Japan Today



7 things all Japanese just gotta say


It was my very first week in Japan, and already I knew something funny was going on. I guess I’m a little astute like that. I had this epiphany on the second floor of a small cafe in Azabu-juban, which is a rather upscale part of Tokyo, as I was having tea with an attractive young lady of my acquaintance. When she excused herself to use the facilities (we’d had about a pot of tea, after all), the waitress came hustling over.

“Hello,” she said in English. I looked up and thought, Jeez, you’ve got a lot of earrings.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said.

“Where are you from?” She seemed pretty excited. I looked to see if my friend was coming back any time soon.

“How do you know I’m not from Japan?” I replied.

“Because you’re not Japanese.

“That’s kind of circular reasoning, isn’t it?

“I’m sorry, what?

“Never mind,” I said. “Are you from Japan?

“Of course!” she said. “Can’t you tell?

“I’m American, so no, actually.

“Can you drink green tea?” she asked.

“Like a boss. How ’bout you?

“Of course! I’m Japanese.

“Oh, I forgot.

“Isn’t it too bitter for you?” she asked. “Don’t you want to put sugar in it?

“Well, maybe some people do mix in sugar, or even milk.

“Heeeeey,” she said, and her eyes lit up.

“But have you tried it with salt and pepper?” I asked. “It’s really good like that.

“Iyaaa, muri!” she said. Well, I thought, at least I got her to speak some Japanese.

At the time, I naively believed this to be a random bit of conversation. I can be so wrong. As the same pattern began to repeat itself hundreds and then thousands of times, I gradually realized I’d stumbled onto something far more . . . what’s the word? Insidious? Mmn, nah, that’s not it. Anyway, far more something.

If you look “foreign” (whatever that means; but apparently, like porn, one knows it when one sees it), then you’ll hear the exact same phrases, often in the same order, from every single Japanese person. You’re guaranteed to hear the following seven phrases like clockwork, usually in Japanese, except for No. 1.

  1. “Hello!”

Actually, this sounds a bit more like “herro,” but we’ll let that slide for the moment. Just remember that when you go to France, you’re expected to speak French; in Italy, Italian; and in Japan, English. Abide by that and everybody’s happy. Never mind that half the foreign-looking people here don’t even have English as their native language; Japanese folks can’t wait to bust out this word when they see your big, round eyes, just in case you’ve forgotten how much you don’t blend in. The irony is that native English speakers rarely actually say “hello.” Well, maybe they do in the movies, I don’t know.

  1. “Where are you from?”

I usually get asked this question in Japanese, and have found it to be a great phrase for making people feel at home. Please don’t hesitate to try this on your friends of other races. There’s nothing impolite about it, because really, nobody who looks like you could possibly be from here.

The world’s changing, of course, and Japan’s no exception. These days an increasing number of Japanese people happen to be white, black or something else altogether. You gotta envy their lives, getting to field this question on a daily basis. Just think of it . . . a white Japanese person? That’s crazy. That’s like a black Englishman. Whoa, impossible. What’s next, Americans from Europe?

  1. “Your Japanese is great.”

Subtle power-trip or innocuous compliment? You decide. No really, every day, you decide. And there’s pretty much no decent response to this one. Just last week, I walked into a boutique to look at some manly handbags and the moment I said konnichiwa, the salesman was like, Oooh, your Japanese is great. I was like, Really? From one word? Well, actually, my konnichiwa is pretty stunning, now that you mention it. And just wait till you get a hold of my sayonara.

  1. “Have you been in Japan long?”

This comes either before or after No. 3, and they form a nice set. If you say you’ve been here a short time, then the proper response is: “Wow, and already your Japanese is so great.” Alternately, if you say a long time, then: “Oh, so then you’re married to a Japanese?” In either case, you should anticipate follow-up Question 4.5, “When are you going back home?”

  1. “What’s your name?”

Ah, an old favorite. So, the reality is that when you’re not around, Japanese people use last names. But the moment you enter the picture, they start calling you and each other by first names. The last-name thing is like a secret handshake, a sort of Japanese closed society, straight up Illuminati stuff. But when they meet you, because you look so “foreign,” they just take your family name, ball it up, and roll it under the nearest train. You get called by your first name, and that’s the way it is, Ken.

  1. “You use chopsticks really well.”

