7 services that don’t make sense to foreigners in Japan

7 services that don’t make sense to foreigners in Japan

TOKYO —

Japanese website Netallica recently conducted a survey of foreigners, asking them to name services and jobs in Japan that leave them in a state of bewilderment.

Take a look at the top seven services that make foreigners in Japan pause and exclaim, “What the heck?!”

Human Traffic Sign

Even though there are plenty of flashing signs to warn drivers that late-night construction is taking place, there is always a worker directing traffic and doing the exact same job as the sign. It’s a completely pointless expense. (France/Female/Late-20s)

Elevator Lady

The department store elevator lady… even if she wasn’t there, I can get to my desired floor without any problems. (China/Male/Late-20s)

Shopping Escorts

When shopping, it doesn’t matter what you bought, the cashier will walk you all the way to the front door. I’m not lost; there’s no need to take me to the exit. Even if I didn’t pay a lot of money, the cashiers will occasionally see me off. (USA/Female/Late-20s)

Irasshaimase

I think store employees say “Irasshaimase” (welcome) way too much. It often happens that employees aren’t even looking at the customers, but still “welcome” them to the store. I think “irasshaimase” is a word that should be said wholeheartedly or not at all. (Uzbekistan/Male/Late-20s)

Tissue Advertisements

The people whose job it is to stand outside train stations and hand out tissues with little flyers in them. I feel like I can never get away from advertisements… but I still take the tissues every time, lol. (Argentina/Male/Late-20s)

NHK

Residents of Japan are made to pay a fee to watch NHK (Japan’s national broadcasting station), but anyone can turn on the TV and watch NHK channels whether they’re paying the fees or not. (Thailand/Female/Early 30s)

I’ve heard dozens of stories from people who have tried to get out of paying the NHK man (and there are plenty more online), but they’re always entertaining, so if you have one of your own by all means let us know in the comments section below. Is it right that representatives should go from door-to-door asking residents to pay for the national broadcasting station? Surely there’s a better way?

Ground-Breaking Ceremony

“Jichinsai,” or ground-breaking ceremony, is “a Shinto ritual intended to calm the kami (god) of the earth whenever a new building or other construction begins.” 

I get that it’s religious, but it costs a lot of money and nothing really comes out of the ceremony… there’s no result. (UK/Male/Early 40s)

Amidst all the service-bashing, however, one woman emerged with an entirely different point of view:

I like all of the services available in Japan. There aren’t any services that don’t serve a purpose. (Sweden/Female/Early 40s)

A very bold statement. But what do you think? Can you think of any other services or jobs in Japan that seem a little superfluous? 

Source: Netallica

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RocketNews24

  • 1

    JonathanJo

    A long time ago I saw someone whose job was to stand at the bottom of an escalator all day polishing the handrails as they went round. I don't think the department store concerned can afford such staff now though.

  • 31

    ukguyjp

    "Irasshaimase". Isn't only a way of welcoming customers. It also has the function of letting customers know their presence has been noted, thereby also detering possible thievery, and also alerts other shop workers to be on their toes.

  • 26

    LiveInTokyo

    Rocket News strikes again. Everything in Japan is unique or doesn't make sense to, "foreigners". The Human Traffic sign is in many countries, including my own as are the Shopping Escorts. I think the UK still has to pay for a television license. The elevator ladies used to exist in many countries many years ago. And the ground-breaking ceremony ... I wouldn't betting that many religions in other countries do the same/similar thing. Rocket News really seems to be obsessed with, "mystifying", Japan. It seems to be an obsession with Japan.

  • 9

    Speed

    Men who stand next to the ticket machine at the entrance to parking garages. They stand between you and the machine, push the big red button, the parking ticket comes out and they hand it to you.

    There is a theory by some of my J-friends that it's better to have them doing an unnecessary jobs than having them jobless and possibly turning to crime or have them on welfare. But the economy has tanked so.....

  • 3

    Himajin

    In the US, at all road construction you have to have either a town or a State cop....on double overtime...that's more of an expense and paid for by taxpayers. At least the 'pointy men' are paid by the company that hires them.

  • -15

    Himajin

    BTW, they actually give tissues to foreigners somewhere in this country?

  • 6

    Antonios_M

    Actually, these kind of services (with the exception of the NHK fee) are quite nice, convenient (free tissues), and are part of Japanese uniqueness. Plus, the Japanese customers expect to be treated nicely whenever they go. They don't mind the elevator lady announcing the floor nor the "irasshaimase" greeting when they enter a sushi restaurant. It's part of their tradition and mentality. I surely don't mind the worker directing the traffic either.

  • 14

    Hiroicci

    I find elevator girls weird (and sometimes attractive) myself.

  • 6

    wackness

    When you buy something and the clerk puts in it like seven bags, while a line of people waits behind.

  • 6

    Zen student

    Human traffic sign = hidden unemployment (more or less).

    But really, none of these services bother me. In fact, that's what's great about Japan and how 'odd' it is.

    As for the NHK guy, I don't watch TV so refuse to pay it everytime. HOWEVER! when I showed the NHK guy who came to my door that I clearly had no TV (just a PC), he then pointed at my mobile phone (!) and said "well that has a TV on it so you have to pay for it". I just told him, "don't use that either. YouTube is far more interesting than shoddy, extremely boring J TV programs". And shut the door in hsi face as kindly as possible.

  • 16

    nikkeiboy

    I love being in a department store at closing time. I was at Seibu Ikebukuro and all the staff line up in front of their shops around closing time. While I was walking to the exit I felt like royalty as they all greeted me politely. Probably not necessary, but gave me a good feeling.

  • -4

    heretoolong

    The "traffic guards" who stop you when leaving a supermarket or mall to check that the traffic is safe for you. I can't tell you how many times they're waving me on and they didn't even LOOK to see if cars, bikes, or people were coming from the opposite direction. The same thing goes with crosswalk guards - we have lights, right? They stand out there with their shiny vest and flashing red wand looking "official", but they are completely unnecessary.

  • 8

    Yubaru

    Not too many rocket scientists at the Rocket are there?

    Personally speaking these folks who made the comments that they did are probably newbies to Japan and know little if anything about the culture and people so it's to be expected that these services don't make sense.

