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Top 10 things even Japanese people think they’re too obsessive about

51 Comments
By Scott Wilson, RocketNews24

It’s no exaggeration to say that Japan is pretty obsessive when it comes to societal safety and manners. Japanese people often go to ridiculous/disgusting lengths to stay safe and to make sure that visitors are aware of all the unspoken rules that permeate throughout the country.

But sometimes it’s all just too much, even for the native Japanese themselves. So we present to you a list of the top 10 things that even Japanese people think they’re too obsessive over. Are you just as paranoid as they are, or would you be considered a carefree spirit in Japan? Read on to find out.

This top 10 list was compiled by asking 200 Japanese men in their 20s and 30s what they believe Japanese people make too much of a fuss over. Each responder gave their personal top three, and each number one response received three points, the second two points, and the third one point.

Here’s the list after everything was tallied up, in order from what they believe is least to most stupid to obsess over:

10. Public transportation being a little off schedule [58 points]

Nobody likes waiting for a late bus or train. But what constitutes “late” can vary by culture. It would probably take about 10 minutes to get me stomping my foot in a comically angry way, but in Japan, where trains and buses are known for their punctuality, people can get antsy after less than a minute.

As a former bus driver though, nothing is worse than someone complaining that “you’re late” when you’ve been trying desperately to stay on time through traffic or an accident. So the next time your bus or train is just a little late, let’s all take a deep breath and remember they’ll be there soon enough.

9. Intense anti-bacterial measures (disinfectant, hand sanitizer, etc.) [60 points]

Good hygiene is important, but no one likes a hypochondriac clean-freak. So maybe you shouldn’t go around kissing your pets, but trying some poop makeup once might not be the end of the world either.

8. TV shows (content, production, etc.) [64 points]

Japanese TV may not be the greatest, but that doesn’t mean you have to go around complaining about it all the time. They have some of the best commercials in the world, so you can always at least be guaranteed something interesting to watch between shows.

7. Expiration and “best by” dates on food [65 points]

We’ve all been there: we’re at the supermarket and we just want to grab our food and go home, but there’s the fussy shopper in front of us who’s busy checking each and every item for the one with the furthest away expiration date.

If you’re going to finish it in a day or two anyway, it doesn’t really matter, does it? And even though most food is good a few days past its expiration date, people throw it out anyway, leading to a lot of waste. So let’s all stop obsessing over “best by” dates and use nature’s best expiration-detector: our noses.

6. Kids having to be quiet when playing in neighborhoods [72 points]

With Japan’s aging society, you’d think that children would get a bit more privilege, but it seems that the opposite is true. There have been recent cases going to court of elderly residents complaining about noise from day cares, kindergartens, and elementary schools.

I think those older residents need to stop for a minute and remember how loud they were when they were kids, then maybe they’d realize how ridiculous it looks for them to obsess over this.

5. Having to be quiet in an elevator [78 points]

While talking in an elevator isn’t the ultimate Japanese taboo, it can make anyone in the elevator not included in the conversation feel uncomfortable. Still, should people really be expected to cut off their conversation when the doors close? Most elevator rides are only a few seconds, so perhaps instead of feeling awkward, those who worry about it can just be glad they’re not stuck on a plane with them or something.

4. Having to be quiet in a movie theater [120 points]

As an American, this seems like a downright travesty. Part of the reason to go to the movies, or even watch movies in the first place, is to have reactions. You want to laugh, scream, cry, all that good stuff; you shouldn’t have to worry about letting a little bit of emotion slip out. Remember people: it’s a movie theater, not a library.

3. Politicians and celebrities accidentally saying the wrong things [131 points]

Politicians and others in the media are often not the most popular people in the world, but that doesn’t mean every single word out of their mouths has to be criticized. It’s important to not judge people by a few Freudian slips here and there, but by the actions they take when it really counts.

2. Having to be quiet on the train [133 points]

With four out of the top six items involving “having to be quiet,” it seems like the participants in this survey are sick and tired of everybody shushing them all the time.

For this one however, I’m sure a lot of people would have a variety of opinions. Visitors from other countries are often brought to tears of joy with how nice and quiet Japanese trains are, but it seems like a lifetime of having to stay quiet can take its toll as well.

Either way, even if you’re a staunch fan of the zipped-lip train, let’s try not to glare at people when they have a short conversation or laugh at something they’re reading.

1. Parents freaking out over small scrapes and bruises on children [185 points]

This one wins by a landslide, with 50 points more than the number two spot. But does it deserve it?

