Japan Japan Customs

4 AM in Japan

Hi there audience. Thanks for joining me on this enlightening walk along a street at 2 AM in Kyoto as freezing cold temperatures test our endurance. Our minds half focused on ignoring that intense cold and the other half meditating on the lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas’ Where is the Love before finally arriving at our destination and some interesting conversation.

We met Shohei’s friend. A Japanese guy, who was born in Brazil and has lived in Japan since he was three years old. And now as an adult, is culturally Japanese. Rafael has lived in both Tokyo and Kyoto so I asked how he compares people from these two areas of Japan.

He said, “People in Tokyo show no emotion on their face, and are very cold. But people in Kansai are kinder.”

Someone else we met in Kyoto also mentioned that people here are less likely to give a fake smile like in Tokyo. And I noticed it too. There are some cultural differences, but I have met friendly people in Tokyo as well regardless of the cold impression its people often give.

I asked him if he’s ever experienced discrimination in Japan. He said no, but he is annoyed at often being called gaijin as it’s like considering him as an “outsider” when in fact he is not. He’s also annoyed that Japanese always assume he speaks English just because he is white. But it is not the assumption that annoys him, it’s the fact that those situations happen so often that he constantly has to explain that he actually doesn’t speak English and is in fact Japanese. He added that Japanese are usually understanding and accepting when he explains this.

Shohei explained that he is definitely Japanese as he accepts the existence of illogical assumptions such as he is white therefore he must speak English without being offended.

According to Shohei, since Japanese often avoid negativity as a cultural trait, it’s also best to avoid logical considerations that could lead to a negative or uncomfortable conclusion.

When Rafael asked me about my opinion on the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, I gave a well thought out, considerate response. Explaining how though there is always tragedy in war, and regardless of who was victorious, those events ended the suffering of millions of innocent lives. And when I asked him the same question, he giggled “Yay! Barbeque!”

Sometimes I really don’t know if I should respond to people with humor or a thoughtful reaction. I’ve always thought it best to usually do whatever amuses myself in an interaction and save more thoughtful serious conversation for when I get to know someone though.