    However the NHK fee payment one is something that is not just Japanese, as noted England has it as well and iirc people can go to jail there if they don't pay for BBC services when they buy their TV. In a manner of speaking it isn't a cultural think, and it's just ignorance about Japan and it's laws.

    There are plenty of other head scratchers out there that could have been used instead of these.

    Let explain one for the uninformed; The "Human Traffic Sign"; while many people just see them performing the same tasks as the mechanical one's these guys also provide services that the machine cant. They do direct traffic and they also keep a human pair of eyes out for potential problems that can and often do occurr at construction sites. THeir job looks mundane, and it is for many, but it is a small but important safety feature that Japanese companies use.

  • -16

    Probie

    Human Traffic Sign

    This always makes me laugh. Not just the traffic ones, but those guys who's job it is to tell you that you can't walk up the part of the stairs that are walled off for construction work, and gesture you to the obviously only useable part of the stairs. There's sometimes 2 of them at the top and 2 of them at the bottom too. How must it feel to be doing a job that is completely pointless?

    Elevator Lady

    Annoying. I don't want to have to talk to someone to get where I'm going. I have perfectly good button-pushing-fingers, thank you.

    Shopping Escorts

    I don't mind this all that much.

    Irasshaimase

    This is annoying as hell! I always have to stop myself from shouting "SHUT UP!!!!!!!". Most of the time they aren't even looking at who they're shouting to. What's the point? It's rude.

    Tissue Advertisements

    The tissues can be useful sometimes. But, I used to have a horde of them at home because I never used them. I've never ever looked at what was on the advertisement in them. Always just pulled it out and binned it, and the ones with it printed on the package might as well be written in binary, because I've never read one.

    NHK

    Just tell them you don't have a TV and that's the end. I quite enjoy it when they come, just hoping I get a pushy old guy who I can take down a peg or two, when he tried to bully me and ends up getting bullied back instead.

    Ground-Breaking Ceremony

    This is fine. Looks stupid but I don't have a problem with it.

    I like all of the services available in Japan. There aren’t any services that don’t serve a purpose. (Sweden/Female/Early 40s)

    This person either just arrived in Japan, 5 minutes ago, or is the nicest person ever in the history of the human race.

    Here's my 2 cents.

    The cops who stand in front of a koban or somewhere, with a stick. I know police in general are useless here, but these guys are the worst. Standing there, trying to look all tough with their stick, but just looking like an insecure fool. Just stand there! You don't need the stick! You have a pistol strapped to your hip!

    It's a typical example of the Japanese tradition of not actually doing anything, but just looking like you're doing something.

  • 0

    papigiulio

    @himajin: yes they do.

    I agree somewhat with the irashaimase, they say it way too often.

  • 0

    zenkan

    @heretoolong Well said! The supermarket traffic ushers are an absolute menace. But that isn't because the job is superfluous - they just need more flag wielding lessons. Some of the services were valid in the past, and remain as tradition now. At the supermarket, the cashier spends too long arranging my items in the basket, only for me to have to take them all out and repack them - i suppose I should just get "my kago".

  • -7

    tmarie

    I like the tissues - though hate that some folks ignore me and only give them to the Japanese.

    Will agree on pretty much everything else. The sheer number of staff hired for parking lots and construction here is shocking - our tax money at work to pay these folks.

    I will add in the bank greeting people who press a button and give you your number.

  • 2

    gaijinfo

    Japan is the least efficient nation on Earth. If they actually fired everybody that wasn't directly involved in creating and selling products, there's be 50% unemployment.

    It's like they belong to one big, gigantic, "politeness" union or something.

  • -7

    Probie

    However the NHK fee payment one is something that is not just Japanese, as noted England has it as well and iirc people can go to jail there if they don't pay for BBC services when they buy their TV. In a manner of speaking it isn't a cultural think, and it's just ignorance about Japan and it's laws.

    I think that the thing with the NHK guy and what is different to the UK, is that in the UK, if you tell the guy to buzz off, you end up with a fine and legal trouble if you refuse to pay. In Japan, nothing happens, so why bother paying people to do the job?

  • -6

    rickyvee

    one service that grates on me is when I pay for something by credit card, even if it's 500 yen, the clerk will ask me if i want to pay for it in installments. it's 500 yen, dude!!

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    The human traffic signs can actually be helpful when traffic is reduced to one lane due to construction. The thing that irks me about it is that these companies just think they can park anywhere and block public roads, at any time, for their own profit.

    The only one I REALLY disagree with is the NHK fee. It's ridiculous that I would have to pay for something I never use. Stop ALL my access to TV channels if I don't pay; it's fine with me. I can still use my blu-ray player and not be expected to shell out 2800 or so a month.

    Probie: "I think that the thing with the NHK guy and what is different to the UK, is that in the UK, if you tell the guy to buzz off, you end up with a fine and legal trouble if you refuse to pay."

    Another difference is that the UK offers decent programming. Japan HAS made laws similar to the UK to try and stop people from not paying, but with all the money scandals that followed they've had a hard time enforcing it.

  • -3

    theFu

    The men directing people to an airport line, like immigration or customs, wearing white gloves.
    They are in the non-resident area, but don't speak any other language than Japanese. Pointless. Arrows on the floor do just as much.

    I see these people around and it honestly seems like charity to give them a job for this.

    On my first trip to Japan, I didn't bring a few necessities (handkerchief) and had to do a little shopping. I found all the store clerks saying "Irasshaimase" without looking AT ME freaked me out. In a tech society, it seems that an electric eye connected to an MP3 player could play that over and over and over with just as much feeling whenever the light wave is broken at the door. It sounds like a duty the way it is said almost everywhere.

    Don't misunderstand, there are far more things that I absolutely love about Japan, but these two seem pointless.

    Nobody thinks the train fillers/shovers are not necessary. I wonder why? ;)

  • 3

    nigelboy

    one service that grates on me is when I pay for something by credit card, even if it's 500 yen, the clerk will ask me if i want to pay for it in installments. it's 500 yen, dude!!

    That's probably what the clerk thought,too. "it's 500 yen, dude!!" Probably thought you were cash strapped so bad that there is a slight chance that you needed the installments.

    As for human traffic lights, they are helpful for pedestrians near the constructions sites where heavy trucks are going in and out frequently.

