Ask me about Japan and Japanese people [for fun, curiosity, or research]

If you want to ignore all the stuff below, feel free, but there are some nice suggestions down there you won’t want to miss :wink:

I thought if I could do an AMA, it should be something useful to you guys like this. I have lived in Japan, but I’m also part Japanese on my father’s side. I also really, really, REALLY appreciate when people ask me about Japan things for their story to not misrepresent.

Like Japanese names. Some stories I’ve read in the past had made-up names claimed to be Japanese. I wished those people did more research.

Background about me:

I have lived in Japan...

…since I was two (1994), I’m double (Japanese-American, or American-Japanese, however you look at it). I was born in the states, but I don’t remember any of it. I went to normal Japanese schools from kindergarten to high school. So, yeah, 90s kid.

I live every day in Japan and I’m aware of what kind of things regular, everyday people think about or talk about. I have Japanese friends.

But I also have quite an international side, so, I might not be able to give a “general Japanese person” answer all the time. I might not know certain things because I’m not interested in them (like sports, for example).

I can give facts. I’ll tell you when it’s subjective.

The No Topics:

What I CAN'T talk about:
  • Sports (not interested)
  • Anime (I watched Kirby, some Pokemon, and Ghibli, that’s it)
  • Music (I listen to a lot of non-Japanese artists, so, can’t tell ya anything about this)
  • Television (I don’t watch it)
  • Sushi (I don’t like fish)
  • Japanese YouTube (I watch, like, Karen Puzzles, Khadija Mbowe, Jaiden Animations, sometimes Merphy Napier, Ryukhar, Ali Spagnola etc. :woman_shrugging: )
I won't talk about it here, but you can message me:

What bullying is like in Japanese schools. It will vary from situation to situation, school to school, and person to person. Not always like they show in anime or movies, although I have heard such horrible situations have happened, sadly, in some schools. I have experienced and seen some things, but I don’t want to have it in the main threads. If you want this information, message me personally.

The Yes Topics Suggestions:

General topics suggestions:

Grocery stores
Neighborhood things
Summer festival
Trains, busses
Things kids talk about
Committees (I joined the animal caring committee in elementary school to take care of the parakeets and bunnies)
Any kind of etiquette (I’ll do my best to answer)
What’s in a house, traditional and modern
Fashion? maybe.
Golden Week
White Day
What people not in a religion generally do on Christmas
How traditional American holidays are received
School festivals (had two in junior high, one in high school at my particular school)
etc. etc.

Specific things related to my personal life, that I can talk about:
  • Being a double person in Japan in the 90s in a rural part of Japan.
  • How American or English-speaking foreigners have been treated.
  • How an English-speaking, obviously double person like me is seen as
  • What normal Japanese kids or teens talk about in school.
  • What Japan school drama was like at my specific school (oh, the things I have seen :eyes: )
  • What Japan school cliques/groups were like at my private junior high and high school
  • I went to a Catholic junior high and high school not because of religion. But I can tell you about that experience if you are curious.
  • Going to church in Japan (my American mom is Christian, so we did go a few times)
  • I did, for a short time, have a part-time job at 7-11, before going to university at 19 (so, if you need this kind of information, I have some).

And, of course, anything you can think of (gender, sexuality, disability, I haven’t been keeping up with recent news very well, so, I’ll do my best). As for politics, I can give you some general facts and popular ideas and stuff. I won’t give my personal views, er, try not to XD I mean, I am seeing it all through my eyes, so it might become a tiny bit subjective :stuck_out_tongue:

But how Japanese am I really?

I went abroad to the U.S. for a year when I was 20:
  • I was shocked to see university couples giving each other a kiss in the school cafeteria. PDA beyond holding hands and hugging is not common.
  • I felt awkward and strange when friends wanted to hug me. We do not do this in Japan.
  • The cashier talking to me about if I found everything caught me off guard. We do not do this in Japan. Ever.
  • I could not get myself to call my professor by his first name even though he said to do it. In Japan, it’s really, really rude to call your teacher by their first name.

I hope that was easy to read and organized.

Anyway, ask away :wink:


You say you’ve study aboard in America, what made you want to do that? Were you curious about the country or it was purely educational reasons or something else entirely?

What were some other things that really shocked you when you studied in America, that would freak you out if it happened in your native homeland of Japan, since that would never even happen?

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Is KFC for xmas a real thing in Japan?