I think a lot of people would agree that it does. While many of the other items on this list are certainly annoying, this one can have serious repercussions down the road when the child grows up. Getting hurt sucks, there’s no argument there, but it’s also a good learning opportunity, and learning from mistakes helps children grow up into mature adults.

Meanwhile, fretting over every little injury can make the child paranoid, spoiled, or even have trouble discerning between things that are actually problems and things that are not. So instead of freaking out over every bump and bruise, perhaps parents can instead help the child put it into perspective instead, giving the advice my kindergarten teacher always told us when we got hurt: “By the time you’re grown up and married, you’re not going to remember this at all.” And believe it or not, she was right.

That’s it for the top 10, but here’s some other honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut: people complaining about how personal information is used, and complaints about body odor/bad breath.

While that first one has some legitimacy to it, perhaps the reason why it didn’t make top 10, the other one not making top 10 is a little surprising. Is it because the 200 men who filled out the survey have such impeccable hygiene that no one ever complains about them, or because they smell so bad no one dares to come close enough to them to complain? Seems like this calls for another survey.

Source: Web R25

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51 Comments
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American and Japanese commercials are all pretty corny if you ask me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They have some of the best commercials in the world, so you can always at least be guaranteed something interesting to watch between shows.

Yeeeaaaaaah-no.

If you like lots of sound effects and weird camera zoom, sure... You simply can not compete with some of the wonkyness that comes out of the Superbowl though.

There are a very few that are entertaining, sure..but most of it is just terrible.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nothing wrong with #2. It should even be a strong selling point. Try a subway in HK/Toronto/NY, etc. Loud and obnoxious. For #10, a little off is fine, but I do like their schedule to be on time. Again, nothing wrong with it and should also be one of many things they should be proud of. Unlike some world class city want to be, like Toronto Canada. Its subway schedule sucks. You are lucky if they are on time at all. Comparing to Tokyo subway which is 10x more complicate and more traffic, Toronto could not even manage that to run smoothly.

HK subway is on time but loud and obnoxious. Not an enjoyable ride at all.

NY, well, just smells. I felt like I need a whole body disinfection after a ride there.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

9 and I'm surprised they didn't mention people wearing masks all the time. Some people will wear them every day. If they have a cold it's to prevent giving it to others. If they don't have a cold it's to keep from getting one.

A related obsession is women who are afraid of any sunlight touching their skin and so wear visors or big floppy hats, long sleeves/pants whenever they are outside. My "favorite" are the fake sleeves. Those things are so silly.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

1, LOL. I got my nipper outside in the backyard today without his shoes on - he had a fat old time running around feeling the grass and sand between his toes. Loved it. His mother just about went apoplectic when she saw it and completely lamented the fact that her son's father is Australian. Him falling over has her feeling faint.

I may be prone to a little hyperbole here, but you get my drift. I grew up barefoot - my kiddy sure as hell won't though. No siree.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The wording of #3 (politicians and celebrities accidentally saying the wrong thing) is a bit too sweeping, I think. Most people occasionally say something "wrong" accidentally; e.g. mis-state a number by a factor of 10, or say the name of Mr.B when they meant to say Mr.A. Japanese people don't obsess about this sort of "wrong." What they DO get worked up about from time to time is public fugures saying things that are outrageous. For example, former Prime Minister Aso saying Japan could learn constitutional reform lessons from the Nazis. Or a male lawmaker yelling across the lgislature floor at a young female diet member speaking about the problem of falling rural population, "You should give birth first!" Or a politician stating; Japan needs nuclear power plants so we can produce plutonium for atomic weapons. In Japan such people offer a lame excuse or half-hearted apology and remain right where they are. In many other countries they'd suffer graver consequences, at least temporarily, to save face for their political party. All of this to say, Japanese people actually appear to obsess about a-hole politicians much LESS than do the citizens of many other countries. Attention given to loose-lipped celebrities is another matter altogether: If you ask me, anything more than a 5-minute twitter storm is ridiculous/disgusting, if it about something said by Beat Takeshi, or by some AKB49er. But this is not a phenomenon unique to Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Under what sort of circumstances would being diced by heavy, flanged wheels be a survivable event?

A non-fatal jiinshinjiko would be when a jumper is not hit at all but the train still has to make an emergency stop, or when only a limb is amputated.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many people are poo-pooing the idea that Japanese (a majority or significant minority anyway) are obsessive about bacterial/ cleanliness. I think they are obsessive. But just because they are obsessive about it, don't assume they are SMART about it! They aren't!

