15. KaraokeIt's no myth that Japanese people love Karaoke. The country is dotted with Karaoke establishments offering private Karaoke boxes. Japanese "pubs" aren't pubs at all but rather a place for old guys to sing Japanese folk songs.
14. PachinkoJapanese people love gambling in the form of a uniquely Japanese game: Pachinko. Pachinko (パチンコ) resembles an elaborate pinball machine with many small balls. Players buy buckets of balls to play with and may win or lose balls as the game proceeds.
Gambling is technically illegal in Japan. Pachinko exploits technicalities in the law. It works like this: within the Pachinko parlor the balls are virtually worthless — they can only be exchanged for stuffed animals and nominal prizes. However, right outside the parlor (usually in a dark alley) there is a small shop that exchanges balls for cold hard cash. Technically there's no serious gambling within the Pachinko parlor itself. The police look the other way (Pachinko is controlled by various organized crime groups).
How big is the Pachinko industry in Japan? Well, ever heard of a Japanese car? The Japanese Pachinko industry is bigger than the Japanese auto industry. Yearly revenue is around ¥29 trillion (378 billion USD) a year. About one out of four Japanese people plays Pachinko and average spending per player is $7000 a year.
13. TravelThe Japanese love to travel. Japanese tourists can be found in every corner of the world. From Waikiki beach, to Banff hot springs, to Paris brand shops, to African safari Japanese tourists are everywhere. Japanese also frequently travel domestically and hotels in Japan are often geared to the domestic market rather than international travellers. For this reason it is hard to find English speaking staff in Japanese hotels.
In 2011, 16 million Japanese people traveled abroad. Top destinations where China, Korea and the US.
12. MasksJapan is one of the most highly urbanized countries in the world. Perhaps this is why Japanese people are passionate about cleanliness and avoiding germs. It is very common to see Japanese people wearing masks in public. Japanese people wear masks for three reasons:
a. to avoid getting a cold or flu.
b. when infected with a cold or flu (many companies and schools mandate that staff or students wear masks when sick).
c. to avoid air borne allergens (1 out of 10 Japanese people has a allergy)
11. GossipJapanese gossip magazines are just as bad, if not worse, than their American or European equivalents.
In Japan, there are dozens of weekly tabloid magazines jam packed with sensational stories that are at most half true. Nobody in Japan seemed to worry about the effects of these magazines until someone stated translating them into English.
In the mid 2000s, Mainichi (a large Japanese newspaper with the fourth largest circulation in the world) began translating Japanese gossip columns into English on their website. They called the service Wai Wai pronouced “why why”.
The International press began to use Wai Wai as a source. This led to many Japan-is-crazy stories in the press based on questionable sources.
This is the equivalent of taking a story from a gossip magazine such as The National Enquirer and publishing it in a highly respected newspaper such as the New York Times.
Many Japanese weren't comfortable with Wai Wai translating Japanese gossip columns into English for the world to see. They felt it was embarrassing to the country — especially since foreign newspapers took the stories at face value.
A wave of public pressure forced Mainichi to shut down Wai Wai. They even issued a lengthy apology letter.
There wasn't an outcry about the original Japanese versions of the same stories — just the English translations. The Japanese like their gossip — as long as it's not taken seriously abroad.
10. Small thingsJapanese people value small things. Japanese restaurants serve tiny portions and the better the restaurant the smaller the dishes. In the 1970s and 80s Japan helped to revolutionize electronics and cars by making them smaller, lighter and higher quality.
There are some notable exceptions to the Japanese passion for small things, Sumo comes to mind.
9. FishIn Japan, the average person consumes 70 kilograms of fish a year. The global average consumption is just 13 kilograms a year and even developed countries such as America only eat about 20 kilograms a year per person.
Japan is an Island nation with few natural resources. Japan is mountainous — less that 11% of land is arable. Japanese history is dotted with terrible famines. Fish has always been the key to survival in Japan. It's no exaggeration to say that fish is fundamental to Japanese culture. In fact, the Japanese traditionally don't eat any meat. This is the reason for the extensive use of vegetables and tofu in Japanese cuisine.
8. AestheticsAesthetics is the philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty and taste. Japanese arts such as Ikebana, Bonsai, Architecture, Japanese Gardens, Calligraphy, and Tea Ceremony are all about the pursuit of a simple and beautiful aesthetic. Japanese aesthetics are an important part of every facet of Japanese life from cuisine to electronics and the Japanese are world renown for their aesthetic sense.
7. YellingIn many situations Japanese people are as quiet as can be. However, there is a real culture of yelling in Japan. When you go to a restaurant in Japan the staff will yell a welcome at you with a loud irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) and likely yell your order to the kitchen too. Yelling seems to be tied with with the Japanese concept of team. The staff of a restaurant are a team and as part of their teamwork they are expected to yell. Any team activities in Japan tend to get fairly loud.
6. Not wasting thingsThe Japanese word Mottainai (もったいない) means the sense of regret about wasting something. Japan is a small island nation with few natural resources and is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Japanese people tend to be frugal and take care not to waste food and resources.
Japanese are known as major consumers of expensive brand goods such as Louis Vuitton. Despite this, the Japanese traditionally have a very high savings rate and tend to live well below their means. In Japan quality is respected and people take good care of their possessions.
5. DrinkingDrinking is the national past time of Japan. Tokyo restaurants and bars are jam packed seven days a week with salary men, office ladies and students relieving a little pressure.
Japanese varieties of alcohol such as Sake and Shōchū are popular but beer is hands down the most beloved beverage. Cocktails are also popular and some of them are incredibly weak with about 2% alcohol. Most Japanese people are strong drinkers but a minority of Japanese people seem incredibly sensitive to alcohol.
4. MangaManga are remarkably popular in Japan. They are popular with old and young, men and women. There are Manga about every topic imaginable — sports, romance, animals, gambling, business, history, fantasy and crime.
People aren't ashamed of their manga addiction and respectable looking business men are often spotted reading them on the morning trains.
3. TeamIt is a stereotype that Japanese people value membership in the team while westerners value being individual. There are exceptions to every rule. However, for the most part this seems to be true. Western people will often consider themselves to be "special" while Japanese people will often consider themselves "normal". The well known Japanese saying that "the nail that sticks up will be hammered down" exemplifies a concept that is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.
Japan was traditional a highly agricultural nation. Farming is a very organized activity that requires the coordinated efforts of the community. This is the context in which Japanese culture developed this strong sense of team.
2. WorkingHere is another stereotype about Japan that is generally true. The Japanese are incredibly diligent workers and the quality and effort of their work is astounding.
In Japan it is bad manners to go home before your boss. Often the boss is a workaholic type that stays late. Employees may stay late even when there work is complete and they have nothing to do.
1. OnsenOnsen is a Japanese hot spring bath that features geothermally heated spring water. Onsen may be communal or private; outside or indoors. Generally onsen is taken in the nude and bathing suits are not allowed. Usually, sexes are separated but there are some mixed-sex onsen in the countryside. Japan is very geothermally active — there are tens of thousands of onsen in Japan at hotels, ryokan, spas and public onsen. On holidays and weekends Japanese flock to the countryside craving a nice long soak in hot water. I have yet to meet a Japanese person who is not passionate about onsen.