So the other day I was in a soba shop next to this wrinkly old couple who would not stop staring at me eating a bowl of noodles. Their table was only a foot away, and they were like 300 years old and the old lady was freaking fixated on me. I was all like, Okay, just don’t look at the old people and maybe they’ll go away. But then this skeleton claw reached out and grabbed my arm and started shaking me, and an old witch voice said, Heeey, you can use chopsticks really well! I was like, Jeez old lady, lemme go! All that agedness is probably contagious. Plus, that’s my chopstickin’ arm. I need that. But to be fair, my chopstick skills are, in fact, pretty amazing. And you should see me with a spoon.

  1. “Can you eat natto?”

Of all the foods in Japan, somehow natto has won the award for the strangest thing “foreigners” could ever stuff into their mouths. Not sea snails, raw horse, squid innards, or whatever monjayaki is, but gooey beans. There’s about a million things on a Japanese menu more terrifying than natto, but Japan has unanimously concluded that fermented beans equals gaijin kryptonite. Even buying natto in the supermarket is embarrassing. I try to wait until there’s nobody in line, and then it’s like, Yeah, I’ll, uh, take this candy bar, and that comb, and a cigarette lighter, and a 12-pack of condoms, and a copy of Penthouse . . . and, oh yeah, that, umm, natto over there. No, not that one, the one on the left. Yeah, just go ahead and put that in a bag, would you? Jeez, I’ve got a ton of combs and Penthouses.

Rule, Law, or Force of Nature?

Japanese people live for rules. And when they meet “foreigners,” the only rule seems to be they’ve got to cover all seven points as soon as possible. For years, scholars have speculated that this may even be an obscure law or ancient Imperial edict. Recent research has also raised debate over the actual number of required questions and statements, with some putting the number as high as twenty. However, seven remains the agreed upon figure for working calculations. One could argue higher, or lower, but let’s not get all crazy splitting hairs and going into imaginary numbers and stuff. Suffice to say these seven are etched deeply into the DNA of every Japanese person.

Win Beer with the Japanese Rule of 7!

The Japanese Rule of 7, by the way, happens to be the world’s safest bar bet. Here’s how to win a beer. A delicious beer. Just wait until you hear someone say “herro,” and then immediately turn to the person next to you and say, I bet I can tell you six more things this fool’s gonna say. They’ll be like, No way. Boom, instant beer. You can even use it with the speaker him/herself, since it’s physically impossible for Japanese people not to run through the remaining six points, no matter how hard they try. It’s like putting a sack of cats in a roomful of mice.

And to help keep you well lubricated, here’s a convenient and stylish wallet-sized card, listing all seven points, suitable for laminating. It even includes English translations to assist you in making friends outside of Japan with “foreigners” and others who don’t physically resemble you. And if you live in Japan, then the next time you find yourself in a smoky izakaya and a drunk salaryman strikes up a conversation (which is like every day if you’re me), don’t hesitate to whip it out and show him you know what’s up. Guaranteed to keep the conversation flowing.

© Japan Today

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I have found this to be not so true. Sure, it happens, but I've plenty more experiences of locals actually making regular, normal conversation. Like asking me contextual things, like asking me how I liked a movie as I'm walking out of a theater, remarking about the weather on a hot day, often times in Japanese.

In fact, I've encountered many more Japanese who just assumed I was fluent in Japanese and spoke accordingly than the odd character who wanted to practice his "hello" monologue.

In fact, one of my very first experiences in Japan was in Hiroshima at an Okonomiyaki restaurant. Some salaryman started jabbering away at me in Japanese, and I had little clue what he was saying. I just inserted some basic, "honto? Sou desu ka, sou ne!, sou, sou, sou!" into the conversation, and that was enough to keep him going for twenty minutes.

-3 ( +14 / -17 )

I should remember something like this. Or at least experiment with the Japanese language on someone who already knows it.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

So, how about that convenient and stylish wallet-sized card, listing all seven points, suitable for laminating that you promised us?

I've had this conversation, with variants, many times. The author is not exaggerating with the basics!

I would add to # 7, that "Can you eat Japanese food?" is more common than just asking about natto.

Many years ago, an elderly gentleman grabbed my hand and forced my fingers into the 'correct' position for a young woman to hold her chopticks, so that she (I) could get married in good time.

He was lucky I didn't stab him in the eyes with them.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I agree with gaijinfo, I had more Japanese talk to me in Japanese than English. The only time they spoke in English was when I forced it out of them, 'eigo wo hanishimasu ka?'