Most of those Japanese who are obsessive are females. And in typical female fashion they entertain more superstitious belief than scientific fact, OR they misapply scientific fact in an irrational, superstitious fashion or focus on appearance only. And of course, there is no holistic analysis to what they do.

I agree. I have seen very few people actually wash there hands before eating, they just put their germs on the oshibori and transfer them back and forth to their hands, face, etc. Breads in the bread stores are rarely covered and are open to all kinds of coughing, sneezing, touching, etc., and nobody seems to care about that. Many also seem surprised when I tell them I have my teeth cleaned regularly since they only go to the dentist when they have a cavity or other problem. And lets not forget the constant sharing of food at nomikai's, often with people they don't even know. A former colleague once offered me a lick of her ice cream from the same spoon she shared with several other colleagues - I said no thank you!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ BNlightened

"Safety guards at construction sites that basically wave you through/around the obvious (especially when the site's been wrapped up and cordoned off so well that there's no way anyone could possibly get hurt on their own!)"

Yup this one drives me nuts, 1 guy digging a hole 3 guys watching him and 2 waving sticks so you dont fall in the hole. J Logic in motion.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A.N. Other: Commonly referred to as a "fatality" in the U.K.

Anyone for Mortal Kombat?

On the Underground at least it's referred to as 'a person under the train' and they're not always fatal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many people are poo-pooing the idea that Japanese (a majority or significant minority anyway) are obsessive about bacterial/ cleanliness. I think they are obsessive. But just because they are obsessive about it, don't assume they are SMART about it! They aren't!

Most of those Japanese who are obsessive are females. And in typical female fashion they entertain more superstitious belief than scientific fact, OR they misapply scientific fact in an irrational, superstitious fashion or focus on appearance only. And of course, there is no holistic analysis to what they do.

They wash hands beyond what is necessary. You went outside, you come back in, you wash your hands. It makes no difference what you did or didn't touch. Anti-bacterial coatings are on everything now. I know, because I try to avoid that junk, but its almost impossible. Then there is washing. They tend to bathe in water that is MUCH too hot. But then they wash their clothes in cold water! Derp! Then there are the faux surgical masks. Worn to ward off bacteria and viruses, or prevent the spread, but they reuse the same one for a week! Derp! Derp! I am sure I could think of more, but you get the picture.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Jinshinjiko is not always fatal.

Under what sort of circumstances would being diced by heavy, flanged wheels be a survivable event?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@shonanbb

Also, when watching dumb tv, something as simple as, "Hey Look, That guy is eating a sandwich !" can cause uncontrollable laughter. Why?

You won't believe this, but the laughter on Japanese TV is mostly staged. I guess that could be said for TV shows in most countries. Particulalry with the owarai programmes here, the audience are made up of extras. How do I know this? Well, I know one! They're literally paid to laugh...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Oh yes, point cards. I go in the same stores daily and the same clerks ask me over and over again if I had a point card. Why would I suddenly get one?

Also, when watching dumb tv, something as simple as, "Hey Look, That guy is eating a sandwich !" can cause uncontrollable laughter. Why?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Jinshinjiko is not always fatal.

I didn't know that. I stand corrected.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Commonly referred to as a "fatality" in the U.K.

Jinshinjiko is not always fatal.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

8 - Yeah right! If you think shouting, a silly dance and a super annoying jingle makes the commercials here some of the best in the world, you need to rinse your head out in the toilet.
3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japanese people often go to ridiculous/disgusting lengths to stay safe and to make sure that visitors are aware of all the >unspoken rules that permeate throughout the country.

Which part is "disgusting" no cause to use this word. This whole piece seems not to accurate to me

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Personally I think people should be quiet in movie theatres. Well, I don't mind the odd bit of laughter, but then you get those people who keep on laughing ten minutes after the joke, and it's not a quiet laugh either. More like a seal begging for fish. All too often though, I've gone to movies and had to deal with people talking all throughout, either to friends, on the phone, or even to a complete stranger. There was even one time when there was a couple.... getting intimate during the movie. I could understand if it was a romance movie, but since when was blood and gore romantic? Nowadays I steer clear of the theatre and just get the DVDs.