    Irrasshaimase- annoying but at least the store knows that you are there as opposed to being completely ignored in other countries. Same thought for so-called shopping escorts.

    Elevator Gal- don't need them.

    Tissues- apparently, it's very effective for an advertisement depending on the industry.

  • -2

    gogogo

    You also forgot doormat service, there are companies that replace your mats in your elevator and building daily.

  • 4

    Ayler

    The NHK guy is a waste of time and money. They could easily digitally block the signal to non-paying homes now. Why support a company that so blatantly wastes money and hires bullying thugs to do it?

  • 0

    y3chome

    i hate when walking round a shop, or in a restaraunt trying to have a conversation with a friend at a civilsed decibel level, and the staff shouting IRASSHAIMASSE at 110db in our faces every 3 seconds.

  • 6

    combinibento

    For all the unnecessary, purposeless jobs they hire people for here, it's odd that the one thing they haven't thought of hiring someone to bag your groceries for you at the supermarket.

  • -6

    Probie

    The NHK guy is a waste of time and money. They could easily digitally block the signal to non-paying homes now. Why support a company that so blatantly wastes money and hires bullying thugs to do it?

    Yeah, but messing with those thugs is really fun! When my timid 120lb wife answers the door and they start talking all tough, it's great to see their face turn white when they see me, a 250lb hockey player, walk straight up to them and start having fun.

    Another difference is that the UK offers decent programming. Japan HAS made laws similar to the UK to try and stop people from not paying, but with all the money scandals that followed they've had a hard time enforcing it.

    NHK does have some great programming. Only documentaries though, which I love. Everything else is garbage. I'll pay for it when they start enforcing.

    Irrasshaimase- annoying but at least the store knows that you are there as opposed to being completely ignored in other countries. Same thought for so-called shopping escorts.

    No. I don't need a false welcome.

    Nobody thinks the train fillers/shovers are not necessary. I wonder why? ;)

    At least they actually do something though.

  • 6

    TheInterstat

    NHK man. LOL.

    Had one come to my place the other night.

    He asked me if I had a TV. I said yes. He then started telling me I needed to pay for NHK.

    I invited him in and showed him that the TV was not connected to the TV connection on the wall. He got confused. I pointed out that it was 2013, and having a TV does not necessarily mean that a person is going to use that for watching brainless Japanese rubbish, piped in by the ministry.

    He gave up and left.

  • -4

    michikokada

    I will feel rather uncomfortable if the above-mentioned services aren't available, except for the NHK one. I think NHK should learn from BBC, the fee is composed in when anyone purchases a TV set.

  • 15

    badman

    I hadn't lived in Tokyo for very long, when one day there was a knock on my door. I couldn't speak Japanese, but the man introduced himself as working for NHK. At the time, I had no idea about the NHK fee, I didn't speak Japanese and he didn't speak English, so it was very confusing. I thought he was trying to get me to donate (PBS in the US relies on viewers donations, but they are completely voluntary) and I declined, as I did not even own a TV. He persisted and even got aggressive. I told him I didn't have a TV and he clearly thought I was lying, so he tried to force his way into my home. Well, as an American, this was particularly offensive and I was about to get violent with him, so he left.

    A bit later in the afternoon he returned with a colleague who spoke some English. He asked me to pay the fee and I declined saying I did not own a TV and he replied that everyone owns a TV and that we are required by law to pay the fee. I then let them in to see that I did, in fact, own no TV and they left bowing shamefully. It was quite a disturbing experience.

  • 0

    davestrousers

    I think NHK should learn from BBC

    Yeah... learn how to truly be evil. Pursue people for non payment to the point of going to prison even if they're not even watching BBC television. Meanwhile have a commercial arm with worldwide profits of a couple of hundred million off of stuff like Sherlock, Doctor Who and Planet Earth. Proves the point that if you make good stuff it will make money anyway.

  • 1

    Onniyama

    Ah. The NHK menace. There are people who pay and people who will not. I do not think sending these workers around to try and collect changes attitudes very much. In fact, a guy I know in the TV industry told me that NHK spends more money sending these people around than they actually collect from doing so. Go figure. They come by our place about once a month. Truly annoying. The irrasshai thing can be annoying too when it is done in that incessant, robotic fashion. When done properly at an izakaya for example, it can be very welcoming.

  • 1

    gjn48kawaii

    What is not to understand, they are self explanatory and they exist.

  • 0

    slumdog

    The department store elevator lady… even if she wasn’t there, I can get to my desired floor without any problems.

    Yeah, but the inside of the elevator wouldn't look as nice.

    When shopping, it doesn’t matter what you bought, the cashier will walk you all the way to the front door.

    I like the idea of customers being treated with respect.

    I think “irasshaimase” is a word that should be said wholeheartedly or not at all.

    I think that in general it is better to be greeted rather than ignored.

    but I still take the tissues every time, lol.

    I like getting free tissues. The small packs come in handy.

    But what do you think? Can you think of any other services or jobs in Japan that seem a little superfluous?

    I enjoy the service and the respect most employees have toward their customers.

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    Probie: There are of course exceptions when I say NHK doesn't offer any good programming, and you're correct (in my opinion) that it's only through documentaries. BBC is still LORDS above anything NHK produces.

    Anyway, I meant to add about the human traffic signals; there is one more thing that really gets my goat about them. Yesterday morning when I was riding my bike to work I had a green light and was going to go through the intersection when one of said traffic signals stopped me so that a large truck could make the turn before I crossed. Ie. they give priority to their own vehicles over pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles, which is just wrong. Just because it's a big truck roaring down the road faster than the speed limit does not mean they should be able to stop me in my tracks instead of stopping the truck so I can rightly cross first.

  • 3

    Brandon A English

    Well it's apparent that mainstream US news isn't the only place to find silly and pointless reporting. I'm certain there are a LOT of things that don't make sense to "foreigners" in Japan, just as there are lots of things that don't make sense to Japanese when they are in other countries. "This just in: SOME CULTURES ARE DIFFERENT!" Really? Thanks for the update. I have seen similar examples of all the above here in the US, so what if Japan does it as well?

  • -3

    slumdog

    Oooh, sorry. I did not realize that, "But what do you think?" meant I had to write only negative things. Thanks to the two people for the heads up.