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Interestingly once you start feeling like you fit in, walking in a way that says "i am here" and making the same sort of eye-contact with others in the way that eye contact is made or not made in Japan while saying the right thing in the way things are said or not said, you will find that you have this conversation less often even to the point of never having it. We so often read this kind of article, and sometimes with great pleasure because you are a wonderfully talented writer whose voice shines through this piece. However, what might make it more interesting is the self-awareness to realize that you are writing about yourself in Japan and the particular and specific experience of a particular newcomer. Generalizations are dangerous and so often untrue. If you stop to think this through a bit, you will find that what these people with these questions are responding to is not the shape of your eyes or the color of your hair or your voice or the shade of your skin: they are responding to the outsider-status you give yourself. You might think I am wrong, but please take a moment to think about your essay again and its purpose. Is it to inform others of the way Japanese are or is to make others laugh and feel entertained or is it to present yourself as a person in the know or maybe something else? I cannot generalize for I do not know you, but once you start looking for it you'll see it everywhere and not just in Japan. A foreigner walks into a shop and is feeling out of place, unsure what to do, and immediately the shop keeper thinks "outsider" and begins acting in some way he/she feels is a way to accommodate and mediate the "otherness" who has just walked in. This happens in small town America, neighborhood pubs in London, and well, everywhere. A month later, this same "foreigner" walks into the shop next door after having unconsciously learned how to stand, walk, and what to say and then this person is no longer an outsider, but a person on their way inside, and is treated accordingly. Walk into that shop in small town America like you're lost and say nervously "how much is that bag?" and you'll be treated like an outsider. Walk into that same shop, greet the person with some comment about the weather or with the right bit of small talk before asking any questions and you'll be treated like someone who knows what's what. In Japan, one gets these questions when they're new and a bit nervous, and it may feel offensive or intrusive or wrong, and it may seem wrong of me to say "that's the way it is" but it is, and of course in every culture the world over there are rude and insensitive people who ask and say the wrong things sometimes but could I give you a small task? Write this article again for yourself three months, six months, and a year from now and pay attention to how things have changed for you. If you're still having the same experience, then I'll admit i am wrong in your case. I suspect, though, that if you do this task with an open mind that you will discover some differences in the way you are treated because of the unconscious learning you'll have done along the efforts you make to be a part of things. Meanwhile, I hope to see more of your writing but I do hope you will learn to understand that stereotyping serves no real purpose except to perpetuate a stereotype while perhaps relegating yourself in the eyes of many readers as an outsider on his way in. Good luck with the journey. It can be a great process really.

9 ( +22 / -13 )

Haha, I lol'd. I found this very true. I don't know who the other commenters are talking to, but even when I speak to someone in Japanese they often respond in (not so good) English. "Can you eat ____" is one of the most common questions, usually sushi or natto. If I say one word in Japanese, it's a direct "Nihongo jouzu desu ne!"

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Stereotypical, simplistic, childish dross. Looking at the photo of the author, I'd reckon it was taken a couple of months or so ago.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Well I have been here for a lot longer than most of you but I still get those (stupid) questions and I still cannot get used to being called by my first name while I'm expected to use my interlocutor's family name.

I found this piece not only amusing but (unfortunately) very true.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Ken, most Japanese ask the same questions because those are the only questions they can ask, except for maybe "What time is it now?" In case you haven't realized, most Japanese people possess a very limited level of conversational English. On a side note : I appreciate your attempts at humor but please be a bit more careful with your punctuation and grammar.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Ken, that article hit the nail on the head! The "can you eat..?" questions almost cause me to punch people. I have to control myself from getting irritated when I hear the same line of questioning. They also seem to want all of your personal information in the first 15 seconds after meeting. Usually my body language and the look on my face is enough to let everyone know I don't want to hear it.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Chuck Sandy has it right.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

Natto in small portions on nori is delicious. Oishi!