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That’s ok. Id be asking about My Neighbor Totoro if I did ask anything outside:

What areas have you visited in Japan?

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Does Japan have Old people playgrounds like in China?

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This was part of my school program. Everyone had to go somewhere abroad for a year in their sophomore year. I knew I wanted to go to the U.S. So, I guess you could say it was for educational reasons :stuck_out_tongue:

Apart from the things I said? Hmm…I can’t think of anything else other than the things I already mentioned.

Yep :stuck_out_tongue: My mom thought it was funny and we did it one year. It is kinda fun.

Not very many. Niigata (used to live there), Nagano, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Kagoshima, Okinawa, Kyoto. Most of them are day trips.

I just looked it up. Wow. And nope.

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This is the land of how many subcultures? 2 towns/provinces aren’t 100% alike, but many of them are very similar, so Ive no way to gauge this.

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Well, there’s 46 locations. Think of it like that.

I would say the most different, unique ones are Kagoshima, Okinawa, and Kyoto.

Nagano was for an onsen (hot springs) and it’s close to where my hometown is, so, just easy to get to. Kanagawa was to go to Yokohama. There’s a giant aquarium there. Ibaraki and Tochigi have mountains and water and are pretty much the same thing :stuck_out_tongue: They are also next to each other.


So, trying to write it authentically would take a t least a few notes on the differences ans making sure they are distinct withoit breaki g up the peiple too much.


Oh wow! That sounds really cool!

Alright. I shall return with some more questions later.

Thanks for answering.

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Right, and usually in the cities of each place you won’t find too many differences. It’s when you go to the countryside that you’d find the most differences. I suppose it’s not that much different from the U.S. Big cities start to look like every other big city. Countryside towns and villages can be different when you compare them in one location and another.

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Well, it’s ki d of true that cities can look alike, even on a global scale, but our cities can be something else.

So this is the downtown of

New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco…

There is so much dang space in the US

But New York is like America stitched a bunch of nations together:

The Best Ethnic Neighborhoods in New York City

Chicago tries to out-America every other city:

Culture of Chicago - Wikipedia

The food culture is very different fromnthe rest of the nation in New Orleans, but also, since bedrock is very hard to hit, we have very limited skyscrapers, and most the city is short. It’s one of the reasons why its one of the smaller ciites in the US. New Orleans is Colonial French/Spanish:

A First-Timer's Guide to the French Quarter

San Francisco comes across as really hilly for a seaside city:

9 Iconic Must See Places In San Francisco — ROAD TRIP USA

Part of this is that all 4 have totally different climates, New York and New Orleans were first colonies of very different nations, Chicago was an expansionist and isolationist build (its amazing its as diverse as it is), and California has a whole mountain range blocking it from the rest of the nation and a gold rush to thank for its ever-changing nature (although it counts as colonial, too).

Cites cloaer to these icons look more alike. New Orleans is extremly unique, but Baton Rouge has a lot of its culture. New York has more in common with East coast cities. Midwest cites are compared to Chicago all the time. San Francisco will have a lot in common with the whole western board’s cities.

But ehat we dont have is one dominant European culture, so even if we can say that America is white-dominant (a full 3rd or the given population aint European), it has done some strange things to the close-up details.

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Can you buy cheese in a can in Japan or is that only an American thing?


I have quite a few just because I’m curious and have heard a lot through TikTok, but also don’t know if that is adding to the stereotypes, etc.

  1. I think one of my biggest questions would be about weight. Is it true that the majority is crazy about weight, like how you’re supposed to be thin and whatnot? And if anyone comes to Japan without that ideal body, you’re silently/loudly judged for it? I’ve heard that in many Asian countries, the sizes are super small in general, but only because they promote being super small, and chastised people for being bigger… which, sure, is not much different elsewhere, but coming from America where beauty standards are different in some ways, seems a little crazy… lol

  2. On a daily basis, do people speak only Japanese to each other, or do they speak in other languages if bilingual? Whether or not they’re an English speaker. Some of my co-workers are bilingual (Spanish and English), and when they talk to each other, they often speak Spanish the most to each other, but sometimes lean into English as they converse or use English words if they forget a word and just know it in English. Although, I don’t know if this is just a bilingual thing? :sweat_smile: English is my first and only language, and the only other people I know who are bilingual are my in-laws (also Spanish speakers), but they only speak Spanish to the people who don’t know English. Otherwise, they only ever speak English.