I tend not to have an issue with transportation running late. Unless there's torrential rain, or the temperature's below freezing and with wind chill as well. Then I get annoyed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I become annoyed when convenience store clerks insist on putting a piece of tape on my pack of gum, even when I ask them not to. Are they worried that they'll suddenly forget that I've paid as I walk from the register to the door? Also, why do I have to touch the register's screen every time I buy my Asahi? I'm a lot younger than I look; I'm almost 60. And I only buy non-alcohol beer.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nobody complained about women having to wait for men to leave the elevator first? Ah - Japanese male survey.

When I first arrived, I was trying to be extra polite everywhere, even in elevators. Got to the top floor with 3 women in the elevator, I stepped aside to let them off first - Mom would be proud. They didn't move and the door closed. We all went back down to the 1st floor and road up again.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I don't agree that Japanese commercials are great. I find them quite juvenile.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

jinshinjiko (人身事故) is actually a 'human accident' - a euphemism for suicide.

Commonly referred to as a "fatality" in the U.K.

Anyone for Mortal Kombat?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

More than anywhere else on earth, being reminded to "be silent" in art galleries. I just don't understand the obsession with silence in this situation. It's not a library, and sometimes I want to (quietly) chat with friends about what's good or bad about the artwork. But the bad looks one can receive if they do this during an "important" exhibition...

Safety guards at construction sites that basically wave you through/around the obvious (especially when the site's been wrapped up and cordoned off so well that there's no way anyone could possibly get hurt on their own!)

Trucks that screech safety warning sounds, bells or even comments when making a turn (especially those trucks that shout out: "I am turning left, please be careful! I am turning left, please be careful!")

"Top" rankings of anything and everything (yes, I am aware of the irony, thank you very much-my list is in random order, so there!) coupled with the need of Japanese to go right out and do/try exactly what the list suggests. "Osusume number 1 is number 1! No questioning!"

The obsession with using point cards, usually in order to collect some pretty insignificant "rewards."

Food shows where each and every host/guess must try the exact same dish one after the other and inevitably make the exact same comment..."Oishii/Umai!" Doesn't this ever wear thin with the Japanese?

The need to overreact with faux hilarity whenever someone says something even remotely humorous (The knee-slapping and hand-clapping overkill makes those "talents" on TV look like a bunch of trained seals...arf-arf-arf!)

Looking over my list, I realize many of the points included are rather petty, but hey, they're also really widespread, so there you go.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Funny how half the list consists of noise-related peeves, yet Japanese themselves are obsessed with LOUD NOISES. Obnoxiously loud & annoying commercials (can't believe the writer said "some of the best in the world" - yeah, whatever!), combini speakers, storefront speakers, storefront staff shouting at the top of their lungs on repeat, train announcements every 2 seconds (the 'gokyoryoku onegaishimasu' really starts to wear thin rather quickly), station announcements at deafening levels (on repeat), speaker trucks, senkyo trucks, quasi-yakuza 'recycling' trucks, the list goes on. Just noise, noise and more noise. Even my ¥40,000 noise-cancelling headphones are often defeated!

9 ( +10 / -1 )

This country supports the band aid society of the world.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

“By the time you’re grown up and married, you’re not going to remember this at all.”

Yes, you're a small child with no long-term memory... that means... that... I can do... THIS!!!! :-(

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What the... who wrote this? 1, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are wildly inaccurate. Especially the bacteria-phobic thing. You're lucky to see anyone (male or female) use soap after using the bathroom. I would say that Japanese people probably think they're the most concerned about bacteria but it's hardly the case. Same goes for minor injuries on children. Japanese people, in SOME ways, are overprotective of their children but not in the area of small injuries. It could be because I'm American, and Americans are absolutely (unnecessarily) paranoid about everything having to do with young children (everything padded and plastic, having backup stock of neosporin) but I've never seen bumpier, bruise-ier children than the Japanese.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

People screaming their boring life history is not good.

And Jinshinjiko...well, the jumpers need to find a new venue.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yes I have came across the Tokyo Salarymen hand washing custom of wetting the finger tips. I actually think they are concerned about having to wait to dry their hand. When I entering Tokyo station I knew when there is major cancelation. By the smell, The pipes back up. I talk in elevators. I repeat the audio each time and always get looks generated my way. When I ask for a refund I get looks again. When I laugh when a kid or Adults injure themselves, (like stumble and fall or walk into something when not paying attention) I get looks again. THese looks are coming from my Girlfriend also. So I must go around annoying 80% of the Japanese population without realising LOL.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Visitors from other countries are often brought to tears of joy with how nice and quiet Japanese trains are

Whoever wrote that must be quite deaf. The trains are noisy. There is those old heaters clunking away, the clack-ka-clack of the wheels on the tracks, other trains going by causing the windows windows to shake, constant noisy announcements about the next stop, etc, and even train horn blasts.