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

LOL, husband's grandparents asked me if I could eat natto every. time. we. went. there. To be fair grandma is a little senile and they live in Mito.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The Japanophile/apologists are out in full force this morning finding righteous fault with every comment in a new article that is intended to be humorous. I think the author did a nice job of putting into words the kind of experience that almost all of us have over here. Sure the questions might vary a little and certainly the amount you are spoken to in English versus Japanese varies according whether you are living in Tokyo or Yamaguchi. I find funny the self-evident questions that I receive. Such as, "can you eat raw fish?" while I am sitting in front of 6 or 7 empty plates at the Keitenzushi and actively stuffing a piece of hamachi into my mouth. Ditto that question for chopsticks. Or the awkward or strange questions about whether or not you like Japan or if you like Japanese ladies. I mean what do they expect you to say, "well, actually I don't like Japan very much, but I had some student loans to pay off and this seemed like a pretty decent option" (for the record, I do like Japan:). Or, "as a matter of fact, I like Japanese women a lot" (then give lecherous smile). Lastly, the ever present "what is your hobby?" question is annoying in that you find yourself forced to give one thing that you are interested in above all others. Heck, a lot of us don't even have hobbies in the true sense of the word. I mean think of a "hobby shop" back home and what comes to mind? Model airplanes, remote controlled cars, macrame, painted figurines... That said, I like Japan and its quirkiness. Thankfully, once you get to know individuals here, they stop asking the silly repetitive questions and start having more genuine conversations. That is until they introduce you to one of their friends and the cycle repeats....

3 ( +12 / -9 )

a white Japanese person? That’s crazy

Arudou Debito among others. But thanks to racial discrimination and ridiculous requirements, the numbers are actually so small that you could probably count them all in a minute. Recent changes are better though, just a bit more logic and not so much ass kissing involved

1 ( +4 / -3 )

a white Japanese person? That’s crazy

I'm not sure why some of you are focussing on this line as though the author is serious? You realise this is simply sarcasm, right?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

All readers stay on topic please.

LOL, husband's grandparents asked me if I could eat natto every. time. we. went. there. To be fair grandma is a little >senile and they live in Mito.

I've been asked that and various other questions by almost every Japanese I've met here in 10 years. Hope they are not all senile!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

FightingVikingAug. 19, 2012 - 11:22AM JST

Actually, in Hokkaido (basroil should know...) there are apparently Japanese who really ARE white...

The Ainu are practically extinct due to government practices in the late 1800s. There are pretty much no pure Ainu at all, all are mixed race.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

MariaAug. 19, 2012 - 11:28AM JST

I'm not sure why some of you are focussing on this line as though the author is serious? You realise this is simply sarcasm

It is sarcasm to people outside the country, but the sad fact is that most Japanese just cannot see people of other races as Japanese. 95% Japanese and 99% Asian population mean that it is very easy for them to consider anyone not like them to not be Japanese.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

While readers get that it's meant to be humorous, I just find the pomposity unfunny.

I've heard all this before, and came across it myself definitely, but one day I pulled my head out of my ass by considering the following things.

If you bring a Japanese friend out to your foreign hometown (especially one where 90% of the population is of one ethnic group, far far from Japan), and sit them in a room with your friends, what predictable and seemingly dumb ass things would your friends and family ask? Probably lots (from my experience anyway). And if you go and visit enough friends, you'll get the same questions.

This is not disimilar from the same questions that you personally get asked from people at parties or gatherings in your hometown when you are back home and the person learns you live in Japan. And the same questions range from the local to the highly educated, well travelled worldly scholar. When I go home and someone learns I live in Japan, I can predict the following questions. But this doesn't mean those people are stupid, or different actually from anyone else in the world. (Except people in Japan of course, but hey just ask different questions :p)

Next, go and ask your Japanese friends who lived abroad for a few years, what kinds of strange questions they were asked by the people they met in their foreign hometown.

Finally, when you were learning Japanese, what seemingly stupid things did you ask Japanese when you wanted to make conversation? I'm saying this because it reminded me recently of sitting in a cafe watching a non-Japanese group bother two girls with the 'Making Out in Japanese' book. Two girls out together just getting some food, being told 'You're pretty', 'Can I have your phone number'' and other phrases fumbled badly, whilst they semi-politely tried to get left alone. The problem being that the group then was unable to understand why they didn't want to talk to him. That was the most shocking lack of awareness or 'stupidity'.

There's loads more examples. A classic from when I originally left for Japan, was a friend asking how was I only going to be able to eat fish and rice all the time. Not exactly original question but actually Japanese in general do eat a heck of a lot of fish and rice to the levels he eats potatoes and pork. So perhaps from his position, a fair thing to ask. He never had been abroad.

This seeming wisdom comes only from your position in the circumstance. It would be more astute to consider the situation from another view and then see how it's not really that funny. The funnier thing is becoming aware of all the times you thought you were funny and the total boss when actually you were acting like a complete douchemonkey.

