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