  3. There’s a show I watched, called Heroes, where in a scene, one of the main characters (Masi Oka) was at his workplace in Japan, and him and a bunch of his colleagues took a break to do some meditations in their suits and work outfits. Is this just a weird thing the creators did or do some places in Japan (or possibly in other Asian countries) take a moment to meditate and exercise during work hours?

  4. What are the biggest holidays (religious or not) in Japan? How do you celebrate them?

  5. Do most public schools have uniforms? And if so, does it really look like what most anime (or other) have?

Something like that? ^^

I don’t watch anime, not really, but any time I come across a movie or show with a Japanese school, they tend to show these types of uniforms, and I was just curious if it was a true uniform? xD Or if it was a type of uniform only worn in specific schools?

  1. I’ve heard that public spaces in Japan, like taking the train, is often quiet because it’s rude to be loud (on your phone, talking to people, etc.)… is this true? And if so, isn’t it awkward to just sit there in silence sometimes? Like, staring at someone or the floor, or not having conversations with friends or whatnot?

  2. It’s so weird that in some places in Japan (specifically Tokyo) have vending machines with random foods (there’s a video by Safiya Nygaard on YouTube where she tries them out). Here in America, this isn’t common at all. Vending machines here only carry snacks like chips, gum, a bag of cookies (like Chips A’hoy), or sodas. Although, in Las Vegas, there’s Cake Boss vending machines and in some casinos, there’s cigarette vending machines. But those aren’t common everywhere, especially in public spaces. So when I saw Safiya using a vending machine for actual food, that was crazy… Have you ever tried one? What did you get and was it good?

  3. How are Americans/English speaking foreigners viewed and treated?

  4. What is your favorite food?

  5. Does your family (and or others you know of) eat dinner/meals at the dining table or do you gather in the living room to watch TV or go somewhere else in the house?

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I haven’t seen it, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

If you go to a shop called Tokyu Hands or Loft, you can by bread in a can :stuck_out_tongue: It’s a silly little entertainment type of thing. I have never tried it. It sounds gross :sweat_smile:

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Does that mean that the Squidward Gated Community is in Japan?

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Not majority. Japan does go through diet food phases. We had a banana one many years ago and it was crazy because bananas would be sold out everywhere XD Glad that’s over.

But overly obese people are quite rare and might get a bit of a side-eye. But no one will loudly say anything. Everyone keeps to themselves. There are people who are plus size and we do have local clothes stores that have bigger sizes.

Like every country, some form of thinness is promoted, yes, but not heavily and no one will push you down or loudly comment on your weight.

Japanese. Japanese, Japanese, and Japanese XD

Most people can only speak basic, basic English if any. If you happen across someone in Tokyo or Kyoto, one of those big, big touristy places and you’re around the major city areas, you can ask questions to people in English and they will be able to understand you and point you in the right direction. Policemen in Tokyo seem to know their basic English to help.

If you go to a university that has an all-English program, you will hear people switch between Japanese and English, but not so much. Usually they would speak in Japanese unless they can’t.

Bilingual people in an international setting might switch. I have come across people that do. But not very many. Not in the schools I went to and certainly not in the junior high or high schools I went to.

Might be different now…idk.

But if in Japan, only Japanese is the majority on a daily basis for many places.

That is weird XD Never heard about anything like that. Do they work at a yoga office or something? XD I think if companies in Japan did that, no one would be stressed out to the point of getting sick :stuck_out_tongue:

Summer festival a.k.a natsu matsuri (natsu is summer, matsuri is a type of religious festival). Well, it was religious more long time ago to supposedly celebrate the coming harvest season and to get people to come together. We should be doing it in the fall when it makes more sense, but we do it in the dead heat of summer.

There’s lots of little food stalls all along the walkways and there’s a big “mikoshi” (idk how to explain it…example pictures below of some major summer festivals around Japan) and many drum performances with the giant “taiko” drums. And we have the fireworks that are seriously nothing like the loud ones in the U.S. (also photos below).

Some people dress up in “yukata” and dance and eat. Lots of people go with their families to have a great time. And to famous ones like the pictures below, people from around Japan gather to witness it.

Photos of the Summer Festival

Not my photos. None of them.

The big daruma and the mikoshi with all the drummers in front in Gunma Prefecture.

Fireworks of Gunma Prefecture. Fireworks typically happen on the second and last day of the summer festival. Usually it is two days, but some prefectures celebrate for three or four, I have heard.