Given all that noise, I am always astounded at Japanese quite conversations or cold stares at people who dare to laugh out loud or just talk at a normal tone. There are even complaints about music coming from someone's earphones! Obviously its not the noise that bothers them. Its other people having a nice time that bothers them. Seriously.

And yes, its the same concerning the geezers that complain about children playing in the park.

Japan is not a poor country. The rule should be, if you have a problem with the sounds of joy, buy ear plugs, and shut the frak up.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I heard from several people that the noise from another person's earbuds on the train was really annoying. I also remember seeing a waring in a train car or bus saying "Beware of leaking sound from your headphones." That to me qualifies as obsessive and high-strung.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

There is always some accident (jinshinjiko)

jinshinjiko (人身事故) is actually a 'human accident' - a euphemism for suicide. An accident would just be jiko (事故).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Only if #8 were true

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This list is a joke. There is always some accident (jinshinjiko) or earthquake which causes trains to be late. The pushy obasans and kids on the trains are noisy as hell and oblivious to the people around them. The kids and bosozoku in my neighborhood don't give a sheet how much noise they make nor what time it happens to be. Most of the salarymen I see in bathrooms barely run water over their hands much less use hand sanitizer or deodorant. Don't know anyone who watches TV for the commercials and most of the 'tarento' don't seem to have any talent. The politicians are way behind the times. I could go on. It's so uncool to feed the obsessive 'we are the greatest' mentality of so-called "cool Japan."

3 ( +6 / -3 )

How about lists?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I actually is anoying when a governor say stupid things like "Confort women was necessary, to the soldiers WWII" or "Japan need self defense bill to protect Japan" Like I say is anoying!
1 ( +4 / -3 )

Bus drivers will wait (even if behind schedule) if they see elderly or crippled pasengers waving hands far are approaching slowly in countryside, not in big city.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What I don't understand is when the bus you are about to board won't even wait for you even if we're just talking in seconds late, and even when the bus driver sees you coming hurrying down a plight of stairs carefully putting in mind not to stumble. And mind you, the bus is empty and about to make a a stop a couple of meters away when the signal light is red. Very robotic. No feelings.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@FizzBit

I don't understand how anyone would expect a bus to run on time.

Exactly. The article should't include buses. Where I live they are late more than 5 minutes quite often and people take it in stride. Bus drivers who have to contend with all sorts of traffic and weather can't be that accurate and people know that.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Not listed: obsession with "top 3," "top 10" and "top 100" lists.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I don't understand how anyone would expect a bus to run on time.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

@Strangerland. Me, too. I live in Tomakomai and I am thrilled if the city bus is only five minutes late.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Hung up about band aids.

I hate people that scream their life story on a train. I do not mind people talking, but when I can hear their life story from the far end of the car, I usually walk down and tell them to shut up even if I lose my seat to do it.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Public transport in Japan has to be on time, because this is Japan. My employers before Japan weren't particularly fussed when I came a bit late and when waiting for the bus, there was always a long bench inside a shelter, and in spring and summer a grassy boulevard to lie on and watch the world go by.

In Tokyo, waiting is a hellish experience. It takes place standing on a hellishly crowded platform with a total of about 12 seats for a crowd of 10,000, and ear-splitting announcements blaring. And lateness is almost never tolerated.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I used to live in a place where the bus only came once or twice an hour, and it was pretty much always late.

In Japan? Sounds like it could be New Zealand.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

in Japan, where trains and buses are known for their punctuality

I used to live in a place where the bus only came once or twice an hour, and it was pretty much always late.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Number 4, the movies... have a laugh and a quiet chatter, good belly laugh or a decent cry, but yeah... I'd rather the cinema be quiet than having people give a running commentary of what everyone in the cinema has just seen for themselves... and phones should be kept OFF. It is a bit obsessive in Japan though.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

???? I've never seen any Japanese friend of mine show the slightest hint of concern about their children's physical safety. Health in so far as getting a cold and being paranoid about miniscule changes in temperature, yes, but not cuts and bruises.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Parents freaking out over small scrapes and bruises on children [185 points]

That one only , I have personally experienced that and was annoyed when I was young(10yrs) , But at that time I wasn't allowed to utter a word about it

3 ( +4 / -1 )

not being 10 seconds late for a meeting even if its your friends or family.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

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