lifestyle

Foreign visitors to Comiket 82: What they like and don't like about Japan

38 Comments

Many foreigners view Japan as some marvelous dreamland of technology and culture; a place where crazy is the norm and embracing fantasy in everyday life is acceptable.

But to Japanese people, Japan is just that place you were born. Everyone and everything is routine, and it’s often difficult to see why the rest of the world get’s so worked up about “Japanese culture.”

Earlier this month, RocketNews sent one of its Japanese reporters to Comic Market (or Comiket), the world’s largest self-published comic book fair and otaku mecca, to interview real live foreigners and ask them what it is they really think about this country.

What do you like about Japan?

Dana (F/26/Germany) I like Japanese subcultures like manga, fashion and music.

Ann (F/22/Estonia) I like Japanese fashion and music, lolita fashion in particular. I’m actually wearing goth-loli clothes right now!

Valdar (M/25/Estonia) I like Japanese culture and food. Noodle dishes like ramen and rice dishes like sushi and onigiri are my favorite.

Matthieu (M/20/France) I like the Japanese people. Japanese treat other people respectfully. When I go to a restaurant in Japan and order something in broken Japanese, the staff always treat me very politely. This is the complete opposite of France, where restaurant staff are very rude.

Daniel (M/25/the Netherlands) When Japanese people think of something they want to do, they make it happen. For example, if they think putting ice cream, chocolate and strawberries on pancakes is a good idea, they’ll waste no time in making it a reality. Also, I think it’s wonderful how well-ordered everything is in Japanese society, like the trains that always arrive on time. The streets of Japan are also very clean and free of garbage. In my country, people don’t think anything of throwing their garbage on the streets.

Dennis (M/29/the Netherlands) I like experiencing Japanese culture as it is unlike anything we have in the Netherlands.

Robin (M/25/the Netherlands) Everyone in Japan is kind. If I get lost on the way to somewhere, Japanese people always take the time to give me directions.

Brigitte (F/24/Austria) Of course I love manga and anime, but I also love Japanese food, traditional culture and architecture and the well-mannered Japanese people as well.

Susanne (F/25/Austria) I like how there are many comic conventions like Comiket in Japan. There is absolutely nothing like this in Austria, and I’m sure I’ll miss these kind of events once I go back home. I also like Japanese history, especially the periods spanning Sengoku to Meiji.

Victor (M/18/Austria) I practice kendo in Austria. I love traditional Japanese culture like kendo and new culture like anime.

Nicolas (M/24/France) You can find nature even in the middle of the city. Even in Shinjuku, you can find quite places surrounded by nature such as Shinjuku Central Park. There aren’t many places like that in Paris.

Jeremie (M/24/France) I like Japanese martial arts like Iaido and Jodo.

Jessica (F/24/Canada) I like Japanese culture and technology. I think it’s wonderful for the old and the new coexist in Japan. For culture, I like geisha and Japanese food. For technology, I think the trains, Suica card and vending machines are amazing. Japanese building are also extremely beautiful.

Jordy (M/30/France) Japanese food, especially sushi. The Japanese culture of eating fish raw is fantastic. There are sushi restaurants in France too, but they aren’t good.   What don’t you like about Japan?

Dana (F/26/Germany) The people can be very cold sometimes and there are times when they don’t help others.

Ann (F/22/Estonia) Chikan (groping) in the trains. I was once groped while riding the train in Japan. There are perverts like this in Estonia but they’re not as bad as they are in Japan. They usually just stare at me but don’t actually touch.

Valdar (M/25/Estonia) Not many people in Japan speak English, so it is difficult to communicate with people.

Matthieu (M/20/France) There are no places to smoke. One time I had to walk a kilometer just to find a place to light a cigarette in public. I want them to make more places where people can smoke.

Brigitte (F/24/Austria) Everything is expensive. For example, I live in Hachioji (a city 40 kilometers west of central Tokyo), but it costs a considerable amount of money just to get into the city. And even though housing in Japan is great, the rooms are too small to invite guests so no one ever comes over.

Susanne (F/25/Austria) I don’t like how Japanese people avoid arguing. They try and hide what they are really thinking and never try to have a discussion. I understand that Japanese people try not to contradict people so as not to offend them. But sometime I want them to say what’s really on their mind.

Victor (M/18/Austria) There isn’t much I don’t like, but if I had to choose something it would be the high prices.

Nicolas (M/24/France) It’s not something I don’t like, but hierarchical relationships in Japan are difficult. In Japan, you have to be careful not to do anything that will offend your senior, but in France you can speak to your seniors like you were talking to a colleague.