It’s a little hard to tell, but there’s this one fireworks company that creates character fireworks and this is a cat. They’ve also done Doraemon and Anpanman (if you know these, idk) and a random smiley face, and a frog.

More mikoshi and a girl wearing a “yukata” which is the summer outfit (not as hot and heavy as a kimono and I think only one layer) and a guy wearing a “hakama” which is the guy’s version.

The mikoshi in Aomori Prefecture is known to be extravagant. People from all over Japan go to see it, apparently.

As for other holidays…I would say Summer Festival is the biggest, then probably Golden Week which is a week of holidays starting on the 29th of April to the 5th of May. May 1 and 2 are not holidays but depending on the year, we have had those days come on the weekends, so then we truly get a Golden Week.

I could explain each holiday, but honestly, no one celebrates each holiday has a separate holiday except for the fifth of May which is Children’s Day and houses with boy kids put up carp flags (I have no idea what it stands for, don’t ask XD). It’s called Children’s Day, but it’s considered boy’s day, while March 3rd is considered girl’s day. But Children’s Day is for every kid.

Carp Flags a.k.a koi nobori

(koi is carp, and nobori is a super, ancient old way of saying flag. “noboru” means to “climb up” and “nobori” is the noun of that, so, I’m guessing, because you make the flags go up, that’s why it’s called that.)

This is kinda what a big one looks like. Apparently, each flag has meaning. Even the non-fish thing on the top there.

Yes. Even private schools. I had a uniform. Some schools actually do have uniforms like anime with the big bow in front. Some don’t. But they are not colorful. The white “sailor” uniform, I have seen some schools with it, but not a lot. Usually, I have seen elementary school kids in Tokyo wearing that type. Some elementary schools in Tokyo apparently have uniforms.

Like this

Idk who these kids are or what school this is, but this is a pretty typical school uniform. My uniform, the girls didn’t have to wear bows or ties. And our summer skirt was plaid. The boys also had plaid pants and a thinner material to be cooler. My winter skirt and the boy’s pants were dark blue. We had POCKETS in our skirts :grin:

Oh yes, and socks at our school had to be white but sports socks had exceptions.

Some high school somewhere has this, sailor type shirt for girls for the summer.

Oh yeah, Sailor Moon in heels? Yeah, that’s a no. No heels. Usually loafers or sneakers. And Sailor Moon’s long skirt coming just above the knee would be within the rules of skirt length in a conservative way (public schools are stricter about this than private schools).

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You can talk with friends just don’t be loud. You are in a public place. Would you be excessively loud in a restaurant? No, right? The same thing.

And no phone calling on the train. Try not to. Unless emergency. And it’s not awkward to be quiet. I either sleep or play games on my phone or whatever. Or stare out the window behind the person across from me, or look around at the people casually. Most people are on their phones these days.

The ones that make the food? No. I don’t come across those very often actually. There are places you can go that have a bunch. I just haven’t been.

But ones with other snacks? Uh, once got some chocolate chip bread. It’s the same as getting it at a convenience store. Not like anything special :stuck_out_tongue: The usual.

Back in the 90s, my mom and I would be out in public, talking in English and get the longest stares as if we are from Mars XD I used to joke about it like that. These days, maybe little kids might turn and look, but adults have gotten so much better. Hardly anyone bats an eye at my mom.

In Tokyo, no. No problem at all. In fact, it would be rare not to see a foreigner or hear English.

In the whole wide world? Ravioli XD

Japanese food? Hmm…maybe Hayashi Rice. It’s made with demi glace sauce (I had to look up the English for this). And it has beef in it, and you eat it with rice on the side. It’s sooooooooooo good :yum: In fact, I just had it for dinner :wink:

If you wanna be fancy, you can put some cream on it, you know, the thick coffee cream? Just trickle some on. And if you want more toppings, boiled egg goes really well with it.

My parents don’t watch TV, so, they’re not a good example XD

My grandparents used to always have the TV on while eating dinner. The TV was in the living room but the dining room is connected, so they would have the TV in the corner, then in front there was the couch, then in back of the couch was the dining table.

They’d always have something on. If I visited, I was allowed to change it to whatever I wanted. The moment dinner started, I would get the remote control. Grandchild’s privileges :grin: Ah, good times.

This is my own experience though.

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Yep XD He’d love it here.

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any questions?