When I came to Japan originally, it was through the military. I’m from a small town in Georgia and even though I’d been a long-time anime fan, I hadn’t the slightest idea about Japan! The closest thing I’d seen about what The Land of The Rising Sun was like was on Cartoon Network (an American channel that featured many of American’s first taste of Japanese anime) and I had no idea what to expect in Japan! Then I joined the military and was given orders to serve two years in Okinawa. My first thought: “What is an Okinawa and how do you eat it?”
To help you understand Japan, here are some things that shocked me when I move to Japan. I’m going to show you what to expect in Japan.
How Japan isn’t like anime
Using the word “Ore”
What to expect from the Japanese language? It’s not okay to refer to yourself using words like ‘ore’ or to speak tough the way characters sometimes do in anime. Although it’s used in anime, using language like this can be super taboo in Japan in certain situations. The way you speak has a lot to do with your relationship with the person you’re conversing with. Unless you know how to use Japanese learned in anime effectively, it’s better to play it safe and try to use parts of the language that you’re confident with. Otherwise, you run the risk of unintentionally offending someone or coming off as ignorant.
Everyone knows Martial Arts
Well, not everyone knows martial arts. It’s the same as where you’re from. You probably learn some sort of basic self-defense at some point in your life but the stuff you see in anime is as much an exaggeration in Japan as it would be anywhere else in the world.
People don’t dress the way folks do in anime. When you watch anime, you will find people wearing all kinds of crazy outfits. In Japan, you will actually see the majority of the people wearing “normal” clothing, from suits, T-shirts, jeans to dresses.
Anime is not as popular as you might think. Although people who love anime come to Japan because it originated here, it’s a niche just like anything else and more times than not when asked if they watch anime, a Japanese person will say they don’t. Most people watch anime the way Americans watch cartoons. You have your hardcore fans but most people are light watchers.
Big cities like Tokyo or Osaka are not as high-tech as anime might suggest. A large majority of Japan is less modernized. For instance, I live 30 minutes from Shinjuku, and some places where I live only take cash. Go farther out and you will find mostly countryside and sparsely populated places.
How Japan IS like anime
Japanese “weird” fashion
People do wear some strange things in Tokyo. Harajuku, one of the world’s fashion capitals, is within an hour’s reach for most folks in Tokyo, so the competition for best-dressed can be quite intense. Go to Harajuku for guaranteed entertainment in the form of Japan’s many trends all smashed into one neighborhood.
Are Japanese people polite?
What to expect from Japanese people? Are they polite? People can definitely be very shy and submissive to the extent seen in anime. It’s a part of the culture and is something you need to acknowledge if you’re learning to speak the language. Oftentimes what isn’t said in Japanese speaks volumes in my experience. People are very polite, kind, and will help you if you’re lost or in need.
Life is just like Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli movies are pretty accurate about what Japan’s countryside is like or how it was in the Edo era. The daily lives that you can see in some of the movies can be experienced in Japan. A lot of the social issues outlined in the Ghibli movies can be seen in Japan.
Japanese words appreciations
Natives like to shorten words a lot. There’s an abbreviated word for almost every major thing and then that spins off to be its own thing. Some of the slang used in Okinawa especially is almost unintelligible to people from Tokyo since Okinawa isn’t historically Japanese.
If I’d known this information before coming to Japan, I’d have saved myself lots of embarrassment. I’m sure I was just having fun at the time but since I decided to stay in Japan for as long as I have now, I’m much more cautious about what I do and say. Take time out of your day to study up Japanese culture and the language properly. Your Japanese friends will appreciate you knowing more about their culture and ultimately your experience in Japan will be much more pleasant!
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Hope this was able to help you figure out what to expect in Japan when you travel in this country. Check out blogs to find out more about travelling and living in Japan. If you have any questions about what to expect in Japan or want to get in touch, feel free to DM us on Instagram or message us on Facebook Messenger! We would love to talk with you!
Artist, photography, videographer
I’m a freelancer living in Tokyo, Japan with my wife and I’ve lived here on and off for almost seven years. I specialize in video, photography, video editing, and vocal performance (I’m an artist). Currently, I work as a photographer’s assistant when I’m not creating my own content.