  • -3

    jforce

    NHK and NHKE are great channels - especially the children's programming. As for all the other jobs they are not only to do the same job day-in and day-out (if they do, then I commend them for dealing with the public). But a lot of them rotate with the other staff. It's not a big deal. The service is far better here from department stores to road crews. I appreciate a hard-day's work by anyone. The people who wrote this are simply new, or are temporary. Just enjoy your experience then move back to your country and complain about how weird Japanese are. Ugh.

  • -2

    Probie

    @Dog

    You should lose someone weight.

    Hahaha! No, should you see how people half my weight fly when I bodycheck them, it's great. I'm like a bus on skates.

    Can you think of any other services or jobs in Japan that seem a little superfluous?

    Just about every person who works in a bank or city hall. If they stopped using paper for everthing, the time and manpower it takes to get something done would be about half.

  • 0

    Sunny808

    A NHK guy came to my door and insisted that I pay the fee. I told him that I didn't understand Japanese, but he had a paper printed in English explaining the fee. He went as far as sticking his foot at my door to stop it from closing! I kept telling him that I don't have NHK on my tv, just a slingbox. I didn't know what to do or who to call. So I ended up signing the paper to get him to leave. I felt so harassed. Now I don't bother paying. What happens now?? R they going to come after me?

  • 2

    Himajin

    I was only half-joking about the tissues...I have home video of a tissue guy ducking from my brother, hiding his tissues behind his back etc.

    More silent down-voting with no opinion posted. If you wish to deny that tissue people refuse tissues to foreigners, speak up.

  • 3

    DP812

    For NHK, I say just make it an opt-in/opt-out thing. You don't want to pay for NHK, you don't get NHK access, simple as that. Last time the NHK guy came to my place, I told him I never watch Japanese TV, I only use my set for playing DVDs and video games, and that my TV doesn't even seem to get broadcast channels any more (might be some problem with the antenna but I've never bothered to check because I never watch it any way). I offered to have him come in and see for himself, he said that was okay and left.

    That was two years ago, haven't had an NHK visit since.

  • 0

    kiss1969

    A long time ago a very friendly NHK man came to my door. "I'm sorry!' I said, "but I don't speak Japanese". Two days later the English speaking version of the same NHK man came around. Ha ha ha ! TOTALLY OWNED!

  • 1

    Knox Harrington

    Is it a service that a bunch of old guys stand around construction sites/road works and wave at fully grown people with their little res light sticks. I could do without that. Some are them are quite friendly, though, so I guess that's a good thing. It is obvious that Japan has an idea about keeping people employed, however pointless the task, probably because they think it's better to have people making money and spending it compared to being on welfare and receiving money only. That, I have to say, makes some sense.

    Elevator girls are where? In Mitsukoshi? That's the only place I've met any. I guess the management think customers want/need that kind of service but I feel for those ladies, stuck in the 1950's. Very old-fashioned.

    Irrashaimase... I don't even pick up on that anymore. More annoying are announcement on trains and buses. Especially buses. A never ending chatter on next station and if it's "benri" getting off here or there to get to this or that. The Japanese seem a little bit like children, constantly in need of feedback to know how to act or what to do. I bet if there were no light stick guys at some construction site, some people would complain.

  • 1

    Knox Harrington

    Is it a service that a bunch of old guys stand around construction sites/road works and wave at fully grown people with their little res light sticks. I could do without that. Some are them are quite friendly, though, so I guess that's a good thing. It is obvious that Japan has an idea about keeping people employed, however pointless the task, probably because they think it's better to have people making money and spending it compared to being on welfare and receiving money only. That, I have to say, makes some sense.

    Elevator girls are where? In Mitsukoshi? That's the only place I've met any. I guess the management think customers want/need that kind of service but I feel for those ladies, stuck in the 1950's. Very old-fashioned.

    Irrashaimase... I don't even pick up on that anymore. More annoying are announcement on trains and buses. Especially buses. A never ending chatter on next station and if it's "benri" getting off here or there to get to this or that. The Japanese seem a little bit like children, constantly in need of feedback to know how to act or what to do. I bet if there were no light stick guys at some construction site, some people would complain..

  • -4

    Yubaru

    The sheer number of staff hired for parking lots and construction here is shocking - our tax money at work to pay these folks.

    It's not your tax money, it's nearly all private companies that hire out for these folks. Helps keep the unemployment rates down to a manageable level.

    Irrashaimase...

    Complain all you want, but to not understand the reasoning behind it just informs the reader of ignorance about Japanese business standards in many if not most service related or sales positions. Japanese people expect it, and whether you like it or not, it's here to stay.

    There are businesses here too that literally teach people how to do this greeting correctly and many places have their employees scream the greeting out in practice sessions before starting work.

    Elevator girls; I think many westerners are unaccustomed to having people do things for them that they can do themselves, hence the feeling of these girls being uneccessary. However it's the image, particularly of Department stores, and while unecessary, many people expect to see it particularly in the higher end Dept Stores like Mitsukoshi.

  • 0

    Onniyama

    Sunny808. If you signed the paper, you are obligated to pay. Try telling them you did not know what you were signing and that the guy harassed you. This happened to me. I got out of it. Tell them you have no tv.

  • 1

    tapetptape

    You often can't use the stairs in large office bldgs. Esp annoying if you want to go only one or two floors. I work for a large company where we have 5 floors in our bldg but when caught using the stairs to go between floors,a security guard would do the big "arm cross gesture" and say "only for emergencies". Alot of us ignored it but then they installed alarms which would go off if whenever we opened the door to the stairs. Lunch time....all I want to do is go down for lunch and not wait for 5 mins for teh EV to go down three floors.

  • 0

    Gary Kirkpatrick

    These jobs do serve a purpose. They keep Japan's unemployment rate at enviable rates. I agree with the previous complainer's shot at over priced religious ceremonies but I don't have any choice in the matter with both great granny and the regular granny calling all those shots. At least they defer some of the costs.

  • 1

    Dennis Bauer

    Anyway in this Digital age, and japanese TV use B-Cas card, wouldn't they know if you watched NHK?

    Getting Tissues is convinient, Station toilets often don't have toilet paper.

    what i don't get is amount of commercialls on Japanese TV, you watch a minute and get 2 minutes of commercialls. And the fact in quiz shows the contestants are always talento and not normal people like quiz shows in the west.

