Two Japanese Life Skills You Must Master

If you want to be a success in Japan, there are only two things you really need to nail.  The unfortunate small problem is, they’re opposites.  But perhaps a colorful story will help to illustrate.

So I was in a “standing bar” a couple of weeks ago, which is like a normal bar, or really a restaurant because they serve food too, only without any seats.  It’s just about the worst invention the Japanese ever came up with.  Like, who wants to have drinks and food standing up?  Would it kill you to put in some barstools?  But anyway, so I’m standing there having a conversation with this rather attractive Japanese lady and I order some fish in a can on toast.   And things are going pretty well between us, you know, until suddenly her husband shows up.  So that was a little disappointing.  But whatever, he turned out to be a really nice guy and bought me a beer and I Continue reading “Two Japanese Life Skills You Must Master”

How to Bow Like a Japanese

What could be more typically Japanese than bowing?  Every other book about Japan has something to say on the subject, so it must be important, right?  Certainly a lot of foreigners come to Japan and start bowing like crazy, so maybe they all read the same book.

It’s common knowledge, if not entirely correct, that bowing is a sign of respect, gratitude, or apology in Japanese society.  And there’s no shortage of information on how to do it properly, how deeply one should bow, or what to do with your hands.  There’s just one missing piece . . . Continue reading “How to Bow Like a Japanese”

Navigating a Japanese Starbucks

The first time I walked into a Japanese Starbucks, I thought I was ready.  It’s pretty easy, really.  “Large” translates to “Grande,” in some bizarro Italian-English-Japanese-word hybrid, and “coffee” is just a bastardized pronunciation of the same:  “ko-hee.”  Even “Hot” is, well, “Hotto.”  So it’s not rocket science.  Coffee’s just about all they sell, so they’ll definitely figure it out.  Anyway, that’s what I thought. Continue reading “Navigating a Japanese Starbucks”

The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo

At first, you might think the Japanese place great importance on addressing others properly.  After all, it’s a nation where even elephants get called Zou-san.  That’s Mr. Elephant to you.

The reality is that this naming convention works flawlessly until someone who looks “foreign” enters the scene, at which point thousands of years of custom go straight out the window. Continue reading “The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo”