan Tobacco’s now famous ‘green men’ posters, that warn smokers about everything from breaking a child’s heart by putting out a cigarette in the snowman they built, to looking uncool by tossing a butt on the ground like the hero in an antiquated cowboy film.

Similarly, Tokyo Metro’s “Ie de Yaro” (Do it at home) poster campaign goes some way toward showing how important manners are in Japanese commuting life by depicting various anti-social acts such as falling asleep drunk, taking seats meant for disabled or elderly passengers, or applying make-up on the train (although personally I don’t have an issue with someone wanting to add a little mascara while commuting…), and politely asks “Please do it at home.” It’s clear that in the land where trains run on time and people bow while talking on the phone, Japan’s society also relies heavily on co-operation and the consideration of others.

So remember, kids: remove your backpack when it’s crowded, switch your phone to manner mode and get ready to give up your seat to an old lady. Chances are if you don’t, someone nearby might be working up the courage to tell you to.

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Omiai: Love and sex in ancient Japan

Marriage in Japan during the Heinan period

Marriage the way we see it has been a pretty recent phenomenon in Japanese history. During the Heinan period (794-1185) “marriages” were not seen as permanent arrangements. High born people could generally have several partners during their lifetime. Lower class people could not afford to keep more than one wife at a time, but they could change wives easily if the current wives family was of lower social status and could not bring political pressure against them.

 

Men could avoid being “tied down” to wives by not bringing them into their ancestral home and not building or maintaining private homes for them. A union was more of a family affair where two household were combined, not unlike in the middle ages in Europe, , rather than it being a private affair between two people. Even the children belonged to the household and not to any one of their parents.

Policital alliances

Between the 11th and 15th century, marriages in Japan became even more politicized and controlled by local authorities. The main purpose of marriage shifted from producing off spring to guaranteeing the continuation of the household, to providing guarantees of the social status of the family and ensuring their cooperation. Families took great care to make sure their sons and daughters married to someone of equal or above status. Multiple wives became less common in the upper class and their marriages became more like political alliances.

During the early decades of the Edo or Tokugawa period (1603-1868) the shogunate totally bureaucratized society, permanently fixing the people in the class of their birth as samurai, artist/craftsman, merchants, bankers and farmers. All families were required to register with local authorities and copies of koseki or “family registers” were provided to the shogunate government. The social status of each individual family was fixed in these registers.

Multiple pre-marriage partners

A marriage had to be approved first by a go-between, a role played by local government officals, to make sure that the proper social relationships were maintained and then the marriage had to be cleared by higher authorities. Generally speaking the only youngsters that had a say in their choices of marriages were the sons and daughters of farmers, who over the ages had continued the early aristocratic practice of multiple pre-marriage relationships and finally settling on a partner only after the girl in question became pregnant.

Young unmarried farmers traditionally met in ‘wakamo yado’ roughly translated as “young peoples huts”, to have sex. Young men also traditionally engaged in ‘yobai’, “night time visiting”, of the homes of young women. If a young woman allowed a particular man to continue the ‘yobai’ visits and as a result, became pregnant, the pair would be united in marriage.

After a fall down of the shogunate system of government and elimination of the fixed social classes in 1868, marriages were no longer subject to official government approval. The system of family registration however, still continued, and families still arranged alliances between household for their sons and daughters.

(Graph showing the relation beween love marriages and arranged marriages in Japan)

Arranged marriages

Arranging for two marriage candidates to meet for the first time, was known as Miai, which generally translates as “meet and see”, or more formally as ‘omiai” “honerable meet and see”. Omiai meetings were arranged by relativesm an employer or a go-between, after the families had been thorougly investigated to makes sure their social status was compatible, and photographs were then exchanged.

Arranged marriages or ‘omiai kekkon’ were continied to be the norm in Japan until well into the 1960s, some 20 years after the feudal household law was abolished following the end of WWII.

It was not until the mid 1950s that single Japanese boys and girls began dating “Western style” for the first time in the history of the country. This naturally resulted in the increase of “love marriages” or renai kekkon.

Arranged marriages today

Arranged marriages are still common in Japan today, however especially among the upper classes where marriages continue to be an economic, political and above all, a social union. The tradition of ‘wakamono yado’ continues in the form of  “Love Hotels”and the ‘yobai’ custom has been replaced by visits to the ‘onsen’ or hotspring spa’s and other resorts.

Dozens of marriage bureaus, some of them operating on a very large scale and using the latest technology, have replaced the professional ‘nakodo’ or “go-betweens” and modern ‘omiai’ are arranged in coffee shops, restaurants and hotel lounges. Especially since Japanese people generally do not know how to communicate with the other sex due to going to seperate schools (not all schools are segregated, but all boys or all girls schools are still common in Japan today), seems to be a major cause for marriage brokers to continue to have a job in the foreseeable future.

(source: Japan’s cultural code words)

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