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    Human Traffic Sign

    I don't see a problem with this... a human can interface with a driver more than a flashing light can. Sometimes these gents can direct you to a diversion or little-known quicker route around the works.

    Elevator Lady

    Isn't this normal in high-class shops? I've been to Mitsukoshi and this didn't surprise me one bit. Likewise...

    Shopping Escorts

    Irasshaimase

    It's annoying when the voices call out from all over the place at first, but after a few days in Japan you get used to it. The only thing I don't like is that for some reason they call out in a nasal voice... sounds a bit odd at first.

    Tissue Advertisements

    Since I always seem to get a cold in Japan, I take advantage of a maid or person dressed as a fruit handing them out.

    NHK

    Same as the BBC in the UK, so no surprise to me.

    Ground-Breaking Ceremony

    Nothing weird or unnecessary about that...

    You know, there is nothing weird or strange about ANY of the above... why do JT writers keep trying to make out the Japanese are somehow strange or unfathomable? Japan isn't a weird country.

  • 1

    Funnybonesup

    The sleep cafe is pretty funny..... My teddybear does all that stuff for nothing.

  • -4

    Farmboy

    I'd just like to suggest that people who travel to, or live in, a country isn't their own need to loosen up a bit. Also, it isn't at all clear whether you will get to a desired floor without an elevator lady, and if you don't do a ground-breaking ceremony, you really shouldn't get in the elevator in any case.

  • -4

    tmarie

    Yubaru it IS my tax money thank you very much. Road construction for the city uses my tax money to contract out to private companies. Same for the old gits at city hall and immigration. Shopping centers also waste money on them that I cover with the cost if the goods. They aren't needed and we, the public, do pay for them either via our tax dollars or the cost of whatever we buy.

  • 1

    Betraythetrust!

    Don't know why. some complain all the time. Japan is different than my home nation and i find some things strange but i don't let it affect my daily life or upset me.

  • 0

    Knox Harrington

    Yubaru:

    Japanese people expect it...

    That might be true, but Japanese customers expect a lot of things. "Here to stay" is just pure BS. Things change. Even in Japan (albeit slowly) and I enter quite a few places where it's not being said. A friendly "Konnichiwa" does the trick for me. It feels much more honest and relaxed than the fake polite Irasshaimase.

  • 2

    timtak

    Sales staff talking one octave higher than they would otherwise (I don't want people to demean themselves like that) Petrol Station (Gas stand) attendants, Sales staff putting out their hand to allow you to deposit refuse into it (pass me a bin please) "Icchou" "OKaidama" (announcing what you have ordered to the rest of the restaurant), Snack hostesses generally Ryokan nakaisan that tell me how, and in what order, and witch which sauce to eat my food Supermarket workers that escort you to produce you ask for rather than tell you what isle it is in, All the till receipts even when your hands are full of shopping and change (which is generally used as a paper weight) Wrapping and more wrapping (some convenience store workers seem to find it difficult to put a niku-man on my hand, perhaps they fear I will be burned), The attempts at English even when I am speaking in Japanese,
    Offers of disposable chopsticks (which are supposed to be easier to use than regular ones) The instance upon providing (and requiring me to bring) a card particular to each hospital or clinic New years cards from various service industries Taxi doors (I have to remember not to annoy drivers by shutting my door and hitting them with their handle) Tiny indoor slippers that I can't get my feet into A little bit of food that I have to eat and pay for to drink a beer Phones that don't accept or allow me to change SIM Caaards Banks and post offices that insist upon providing receipts (if you try to do a runner, they run after you) All the advertisements inside my newspaper The wrapping for the newspaper on rainy days though our postbox is a box and under our porch Book covers Book "belts" Compulsory PTA meetings

  • 0

    Spanki

    hostess bars and girls bars

  • 0

    Atari

    Tissue Advertisements are so good. Most of the time they're about soap girls, but they come in handy! I wish they had these bad boys in Sydney.

  • -3

    wipeout

    Yubaru it IS my tax money thank you very much.

    Unless you vote, you have no control over how it's spent, so no it isn't. You pay the tax, and it ain't your money any more. It's communal money. Your voice is no more important than that of any other taxpayer, and individually, taxpayers aren't particularly important.

  • 0

    oberst

    who cares ? Just enjoy the Japanese experience already. it's part of the charm.

  • 0

    JacopoMTK

    "It’s a completely pointless expense" There are many small work in Japan that could seem pointless,i see them as a way to give more job to peaple in order to make the economy run. Yeah,i know the economic crisis...and so on...but if people didn't have job it could be worse.

  • -1

    tmarie

    Unless you vote, you have no control over how it's spent, so no it isn't. You pay the tax, and it ain't your money any more. It's communal money. Your voice is no more important than that of any other taxpayer, and individually, taxpayers aren't particularly important.

    It doesn't matter if I have control over it or not - it was mine that I paid for taxes. Taxpayers voices aren't important here. The same can't be said for other countries.

    Thank heavens you're not in charge with your attitude towards taxes and who gets to decide what it goes towards.

    • Moderator

      Readers, please do not bicker with each other.

  • 1

    vctokyo

    guy holding a sign to a open house...waste of the guy's time

  • -5

    wipeout

    Thank heavens you're not in charge with your attitude towards taxes and who gets to decide what it goes towards.

    I'm a taxpayer, just one who doesn't whinge about "my" money going towards paying for "staff hired for parking lots and construction". I have no particular desire to see those people thrown on the shitheap - they work for a living (probably harder than you) and pay taxes themselves. Last time I saw you mention tax, you were objecting to people being provided with healthcare at taxpayers' expense, on the delightfully unselfish grounds that you personally are healthy right now (let's be realistic: as far as you know) and you don't get out the money you put in, so no fair.

    Tax money goes into a pot - not your pot, a pot, and we can all find things we don't want it to be spent on if we put our minds to it . But it isn't your money, it never was your money, because your tax obligations are there even as the ink is drying on your employment contract. It's everyone's money, and everyone contributes.

    If you have strong feelings about where your tax goes, you can always use your vote to effect change.

  • 2

    humanrights

    Irasshaimase" most annoying sound in the world. No purpose whatsoever and too loud. The Loudest I think is Nagoya. People dont smile, yell the word even if nobody new enters the store. If I am a customer, I dont want to be treated like a robot. A smile and a Konichiwa would suffice.Yelling in my ear makes me want to attack that person. If the word has any purpose for the 'shop' it is wrong! It serves them only and not the client.

  • 2

    Mick Tague

    Although I agree somewhat with the 'Human Traffic Signals' being completely pointless.... I remember thinking the first time I saw this.... "this is why Japan's unemployment is so low" .... everyone has a job... and what's more, people will do this job with seriousness and pride.... try getting an Australian to do a job like that.... I think it's highly commendable that people will dress up in these uniforms and wave a torch all night or day.... I don't think this job should be 'scoffed' at....

  • 3

    Jechan

    Well, these jobs are as useless and as unnecessary as all hell, but at least they keep people employed.

  • 1

    Fadamor

    I see the "elevator ladies" as one more example of Japan's preoccupation with cleanliness. Which sounds cleaner, A single person operating the elevator for everyone, or every passenger jabbing the buttons with fingers they may have just had buried in their nostril up to the second joint? OK, that's an intentionally extreme case, but you get the idea.

  • 0

    malfupete

    for the NHK man.. just don't answer the door. Thats why they have those little peepholes in doors over here. If you're not expecting anyone to come over, just don't answer the door

    until the day NHK decides to collect their fees through gov't taxes.. like they do with the CBC here in Canada, it is a most inefficient system going door to door trying to collect

  • 2

    Riceland

    I like the elevator lady,she saves me from pushing buttons.

  • 1

    Juan Carlos Barbosa Padilla

    Well I saw some of these works and think to myself that is ok, the tissues one comes really handly because in winter sometimes you are out of tissues (and with a cold in your nose...) or in summer you need something to clear yourself, there were times that they also provides little towels for that purpose. The elevator ladies, helps to keep clean the elevator and brings some eye candy to the trip.

    The only process I was always shocked is about how they move money. When you pay you must put the money in a container, then the employee takes the container, removes the money, then he put the fare in the container and gives it back to you. Is always very weird to see this.

  • -1

    fanofjapan2005

    At my local central Texas AT&T store (selling contracts with new iPhones, iPads, fixing phones, explaining patiently, etc.) the sales and service people always escort us customers to the door, open it and say, "See ya! Thanks for coming by!" Considering that America is notorious for not giving a rodent's rectum about service, I find this rather refreshing! ;-)

  • 0

    Vernie Jefferies

    How much are the fees for NHK? I lived here 3 years and it's been a pleasure not seeing any representatives.

  • 0

    JDB829

    Ditto that fanofjapan2005 ! Customer service is almost nonexistant in the U.S. !

  • -1

    Knox Harrington

    Another "service" is the way the cashiers in supermarkets do double work with those baskets: from one basket into the other. Nice and ordered with heavy things underneath the bread and the tempura. Where Inam from, we have those belts you put your things on. Self-service, baby. I always was amazed at how inefficient the system here is, all in the favor of appearing as customer service.

    Elevator girls fill the same function. It appears as a service when it's really not. Plus, they are the department store equivalent of the Office Ladies getting coffee for the buccho. Behind the times indeed.

  • -3

    NeoJamal

    Just because I don't find particular service helpful, it must be pointless

    BOO HOO, what will they complain next? the Japanese are using the Japanese language?

  • -2

    nigelboy

    Another "service" is the way the cashiers in supermarkets do double work with those baskets: from one basket into the other. Nice and ordered with heavy things underneath the bread and the tempura. Where Inam from, we have those belts you put your things on. Self-service, baby

    Except when you go to a cashier line (3 out of 10 lines open), I guess you need those belts when people there purchase half a dozen 1 liter soft drinks, a couple of water melon, and several pounds of meat. Except when these cashiers bag them, they tend to not separate the item so you got meat juice spread all over your vegetables and other items. Efficiency baby!!!

  • 0

    girlinjapan

    I agree with these services being fairly pointless, except the tissues. I think it's a genius form of advertising .. cheap & gets their name out there for sure. And everyone needs tissues at some point or other!
    I was always annoyed with the 'human traffic sign' guys trying to show me helpfully where to walk, when clearly if I tried to walk in any other place, I'd fall into a hole, or walk into a wall. Thanks!
    The supermarket arranging & rearranging drove me nuts too.

  • 0

    Hawkeye

    1. Definitely the elevator girls who sound like mickey mouse on helium.
    2. We had a service long gone now at work where once a month a woman came through the company wiping off all the telephones and replacing the scented sticker on the mouthpiece
    3. The gas station indy 500 pit crew service and that is why gas is so expensive, too many employees
    4. Bar hostesses that rotate every 15 minutes and the next one asks you the same stupid questions that the last one asked (how old are you, where are you from, do you like Japan, can you eat sushi, can you use hashi)
  • 1

    peanut666

    In America, when I was young. My dad used to drive up to a gas station and a team of men would come rushing out, filling your gas, checking your tires, your oil, washed your windows, check the radiator. Gas was $0.25 a gallon. Most if not all places no longer do that in America. Why? Was it pointless? Of course, when the driver could do it themselves.

    But think of this, all those men are now unemployed. For a country, it's better to keep everyone working than not. Almost all jobs can be considered pointless to one degree or another, the excuse being to save money. The problem is that if their are lots of unemployed your taxes will go up. You don't really save any money in the long run.

    Think about it.

  • 3

    RJS PRESSROOM

    Customer service is important fact to marketing. Japanese people a good for service, at least they do earn their money with honesty and respect.

  • 6

    Tamarama

    Aside from the NHK thing, all the things on the list are cultural quirks of the place. They are just part of what makes Japan what it is.

    If the most annoying thing about Japanese services you can find is that they are too......good, you aren't doing so bad.

  • 0

    LiveInTokyo

    Having given my rant earlier in the peace about some of these things, I have one final thing to say. If these things like the talking in one octave higher, the people in white gloves directing or us or driving taxis etc, or saying irrashaimase didnt exist ... this country wouldnt be the Japan that we all know! So even though Japanese people love to talk about them, seem obsessed by them etc, if these things weren`t around, what would Japan look like?