Jordy (M/30/France) Japanese people don’t say what they’re really thinking. I also don’t like the traffic jams. And Japanese coffee isn’t very good. I have to go to an Italian restaurant just to get a good cup of espresso. Also, vegetables in Japan are too expensive.

What do you find strange about Japan?

Dana (F/26/Germany) (Showing us a cell phone strap connected to a small stuffed animal with a hole in its butt) Things like this, that are cute but a little strange. There are many things like this in Japan, but in Germany they are only sold at joke shops.

Matthieu (M/20/France) Smart girls act like idiots when they’re speaking with large groups of friends. Girls that are very mature when speaking with them 1-on-1 will turn into a screaming 12-year-old girl when in a group. I don’t really get it myself, but I think it’s because Japanese guys are attracted to that kind of girl.

Daniel (M/25/the Netherlands) While there is natural beauty and people who partake in traditional cultural activities in Japan, there are also cities crowded with bright neon lights and skyscrapers, and girls who paint their face in showy makeup. Japan has these two completely different worlds and I think it is very strange.

Robin (M/25/the Netherlands) There are things you can do in Japan that you could never do in my country. For example, at Comiket, people selling boys love (homoerotic) comics take pride in their work and sit there with their heads held high waiting for customers to come. If you tried to sell the same comics in the Netherlands, it would cause trouble. People would point at you and ask: “what on earth are you selling!?”

Brigitte (F/24/Austria) Walking down the streets I sometimes see people wearing very colorful and strange clothing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I think it can be cool.

Susanne (F/25/Austria) There aren’t many things I find strange in Japan, but night-time entertainment businesses like host clubs and cabaret clubs are bizarre to me.

Victor (M/18/Austria) Hot springs. There isn’t anything like hot springs in Austria, so it seems a little strange to me. I went to one while I was here and I thought it was very hot.

Jessica (F/24/Canada) Japanese TV commercials are very strange. But I think that’s a good thing. American TV programs are the same boring thing over and over, but in Japan there are many different kinds of interesting commercials.

What surprised you the most about Japan?

Dennis (M/29/the Netherlands) This heat! I didn’t think summer was so hot in Japan. I was also surprised at the giant golden thing on the rooftop in Asakusa.

Brigitte (F/24/Austria) Not many people in Japan can speak English. Before coming to Japan, I never thought that so many Japanese people couldn’t speak English. I thought that young people could.

Susanne (F/25/Austria) I once took a class about Japanese culture and I was surprised when I found that I knew more about Japanese culture than an actual Japanese person who was also in the class. I think Austrian people learn more about their own culture than people in Japan do. Maybe there aren’t many opportunities for Japanese people to learn about their own culture at school?

Victor (M/18/Austria) There are vending machines every 50 meters wherever you go.

Nicolas (M/24/France) There are many different kinds of fashion in Japan. I was especially surprised at dog fashion. Even the dogs in Japan dress well! We don’t have anything like this in France.

Jessica (F/24/Canada) Japanese fashion. In Canada, most people wear a T-shirt and jeans. But in Japan, I like how there are things like lolita fashion and gyaru fashion.

So what is it that you think makes Japan so captivating? Help us educate our Japanese audience further by letting us know what you found charming, unpleasant, strange or surprising about Japan in the comments below.

Photos, Original Article: Daiichiro Tashiro

© RocketNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


38 Comments
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Apart from one Canadian (who could have been french speaking), not a single person interviewed had english as their first language. Unless all those spoken to could speak japanese one wonders how this exercise was conducted.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

In English, one assumes? I don't know how many Dutch and Austrian people you have met, but they tend to speak English very well.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

@SimondB: perhaps a large portion of the foreigners at Comiket came because they could speak English and expected to be able to speak in that language with other visitors and the manga artists. For people who can only speak their own language and not Japanese or English, they probably stayed home.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Robin (M/25/the Netherlands) There are things you can do in Japan that you could never do in my country. For example, at Comiket, people selling boys love (homoerotic) comics take pride in their work and sit there with their heads held high waiting for customers to come. If you tried to sell the same comics in the Netherlands, it would cause trouble. People would point at you and ask: “what on earth are you selling!?”

What a load of bull. The Netherlands is known for its openess to gay. It even has the biggest gay pride event of Europe.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I suppose because this was conducted at Comikon that those all interviewed would be of the "Pokeman" generation. Also of interest to note that most everyone seems to be fascinated with Japan simply for anime, or the food.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As usual, I look forward more to reading the comments than the actual article. Bring it, JT'ers

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You asked a group of tourist foreigners going to an animation event, this is not a good representation of foreigners living in Japan.... just saying.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Overall, Japan is not a bad country. But there are, I am sure longtimers agree, ups and downs when living here. First everything is great, everyone's polite, the sun shines and so on. After some 2 years, normalcy starts setting in. And then, after another couple of years, the negatives start showing. If you tough that out, it goes back to being pretty decent again.

For me, the food and the weather are two great things about Japan. In Japan you can get (and make) "normal" food pretty cheap. Usually a good selection of bento close to where you live/work and they take pride in serving up local stuff. I still love that. If you have the money, you can eat very good. And if you don't you can still eat good.

Weather here is just what I need, clear winters and long , hot summers. Love it

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Gogogo totally agree!

And the guy who made the smoking comment.. perhaps he need glasses, people are smoking everywhere all the time, I personally wish it was much much harder, he could go get an ice water and smoke to his hearts content in some stinking smoking room in anyone of the abundant fast chains practically any cafe and restaurant..

Hmm generally I always say the same, everywhere has its good and bad you just have to decide for yourself if can live with the compromises where ever you decide to live.

Im not suggesting we should always sit silently when something is happening that is unfair or in just, however that we must make the best of the situation we have chosen. :-)

Have a wonderful day everyone.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It's all up to the individual. As a previous a previous poster mentioned, asking people who are here on vacation at a comic book convention isn't going to get you very many objective responses. If you ask ten people on vacation in any country what they like about it, you'll likely get plenty of positive responses, and a few, generic negative one's like, it's too expensive, nobody speaks my language, my country's food is hard to find, etc.

Ask a hundred foreigners who've lived here more than five years and you'll get a completely different story.

Of course, my own favorites are the clean streets and lack of people who want to beat me up and take my money. Negatives would include a lack of Taco Bell in my neighborhood, but that's just me.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@SimondB waow you think all foreigners can only speak their own language, and usually people who like to go abroad speak more than one language, wait! i am Dutch, i can speak english! incredibru!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Dennis

I never understand a bloody word you're saying ;)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The sample of participants here is quite limited, don't you think? Mostly 20-somethings here for a week. Who cares what young tourists think? They don't see the same Japan that your readers (who probably live here) do.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Matthieu (M/20/France) I like the Japanese people. Japanese treat other people respectfully.

Dana (F/26/Germany) The people can be very cold sometimes and there are times when they dont help others.

Which one is correct? One is based on Hollywood, myths and no experience of living here. And one is almost 100% correct...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Nicolas (M/24/France) You can find nature even in the middle of the city. Even in Shinjuku, you can find quite places surrounded by nature such as Shinjuku Central Park. There aren’t many places like that in Paris.

You gotta be kidding. Paris full of "nature"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Matthieu (M/20/France) There are no places to smoke. One time I had to walk a kilometer just to find a place to light a cigarette in public. I want them to make more places where people can smoke.

Try any bar or restaurant.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Readers, it is not necessary to refute what the interviewees said. They are simply giving their impressions. Each of you may have different things that you like and dislike about Japan. That's what you should be commenting on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A bunch of 20-somethings at a Comic Market is hardly representative of "foreign visitors". Anyhow, I think the food and cleanliness are definitely two of the things I like most. Also, things just work here exactly as they should - put money in a vending machine and a drink comes out - in other countries that can be a 50-50 prospect sometimes. As for the people, I find people from Osaka to be much more friendly in general than those from Tokyo. I hate this heat. I used to dislike the whacky Japanese TV shows and commercials but they've grown on me. And having lived here for so long, I don't find anything strange or surprising anymore.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I notice a fair amount of snobbery in threads like this from people who seem to think tourists are ignorant otaku who are only in Japan because they want to see the fantasy made a reality.

Some of us, who aren't lucky enough to actually live in Japan travel to see the sights, soak in the culture, practice the language and meet friends and loved ones. I have been visiting Japan every year since 2006, and I do so because I love the country, the people and their culture (apart from the whaling). I also have very close Japanese friends to visit and spend time with. (I also need to stock up on hard to get model kits ^_^)

I am in my 40s and certainly not one of the 'Pokemon' generation. My interest in Japan was fuelled by Godzilla movies as a kid, and grew from there. So do you think I travel to Japan to look for 50m tall monsters?

Admittedly this was a specific group of youngsters, but if you ask a wider group of tourists (not residents) then you'll get different results.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I still find it strange that Japanese people will comment on how well you use chopsticks, or that you can even use chopsticks at all. So I usually make of point of complimenting them on their knife and fork skills.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Looking at the frequency of the nationalities of the respondents, it seems that Western Europe is nerd central.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@rickyvee

Dude, wait till they ask you: "Can you eat Japanese food?" I've had a coworker ask me this two times. Fed up with this stupid conversation maker I told her it was a strange question and asked her if she can eat hamburgers... She is no longer as friendly as she was but WTH, good riddance.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Likes: Train System - when I was living there, it was super convenient to get to most places. Thanfully, I also lived near a train station and my work was close to one too so I essentially didn't need to own a car. (wife did though)

Nomihodai - How can you not like this? I wish they had nomihodai's here in Canada but I have a feeling people would drink themselves to death or try to drive home because public transportation is crap here..

Dislikes: Smoking in restaurants - Coming from Canada were public smoking is essentially banned, sitting down to eat and getting a cloud of tobacco from the people sitting next to you is super annoying, gross and ruins my meal. Hope this changes

Japanese TV - aside from the comedy shows which can be pretty funny (lincoln anyone?) Too many shows about food and that damn mini-box which shows some quasi celebs face and their reactions. snore

Politcal System - a new prime minister every 13 months? how can they expect to get anything done

just my 2 cents

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I lived in Japan for nearly a decade, and while I have very fond memories of it, there is nothing more cringeworthy than fresh-off-the-boat foreigners gushing about the place. I would be more interested to hear what they have to say after a year, once they've been told they can't rent an apartment because "it would upset the neighbours" or have to commute every day on some of the Tokyo trains. Don't get me wrong, I love the place, and enjoyed nearly every second I spent there, but interviews like these just serve to make everyone look silly.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"There are no places to smoke"

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha you've got to be kidding, just pop into virtually any restaurant, heck, even McD's has a smoking section. Will admit the ban on smoking on the streets is kind of dumb, I see restaurant tables outside in the summer with no smoking signs even though the smoke just dissipates into the air, but of course you can smoke INSIDE, where the smoke hangs around stinkin' up the place, lol.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I lived in Japan for nearly a decade, and while I have very fond memories of it, there is nothing more cringeworthy than fresh-off-the-boat foreigners gushing about the place.

Wow, lovely example of the snobbery I was on about in my earlier post. You were one of those once, as were all non-Japanese residents. This is a version of the same 'them and us' mentalilty which ex-pats seem to complain about.

I would be more interested to hear what they have to say after a year, once they've been told they can't rent an apartment because "it would upset the neighbours"

I rented a flat for nearly a month without any problems, except for a con-man trying to get into the flat one day.

Anyway, some of the things I enjoy about Japan is that the trains are always on time, clean and regular... the people are kind and helpful (at least the ones I meet - even the police)... and the fact that I won't see many European faces. When I'm on holiday (yes, I am one of those awful tourists some people despise) I like to be able to wander around to my heart's content without seeing other caucasians.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I like the short shorts with the boots.

I don't like expensive stores, but they're in many countries, not only in Japan.

Strange about Japan? The guys using parasols, hee hee!

The most surprising thing? I can't believe they're STILL using and actually installing in new buildings Japanese style toilets!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What do you like about Japan?

(1) You can walk down the street-

You can walk down the street at night and not get robbed. (except Roppongi or being robbed by another foreigner)

You can walk down the street drunk as a skunk and not get robbed. (except Roppongi or being robbed by another foreigner)

I lost my wallet, ipod, and briefcase one on the JR Train. I FOUND IT THE NEXT DAY WITH THE AMOUNT OF MONEY I LEFT INSIDE IT.

In America, GONE, ASTA LA VISTA !!!!!

(2) Police in Japan do not HARASS (tourists or foreign) people & cause a scene. Police in America, beat people up, kill people, lie and steal money from people.

(3) Homeless people have manners in Japan, are very quiet people and speak multiple languages. In America, SCREAM, HOLLER, WANT ATTENTION & Bit somebody's face off. (Miami) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YruxMl2e--0

(4) Japan citizens don't carry guns, semiautomatic assault rifles and etc. In America you can buy 3000 bullets and 5 assault rifles and not be questioned by police in why you purchased these weapons. Few weeks later go into a movie theater and cause problems.

(5) Americans are more racist, self centered, selfish than Japanese people. IT'S TRUE. I felt more racist things done to me in America than Japan. PERFECT EXAMPLE the so called- Obamacare/ National Healthcare for ALL Americans What's wrong with everybody having national health insurance rich or poor ? Everybody has to pay for Social Security. Automobile owners have to have Auto Insurance why not health care. Where is the disparity ?

(6) Trains & Buses

Public Transportation is always on time in Japan.

IN AMERICA, always late 10 minutes to 2 hours late plus a crappy attitude from the bus driver or train operator.

What don’t you like about Japan?

(1) The attitude & coldness on the trains, sometimes I feel like I have a disease. The materialistic attitude especially on the trains. If I wear a particular clothes or anything. i will be judged up and down and sideways.

(2) The noise pollution at department stores.

(3) The bad service at restaurants & not tipping for professional service.

I want to tip a person if the give me great service in a restaurant. I don't want to pay gratuity if someone gives me crappy service.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

One thing I'd like to see more in Japan is soap in public bathrooms. I can't understand how a society that prides itself on cleanliness tolerates the spread of germs that this leads to. It is often no better in restaurants, with just running cold water on the toilet tank. It makes me wonder what the restaurant staff is using.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I hate noisy election campaign cars on a Sunday morning (especially with a hangover).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think some JT readers are confused. This wasn't intended as some kind of deep sociological study of cultural differences. It was just a fun, fluffy, off-the-cuff interview with young people at a comic book convention. No reason to take it all so seriously! Besides, how can you refute someone's personal impressions? A: "I like Japanese people." B: "No, you don't!"

Likes: polite considerate neighbors, good friends, spring and autumn, on-time trains, interesting gadgets, safe and clean streets (I don't live in a big city), izakaya, florist shops, interior design, most food (especially okonomiyaki - Hiroshima style), Kirin Afternoon Tea, no religious fanatics, a general sense of orderliness, seasonal customs/dishes/events, peaceful temples/shrines, and many, many more. Dislikes: smoking in public, staring & "gaijin!", overly complicated recycling rules, public noise, humidity, high prices, public drunkenness, high-pitched "childish" women's voices, and a few more.

Of course, these are my own fun and fluffy personal feelings, which was the focus of this article, I believe. Maybe a few others should lighten up and save the deep stuff for their own tragically hip and world-weary blogs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Animu and manga fans are probably the worst group of people you could poll with questions like these. They are already bias when it comes to Japan. Most to the point of obsession.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, keep in mind that these foreigners are just visitors, and just like any other tourist everywhere, they are still wearing their rose-tinted glasses.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree that asking foreigners at a comic convention isn't a bright idea. I like the post on how foreigners know more about Japanese history than the Japanese do. It's true. The Japanese do not waste there education on art, music, and history. They learn science and math. The NEED to know subjects. That's why I find my husband way more intelligent. :)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I'm older than the Pokeman generation but still find Japan very cool -- love so many things about Japan -- the food, language, fashion, cool products and gadgets; people, politeness; natural beauty, etc --- the one thing I hate is that dolphins are being killed in Taiji by the fishermen!!! It has to stop soon!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I love the fact that I can bicycle all over town. I don't like it that they try to discourage bicycles near the station, and charge money for short term bicycle parking. I love relaxing in a public park, and having wine with my picnic. (Not allowed in many places in Canada.) And wine prices have dropped while choice has exploded. I love playing music in festivals. So many great musicians here in Japan, they like to play with the gaijin. I love driving in Japan; I hate shaken and expensive expressways. I love the great trains; I hate the high price of JR tickets. I love my Japanese wife. Couldn't find one of those back home. Aah, nice life in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm a little bit disappointed in the way that people are taking this thread. Why is there so much hate towards these foreigners who went to Comiket? For one, I'm the girl named "Jessica" that was interviewed at this particular Comiket. I am not obsessed with Japan, and I'm not obsessed with anime and video games. I'm an artist who lives in Canada, and as a hobby, I cosplay. I enjoy Japanese culture including pop-culture. I think the people that I've met at comiket were probably some of the nicest people I've ever met in my life. Otaku life has a negative rep, and I don't think people are thinking clearly about the subject matter.

Otaku aren't all bad. Keep in mind that the term Otaku means "a person who's obsessed with something". This doesn't have to be anime or video games, in fact there's Otaku everywhere...sports otaku, fashion otaku, car otaku...etc.

If anyone has questions for me with my experience with Japan and more specifically, Comiket, please ask me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Otaku aren't all bad

No, but the term is not flattering.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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