And... that I am sure is all of us and will continue to be.

21 ( +26 / -5 )

While readers get that it's meant to be humorous, I just find the pomposity unfunny.

I'll second this.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

ChuckS & a few others have totally missed that the writer has (I hope anyway LOL) invented a character that is half jerk half a-hole & a bit of ignorant putz thown in & wrote the blurb.

So yeah its a bit grating, insensitive, funny etc

But anyone who has been in Japan even a short while has to admit these questions get asked A LOT, although in my experience about 90+% its all in Japanese & has nothing to do with learning or speaking english in any way. And yes sometimes its kind of a conversation starter but mostly it is just what the writer says a set of SET questions LOL!

Just last night helping a customer check in at the airport I fielded the the ole nihongo jozu bit 4-5times, to which sometimes I simply smile & reply anata mo jozu, which if done in the right tone & with a smile usually generates a smile & a laugh back!

So yeah the questions are pervasive, 2+ decades & still answering them LOL!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Number 2's bang on the money. I was in a "road rage" incident the other week, and whilst remonstrating with the driver over their appallingly dangerous driving, one of his passengers suddenly, from way out left-field, chipped in with a "where are you from?". Unbelievable given the situation; "Kuuki yomenai" indeed.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thankfully, once you get to know individuals here, they stop asking the silly repetitive questions and start having more genuine conversations.

Not so. That's a generalization, too. Everyone's experience is individual. I have sometimes had people who know me ask the same thing more than once. Maybe it's too hard to believe. Maybe they've forgotten they asked. I have no idea.

Most of the time I can ignore it with grace, demur and change the subject. Occasionally it gets under my skin. Sometimes, on a cranky day, I can't resist. I counter with ridiculous statements of my own:

Did you know that Japan is the only place that has four seasons? More, yes. Fewer, yes. But four, no.

If delivered in a serious voice, I don't even get an "Eeeh...really?"

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Even Prof. Donald Keene gets irritated to be told that his nihongo wa jouzu desu...I heard him mention this at a talk a couple years ago.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I'm almost never asked such questions, but when I am, I usually answer as below, and this usually brings the chat to a rapid close:

“Hello!” A. "Konnichiwa."

“Where are you from?” A: "Itabashi-ku."

“Your Japanese is great.” A. "So is yours."

“Have you been in Japan long?” A. "Longer than you, probably."

“What’s your name?” A. "O'Hara."

“You use chopsticks really well.” A. "Any child can do so."

“Can you eat natto?” A. "Love it!"
3 ( +4 / -1 )

"But have you tried it ( green tea ) with salt and pepper? It's really good like that."

"Iyaaa, muri!"

Well, what else is there to say, except maybe "Are you crazy?"

"Can you eat natto?"

Sure, if there's absolutely nothing else to eat.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In America, especially NY, they'll go 'You support Yankees?' or 'What's with the weather?' Different country, different strokes and I don't go write an article about it. What's with some gaijin, they have to find something insidious about people being friendly and sociable.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Lew - He did. Can you believe that?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I' not really bothered by it because I'm really not so social in the first place,

One thing that persistently bothers me though, is the "race = nation" mindset most Asian countries really haven't grown out of.

There are countries out there loads more xenophobic than Japan, but I really just wonder what fuels this sort of us vs. them mindset in the east as opposed to the west.

Europe has had a very similar history of war and territorialism like Asia has, but you really won't find the same "race minded" attitude there like you would here.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Thomas, if 95% of your countrymen had the same cultural background and lived on an island, maybe you wouldn't find it that puzzling.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

American women "What's your name?" Japanese friend "Keiko" "Oh, that is beautiful. What does it mean?" "It means my name"

6 ( +10 / -4 )

That's not the same seven questions salarymen ask women in a Smokey izayaka . Questions I get always somehow end up including The phrase ,you western womens breasts ..... Just sayin ......

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The one that bugs me is, "What part of the States are you from?"

It's not just in Okinawa. It's the same in Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kansai and Tokyo.

But one of the funnier ones was:

"Eiko dekimasuka?"

"Hai. Dekimasu yo."

"Demo, Bertie wa Igirisujin desho?"

"So desu."

"Ja, Igirisugo mo dekimasuka?"

