Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Culture Differences

So the other day I was talking to a few American friends back home and I kind of realized that a lot of Americans don't know a lot of culture differences so here's a few essentials if you ever plan on traveling to Japan.

First, Japanese take baths EVERY night, and it's unusual if someone doesn't.

Next, walking inside a Japanese house with your shoes on is VERY disrespectful... In fact, they'd be utterly horrified if you did something of the sort. It's a sin to do so.

Also, at school, students have to say "Konnichiwa" and a bow (only with the head, though, sometimes a few boys will stop and bow) whenever they walk by a teacher in the hallway, other wise it's also very, very disrespectful.
----Students will also bow and say "Konnichiwa" to Senpai/s (Older students then them in the same club).

Whenever meeting someone for the first time, make sure to bow (unless you're walking***if you bow and walk you'll probably run into something ;) and also when seeing someone who you aren't close to, but know, it's also best to bow.

VERY IMPORTANT. Hand objects to people with TWO HANDS. Although this is often forgotten between friends and informal situations, it can be considered rude if you don't (unfortunately I made this mistake). Also, with sharp objects (such as scissors) NEVER hand them with the sharp point pointing towards the person you're handing the object to, other wise this is rude too.

The toilets here are different too. They are basically porcelain holes inside the ground and you have to squat to go to the bathroom.

Most Japanese houses have at least one traditional room with a tatami floor.

There is the formal way and informal way to speak in Japanese... be careful which one you use for which situations. And for names too, there are formal and informal ways to call someone. For example, one of my friends (who is older than me) will call me Holly-chan (chan is used for people you're close to or to people**usually girls** younger than you. But one probably don't want to add this to a boy's name. It can sound degrading. Be careful when using chan). Anyway, when we're with friends or by ourselves I'm Holly-chan but in formal situations (like introductions) I'm Holly-san (Miss Holly). When in doubt, use -san for someone's last name. But for really formal situations -sama.

Another thing about names, Japanese usually call each other by last names unless they are close friends, or have requested to be called by their first name.

Before eating, say "Itadakimasu" (I humbly recieve this) and afterward eating "Gochisosama deshita".

Hmmm... so that's all I can think of at the moment!


Homecoming? Prom?

I don't think so.
Instead of having dances like in America, Japanese schools have festivals such as "運動会”(undoukai) or "体育祭" (taiikusai). In this case, sports festivals.

There are three grades in Japanese high school (First graders, second graders, and third graders). Within these grades, like American schools, they are separated into different classes. However, classes are separated depending on the courses one wishes to take. (For example- Some classes specialize in English, while other classes spend most of their time learning about computers).

Around the time of the sports festival, the school is separated into teams. Each team consists of a class of third graders, a class of second graders, and a class of first graders. The teams are not based off of which subject they major in, and so every team varies.

After each team is chosen, the third years come up with a theme, a color, a costume, and a dance for their team. (My team was 神-god, with a yellow costume).

For about a week and a half, my school only had morning classes, and in the evenings we had 運動会の練習 (undoukai no renshuu) Practice for the sports festival. Practicing took the rest of the day (and it was hard and tedious). (And, of course, practice had to be after lunch, the hottest part of the day, and in the middle of a field with no shade). By the end of the day we were all sweaty, hot, tired, and sometimes even grumpy.

The main event of the sports festival is when each class dances.

Most of the dance music came from anime (Japanese cartoons) and the dances were... well... not at all like American dances. They included chants and hand motions to make designs and to affect the audience.

But the sports festival doesn't just have these dances. There are relay races and cheering contests, and etc. Besides the dance, I only participated in the relay races (peer pressure from my classmates) because I was the fastest girl in my class.

Each event is judged and the team that wins, is rewarded with melon pan (yum!).

My team's banner

White team during one of their dances, they won.

Monday, June 7, 2010


What's a Kimono? Well, looking at the Kanji, 着物, the first character (ki) means to wear and the second (mono) means thing. So, to put it simply, it's just something to wear!

Although everyone in Japan wore Kimonos in the past. I only see a few people walking around in them here. Kimonos are very expensive. Then there is the Yukata, which is like a Kimono but with less layers of cloth and less expensive ;) and both are only worn for special occasions. Fortunately, I got to try on a kimono at an AFS tea ceremony. Unfortunately, my camera died once the ceremony started.

But to start, we first had to put on a certain undergarment. Then following, the main part, and then a thick sash across the waist (which reminded me of a corset).

At the beginning of the ceremony, all of us AFSers sat down on the tatami (traditional Japanese) mat, in the traditional style (seiza). Seiza, is a way of sitting down on a tatami mat, kneeling with your feet crossed underneath you.

I lost feeling in my feet after sitting like this for seven minutes.

And a few of us had trouble standing up after it.

But, during the ceremony, we were served green tea in bowls. (Which, was served facing us. Therefore, when we received the tea we had to turn the bowl twice clockwise so the front was facing away from us while we were drinking). Also, whenever we had to bow during the ceremony, it literally was on hands and knees.

Well, guess that's all for now! :)

Avonworth Website

It was a normal day in computer class (me struggling to follow along, and Mari-chan trying her best to help me) When all the sudden, the teacher puts a sheet of paper in front of me. Lucky for me, it was written in some form of English "I think classmates hint need for high school website".
A hint? To get to Avonworth's website? Was that what he was trying to say?
Okay, I thought, and started to write some hints down in really poor Japanese.
First hint, it's a high school.
Second hint, "In the alphabet" I wrote "1, 22, 15, 14, 23, 15, 18, 20, 8" The letter of the alphabet corresponds to the number written.
Finally, the third hint, it's in PA.

They did find the website, and enjoyed looking at it. Although, I have to add, they were sorely disappointed we didn't have a Japanese version of our website. Some of them even wanted to try to "email" to it too.