  • 2

    Soseki

    I think that it is commendable that such courtesies still exist. In some cases to omit them would put someone out of work.Regarding Irasshaimase in the USA the admonition to "Have a good day!" is way over-used.

  • 3

    MohdSanusi AbdKarim

    don't knock it. You'll miss the stuff when you're no longer in Japan.

  • -5

    tmarie

    But it isn't your money, it never was your money, because your tax obligations are there even as the ink is drying on your employment contract. It's everyone's money, and everyone contributes.

    Was my money and no, not everyone contributes. Perhaps you should look at the tax breaks for some folks.

    Indeed, the comment about unemployment here. It is a joke. People paid for less than they can live, a few hours a week and not counted. Which is why I always laugh at how "low" the figures are.

  • 2

    timtak

    Being thanked by vending machines, ice in bar urinals, purposefully adding extra froth on my beer, bits of plastic fairing around the windows of cars, mammoth exhaust pipes on cars, the whole car "meiku" (in the sense of make up, or cosmetics) after-parts industry, umbrella condoms, surprise packs of things I do not need sold on New Years day by department stores, department stores, their ceaseless announcements and other various announcement of things that are utterly obvious ("do not bring dangerous things onto the train"), washing my car windows yet again, car park attendants that wave me in directions that I already knew I wanted to go in, public service sirens to call me home to lunch and dinner, cardboard toilet paper tubes with printing thanking me for having finished the toilet paper, toilet seats the blow dry my posterior, free muck brown tea in canteens that tastes like it was produced by a goat, politicians with no policy just a low tannoy, individually wrapped fruit, square water melon, the opportunity to taste sausages (unless this is an opportunity for free food, which it is not. It is an attempt to make customers to feel obligation or giri to return the favour). I will write more on by blog.

  • -1

    ambrosia

    HimajinJAN. 17, 2013 - 08:29AM JST In the US, at all road construction you have to have either a town or a State cop....on double overtime...that's more of an expense and paid for by taxpayers. At least the 'pointy men' are paid by the company that hires them.

    That's simply not true. The U.S. is a big country and for many things, states make their own decisions. Having onsite police at road construction sites is one of those cases. In many, if not most states, the construction companies might hire off-duty or retired police or no type of such security at all. When they do have police, whether on or off-duty, the point is to get people, especially on highways, to slow down and not endanger the lives of construction workers. I hardly think that qualifies as a waste of money.

  • -1

    ambrosia

    I hate the Irasshaimase shouting. And it is always shouted. I find it especially annoying in small restaurants and coffee shops where you might be trying to read or have a conversation. It's just so damn intrusive. I'd feel just as welcome if the clerk, waiter, whatever, greeted me politely, sincerely and quietly when I approached the counter. There have been many occasions when I've walked in and walked right out of establishments where everyone behind the counter is shouting Irasshiamase every time someone walks in. I can deal with it in loud bars but really don't think it should be used in many of the places where it is.

  • -2

    ambrosia

    Soseki ""Have a good day!" is way over-used."

    It's not how often Irasshaimase is used. It's the volume. Why has it got to be shouted and shouted by more than one person? The people who are already seated are important too and not everyone likes that constant shouting.

    As for sincerity, yes, a sincere greeting is better than an insincere one but a quieter one is best of all, regardless of the sincerity behind it. After all, some people are just better actors than others.

  • 0

    ambrosia

    peanut666: But think of this, all those men are now unemployed.

    Really, most of those men are now unemployed? Are you still lamenting the loss of bowling alley pinsetters, lamplighters, coal stokers, carriage drivers and radio actors too? Professions die out and people move on. Just because there aren't any, or almost any, full-service gas attendants anymore it doesn't mean those attendants are now unemployed. My brother worked as an attendant at a full-service station and I assure you that he is still gainfully employed, just in another profession.

  • 0

    sighclops

    I'd do anything to get out of paying the ridiculous NHK fees. Paying for free-to-air - who would've thought?! Nothing on TV even remotely worth watching, anyway!

  • -2

    Pidestroika

    Yes, the "irasshaimasse" sometimes shortened to "sasseeee" is the single most annoying J. habit especially in konbinis. I don't care about the explanation of ukguyjp, we are not talking here about with or without. We are talking about excessive, unnecessary and too loud. Once I counted 12 "sasseeee" said to me in a konbini. Every time a staff member encountered me they were saying "sasseeee" to me. Once is nice and friendly, twice is okay more than that is annoying. The other one is the fantastic "ariaimashita"; short version of "arigato gozaimashita".

    I also hate the unnecessary waste of plastic bags again especially in kombinis. One for the beer, one for the bento, another for the magazine. Ofcourse there is always an explanation but that doesn't mean it's not excessive especially when they try to be "green". How about recycled paper bags for a change?

    I find ridiculous some warning signs and announcements on the trains. Keihin Tohoku "The train might stop suddenly in case of an emergency. So please be careful." Ok, how? Chuo line and others "It is very dangerous to get off the train between stations." How and why would I do that?

    I don't like to always be asked about "kien" or "kitsuen" seat. I want a GOOD seat for a change and this means away from smoke, not by the restroom, with a good view if possible. You go to a completely empty kisaten and they ask "Tabako suimasu ka?" "No, I quit 20 years ago. How about you?".

    I disagree with the trafic worker. They seem unnecessary but actually they do control traffic especially when vehicles of the construction party are coming and going.

    For the NHK guy I always say "I don't understand what you say. Come back when my wife's here". "Ok, what time?" "10 at night (which is true)". They never do.

  • 2

    FightingViking

    The cop standing at a red light and blowing his whistle when the light changes... One of my friends and I believe it must be to let blind drivers know they may now drive on...

  • 2

    Open Minded

    Most likely bakery is seen as luxury gift items in Japan. I bought 10 croissants for a family sunday breakfast and all of them wrapped individually in plastic bags, while in Europe it would have been just a big paper bag. I would certainly appreciate the service if it would not generate extra useless wastes.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    In America, when I was young. My dad used to drive up to a gas station and a team of men would come rushing out, filling your gas, checking your tires, your oil, washed your windows, check the radiator. Gas was $0.25 a gallon. Most if not all places no longer do that in America. Why? Was it pointless? Of course, when the driver could do it themselves.