0 ( +2 / -2 )

To the writer, I think the bar bet idea is very rude and childish. "I bet I can tell you six more things this fool’s gonna say". Do you not think they might actually understand the word fool? Id feel sorry for the person who approached anyone who immediately turned to their friend and mocked them (in any situation). Please dont encourage people to behave so rudely.

You shouldnt ridicule those who are trying in their own way to make you feel welcome. I got some of the same comments myself - about chopsticks, language ability and so on - but just shook them off and continued the conversation with them. As Tamararara and Suginami say, your article is not exactly original and I dont know why it was even published. I clicked on the article out of curiosity purely to see if the same things were mentioned again and sure enough they were. How long have you been in Japan? It starts with I had been in Japan one week and... but that does not tell the readers how long ago that time was.

There are how many people in Japan and you tar them all with the same brush in your heading 7 things all Japanese gotta say. Hmmm.

Your attempt to do it with humour actually grates because its so sarcastic. Describing, as you do, your own articles asfunny? Self praise is no praise. Maybe you should saymeant to be funny` but as I said...

To the person who said they were shown how to use chopsticks I would have found that funny especially given the reason he did it. I was once told by an old man on a city bus in France that I was eating my pear the wrong way around and I would die young the way I was eating it. I laughed and he laughed back. That was a similar thing even if he didn`t grab the fruit out of my hand and show me.

As for people who get annoyed that they are lumped in with Americans/English whatever because they happen to be white, well Japanese and other Asians have to put up with that when they go abroad as well and not in the most pleasant way. I know Japanese people who have said they were told to go home to China. So to Thomas Proskow, you are actually incorrect in saying that the race=nation idea does not apply in Europe. Anyways,don`t get so upset about it people. It could be worse for you.

I think some people here who complain or make snarky responses to silly chopstick comments/ language ability / etc could lighten up a little.

To BertieWooster, what language did they think was spoken in England? That`s actually funny.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

My font is gone awry on me again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the girl from the story was just hitting on you,chill out

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I get bored of these kinds of articles. The ones that treat Japanese like ignorant, childish robots. The ones that reflect a poor understanding of Japanese culture and people and ignore the fact that they are ridiculing people's attempts to simply be friendly and engaging and are completely ungreatful for the effort. I met a number of foreigners like this in Japan, and they were mostly conceited egotists.

I "gotta" agree with most of that but remember that garbage like this is usually written for publication outside Japan by some fool trying to impress people with his/her knowledge of the place.

Also, how can you take any article seriously when it includes the word "gotta" in the title and is peppered with "like".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japanese try to call you by your first name, don't blame them. Its the foreigners who preceeded us who tried to bring the first name thing to Japan, and they succeeded in a way, unfortunately. They forced the Japanese around them to conform to them, and the knowledge spread.

In fact, a lot of this can be attributed to foreigners coming here and refusing to conform, and meanwhile, the Japanese did confirm to a lot of things. I just wish they would have had the Japanese conform to things that mattered more, such as refusing to work overtime unless paid for it.

But anyway, it seems to me that most English speaking foreigners want to be called by their first names. And its just a small thing that ensures you are outside of office culture, although that is not always so bad.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I've been here 10 years... And the author of this should receive an Emmy award. It is so true!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Did you get her number?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sarcasm or "irony" should come naturally and not be forced like it is in the article.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The "natto"part is so true.

But this part was so rude: "I bet I can tell you six more things this fool's gonna say". In other words the author is generalizing any Japanese who wants to begin an English conversation to be a "fool".

3 ( +3 / -0 )

it seems to me that most English speaking foreigners want to be called by their first names.

You just proved my point - especially since not all "gaijin" in Japan are "English speaking foreigners"...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

strange i never get, where are you from, they always say "amerikajin desuka" and why is not ii tenki desu ne/atsui ne/samui ne or the famous four season question. But also what language do they speak in your country should be rank 1!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

20 yrs in Japan. Yes the questions in the article are all too common." Can you eat ume boshi?" Is one that I've gotten a lot. When I get this question, I tell them my story of once not having anything to eat in the fridge except ume boshi. I took out 4-5 and threw them on some rice and was eating them when my sister in law came into the kitchen. She laughed and called me a strange gaijin. (in Japanese). BTW they were the large, expensive, sweet type, so they were quite easy to eat with rice. Yes my hashi technique is jousu which was mastered from reading the 'How to use chopsticks' info and drawings on the paper sleeve given out in Chinese restaurants in the U.S. when I was young. All of those that have been here long enough should know that Japanese children pick up bad habits with chopsticks when they are toddlers and some don't correct it later in life. That's why most foreigners have excellent technique when compared to some Japanese. When I point this out to Japanese, they usually say something like " ah soo" etc. then I challenge them to a who can pick up single grains of rice the fastest....it's quite fun when drinking.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@basroil Maybe you should read this article in today's JT :

Ainu eye political power

Which would seem to prove they DO still exist...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Stay on topic please.

I never ever had anybody saying "Hello" (or "Herro") in my last 20 Years in JP BUT only something sounding like "Hallo", "Harou".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I enjoyed this, nice article.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

"Can you eat raw fish"?
1 ( +2 / -1 )

1."Can you eat raw fish"?

They do seem to forget that "smoked salmon" is raw and although I do like "kaki fry" I LOVE the raw ones even more !

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They do seem to forget that "smoked salmon" is raw

There's cold-smoked and hot smoked.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My writings are mostly humor mixed with social commentary. They're grand

Not really. The topic has been beaten to death.

Even Prof. Donald Keene gets irritated to be told that his nihongo wa jouzu desu

In fairness, his Japanese is probably much better than that of whoever is telling him that. It's like me telling Ichirio how impressed I am with how his hitting is coming along.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

To the writer, I think the bar bet idea is very rude and childish.


chill, its pretty clear this blurb is at best VERY LOOSELY based on an actual situation, ie its primarily fiction!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You missed "How tall are you?" and "Why are you here?".

Funny......back in my sensei-days, I used to to discuss 'the 5 questions' and why they never make you look better to the foreigner you're trying to impress, when teaching upper level students.

I enjoy my revenge of Demanding to know "Why are you here???" from any Japanese person I meet over here in Gaigoku.....before actually kindly giving them any real help they might need.

Oddly....they give me a look like it's a very strange question to ask......heheheeee.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

GW, Chill?? Funny, thats what Im telling these people who whine about various innocent comments the Japanese make to them. Have you not read the other comments? Im just pointing out how rude the bar bet comment would be. Maybe youve done it yourself and now you feel embarassed and that you have to defend yourself?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This article was like reading one big Rage Comic.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This article was funny, but it doesn't have to be unique to the Japanese. Some Americans used the exact same phrases from 1 to 5 on me, an Asian looking woman speaking English with a Canadian accent (or no accent). Konnichiwa! Where are you from? You speak good English! What's your name? How do you write that and what does it mean?

To my relief, they didn't ask me if I could use a fork and knife, nor did they ask if I could eat hamburgers and fries...;)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Much goes on in small talk. You can look into someones eyes and they yours. A smile says a thousand words and warms the heart. The different cultural movements are intriguing to us as ours are to them. A transference of solidarity and good will hopefully takes place. A thank you would be a nice way to end the conversation as one leaves with a piece of Japan in their heart. Sure the literal sense can be amusing in a light sense as the writer has written. No harm done and I bet he enjoys all of it. Them there eyes...something to remember. Even the elderly lady who welcomes him in her own way. Still will the spark of life. cool.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Still with the spark of life. Cool.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

very well written. I have lived here 17 years and i still get these questions not so much daily but certainly on a weekly basis. You forgot to add the part where when some people say 'herro' their friend standing beside them usually giggles like a dill as if to say 'hey you just communicated with ET'. And lets not forget the old 'Me no English' as they gesture with their hands and head shake after they were the ones who began the conversation in the first place with their 'herro'.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And apparently, responding in well pronounced Japanese was an option for him. Wonder why?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Meant to say " not an option"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

N00b Congrats you've stumbled on to something the rest of us know. If those things bother you just wait it gets better. Respond in Japanese. Tell them how well they use a fork. They don't ask me that sort of thing as tall and white as I am I'm largely ignored cause I kinda sorta blend in by not looking around like a tourist or speaking loud enough for a whole venue to hear me. It did take me back tho. Thanks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Guess the writer is smilling all the way the comment goes on..LOL. Anyway, it's not about Japanese after all..it's about how we treat people. Fool or not, it depends on how we look to the situation and ourselves, not to another people's capability. Especially for Japanese..time has learned us on how clever they are managing themselves to survive, right? Really love all the comment! :D

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese just try to be friendly and nice, the best way they know how. I love em.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

hahaah!!! thanks for making me laugh. I have lived in Japan for 7 years. :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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