    I remember those days as well. Back then they weren't called gas stations, they were called SERVICE stations. The commodity being sold wasn't gas, but the guys pumping the gas. Remember the Texaco jingle?

    You can trust your car

    to the man who wears the star.

    the big, bright Texaco Star!

    There was a lot more to it (60 seconds, total) but that was the was the tagline at the end. (Thanks to YouTube for reminding me of the rest of the jingle. I could only remember the tagline.)

  • 1

    Ishiwara

    • I prefer having a human traffic sign to the U.S. practice to put a sign saying "we're not responsible" etc.

    • Japan has indeed hidden unemployment, but the service is outstanding. Take the postal service; they come to your house, sending is cheap, it arrives when they say it will arrive. The box looks perfect. Nothing is missing.

  • 0

    Stacy Kurokawa Cooke

    Parking attendants. We entered City Hall parking lot last Sunday where we encountered a man directing cars. On a Sunday. No Festival. Not crowded. Not hard to find a space. On busy days, this is a nice service but on a Sunday???

  • -2

    Noliving

    Model is cute, what is her name.

  • -1

    ambrosia

    I've got no problems with Japan's postal service but the prices so I wonder which countries you're comparing it to when you say it's cheap. The costs for sending postcards, domestic letters and international letters are all cheaper with the U.S. postal service, which will also come to your house for both drop offs and pick ups and with whom I've never had a problem. 554 million pieces of mail are processed by the USPS each day so certainly there are the occasional problems.

  • -1

    anglootaku

    Why the need to put race next to the person? All non Japanese including Asians etc = gaijin anyhow

  • 1

    kitzrow

    Many years ago an NHK representative showed up at my doorstep telling me about the NHK fee that I had to pay. I listened intently and told him that I do not watch NHK. He left, but came back about a week later and this time his tone of voice changed. He told me I had to get it and I told him that I did not watch NHK. He lingered long this time and finally left.

    A few weeks passed and he came again. This time he was certain he would get me, but when I asked him to show me in writing that I HAD to sign up with NHK, he could not. He left disgruntled and in my eyes 'Big Brother' had not forced me to pay.

    I do know that once you pay, it is nearly impossible to stop them from taking their fee from your bank account every month.

    I have cable TV now and am glad that I was persistent in NOT paying their fees. Yes, I do notice that I must call some telephone number when NHK is viewed so that they can get me to pay their fees that way, but after hearing about several NHK scandals down through the years ... I will just continue to say NO or .... please show me in writing where it says I MUST join!

  • 0

    Farmboy

    Kitzrow,

    Google "NHK license fee," and you'll find the information you aren't looking for.

  • -2

    Lowly

    The department store elevator lady… even if she wasn’t there, I can get to my desired floor without any problems.

    No, not even if she wasn't there, especially if she wasn't there! She stops gets out of the elevator every time it stops at a floor and slowly and very deliberately looks around and , even tho noone's there, asks if anyone would like to ride? pause, no? pause, then excuse me, I am closing the elevator door now. then to us in the vator, excuse me, sorry for making you wait.

    It all takes place witht the speed of a Noh play, her walking off the elevator and her speaking, veEEry slow. And all in that absurd high pitched squeaky voice. Drives me nuts!!

  • -2

    Lowly

    I only read a few comments at the beginning and the end,

    Did anyone already mention the town-wide alarm sirens pounded every AM early and again at five in inaka so that everyone in town can know what time it is and all do the same things? Often accompanied by verbal announcements urging us to do this or that. Used to drive me nuts!!

  • 0

    Cortes Elijah

    I do not find any of these things strange.... They are there to give people jobs and to make things easier. It's all for the better.

  • -1

    ambrosia

    cortes: Fair enough and that's your opinion but obviously, by the number of posts, a lot of people do find some of these things strange and or annoying. Whether the fact that they provide jobs being all for the better or not is questionable. Having to provide jobs that aren't necessary isn't really financially good for a company and just because a job exists doesn't mean it's a good thing.

  • 0

    Zen student

    All non Japanese including Asians etc = gaijin anyhow @anglootaku

    Well yes.....and no. You are right, that's how it SHOULD be.

    I asked a Japanese friend about this some time ago and he said he even found it weird how Japanese are more likely to call Chinese people 'chugokujin' first and not 'gaikokujin' and same with South Koreans being called 'Kankokujin' and not 'gaikokujin'. It usually refers to Caucasians, but not always.

  • 0

    Himajin

    the construction companies might hire off-duty or retired police

    They're in full uniform.

  • 0

    Kimokekahuna Hawaii

    I think that service and social structure in Japan is great. What about the guy in the train station that points and looks each way before and after a train. What about having 10 girls help one customer at the SKG counter. Must be a lot of extra people willing to work for less.. you would not get that attention or service in US. What about the guy cleaning the streets.. amazing. What about the 20 traffic guys.. at the off track better street in Ginza.

    What about all the people yelling and selling on the grocery floor pitching their foods.. like old days if you did not push your stuff .. no one would know you were there? What about the executives riding bicycle to work in Ginza I think it is healthy and very cool and how they do not run over more people is beyond me. Whats up with the girls squatting on the sidewalk like they are taking a pooh in Shibuya.

    What about the great service you get in restaurants.. and no tip.. fabulous and also the price is the price tax and tip included.. not not here where you have to add tax and then 20% tip on top of the tax for service bad.

    I wish people were so polite in stores in America where they dont care about you. I like being greeted coming into most every restaurant and asking if they have a seat instead of just expecting to be seated.. the customer must show respect also..

    What is bad is McDonald's allowing people to smoke right next to kids.. and a smoking section is worthless it is a real health issue. In Hawaii you no longer can smoke in a restaurant or bar and all the owners were upset thinking it would turn off asian customers.. but now people like it and women like not smelling like an ashtray after having lunch.

  • 0

    mrmalice

    as long as it's paid for with private money from private business and not a statesponsored plan i think it's great. It creates extra jobs and shows somehow business is less greedy by providing these less-functional yet decorative jobs who add to the overall environment. More people get paid. Money gets distributed better in a non state organized communist way. Corporate communism, altruism or tradition? Doesn't matter, I think it's great. Share the wealth a little better like that

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