Some Japanese customs that may confuse foreigners

Some Japanese customs that may confuse foreigners The vee sign doesn't mean "peace" in Japan. Sanko Gakuen

TOKYO —

There are many customs and behaviors that are natural for Japanese people, either because they are historically accepted, imposed by society or because they are part of the Japanese psyche. To foreign visitors, some of these customs can be a bit confusing.

MADAME RiRi offers a few examples.

1. Making the peace sign (vee)

Many young Japanese people instinctively form a vee with their fingers when they pose for photos. In many other countries, this is the sign of peace. But there is no such meaning in Japan. Fortunately, Japanese make the vee sign with the palm of their hand facing the photographer and not the back of the hand, which might get them in trouble overseas. In any case, it’s a good way to spot who the Japanese tourists are in a crowd.

2. Sitting on the floor

Many foreign people wonder why Japanese people sit on the floor. It is very rare to see people sit on the floor in Western countries where tatami mats are not common. Many foreign visitors to Japan find it hard (and painful) to sit on the floor, opting instead for the familiarity of the couch or chair.

3. Drinking barley tea

If you open the fridge in most Japanese homes or look at any vending machine, you’ll likely see barley tea. It’s a refreshing drink that goes well with meals and is particularly good in hot weather. And it doesn’t have a lot of caffeine.

4. Slurping ramen, sniffling

Japanese people usually slurp when they eat noodles such as ramen, soba and udon. Although slurping noodles is considered rude in Western countries, in Japan, it is an expression of one’s appreciation for the meal. So slurp away as loud as you like. Sniffling, clearing one’s throat and swallowing phlegm are also habits that visitors may find unsettling.

5. Nodding response (Aizuchi)

When you communicate with Japanese people, you often see them nodding their response with words like “He,” “Un,” “Soso,” “So nanda” and so on. This type of nodding response is called “Aizuchi” in Japanese and dates back to the Edo period. “Aizuchi” is also a good way of looking like you are taking part in a conversation, but foreign people seldom use these words, perhaps because they feel it will look like they are not listening seriously.

6. Double-eyelid surgery

Perhaps this one applies to many women in Asia, not just Japan. Double eyelid surgery is common because young women want to have bigger eyes. Have a look at the girls who adorn the covers of fashion magazines, or pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki. Foreigners may wonder why Japanese women get cosmetic surgery for their eyes but don’t do anything about their teeth. In the West, a woman is more likely to get a nip and tuck, but rarely have her eyes altered.

7. Walking pigeon-toed in high heels

Some Japanese girls cannot walk gracefully in high heels and end up walking pigeon-toed.

8. Bowing

Bowing is an integral part of Japanese society, whether you are saying hello, goodbye, apologizing, expressing condolences or just responding instinctively. Some Japanese people even bow while talking on the phone. In Western countries, the handshake and hug are more common.

Source: MADAME RiRi

  • 24

    nonsibi

    So MADAME RiRi, what does the vee sign mean in Japan?

  • 1

    Goals0

    Interestingly, under Number 4 the original Japanese has the important tip

    for travellers abroad to use a tissue instead of sniffing.

  • 44

    Stephen Knight

    Oh for crying out loud... Is the average foreigner, interested enough to actually visit Japan, really going to be this ignorant? Why don't we add taking off our shoes in the house, bathing naked in public, and filing neatly onto escalators while we're at it??

    And FYI, Japanese girls don't walk pigeon-toed because they're not used to high heels, but because they're taught it's more "feminine" (a holdover from the kimono days, when women pretty much had to walk that way), or pick it up from copying they're friends, and eventually can't go back to a normal stance. Or so a Japanese podiatrist once told me.

    The idea that slurping is a sign of "appreciation" is also somewhat of a myth. People slurp their noodles because that's how you eat noodles (and it helps cool off the hot kind), not because they'd be considered unappreciative for not doing so.

  • 9

    Ah_so

    Drinking barley tea? Hardly confusing, especially if you have ever tasted it.

  • 7

    KariHaruka

    If any Japanese customs do ever surprise western tourists then perhaps they shouldn't be so ignorant and actually look into the culture before coming over. Though I hope the vast majority of tourists aren't ignorant in that way.

  • 8

    TakahiroDomingo

    Some Japanese girls cannot walk gracefully in high heels and end up walking pigeon-toed.

    what is graceful in the west might mean nothing here in japan. i find japanese women are different, and to me, more graceful in how they move and walk than the western ladies adhering to their standards of gracefulness

  • 8

    m5c32

    huh, I always thought the vee was referring to their minge. Go figure.

    I think the ritual of apologizing profusely as a form of atonement when found out is an interesting custom. As well as the the pretend work that goes on afterhours.

  • 29

    Badge213

    Seriously, what's up with the recent number of "everything is strange about Japan for foreigners" articles? This is like the 3rd or 4th one in the past two months.

  • 7

    sillygirl

    i find MADAME RiRi`s column confusing. the column tries so hard to show japan is sooo unique. i do find shiffing in public disgusting not confusing. and the pigeo-toed thing - obnoxious not confusing.

  • 0

    sillygirl

    sorry - typo - sniffing

  • 3

    kaminarioyaji

    JT seems to have had a few of these types threads in the past couple of weeks. I guess they quickly realised the number of clicks they would get... Anyhow, my two Yennies worth would be (from a quite long list)

    Train boarding etiquette Vs Bus boarding etiquette. Both are mass public transportation, but the former is a generally civil affair (first come, first on), and the latter a bit of a scramble where Johnny-come-lately is able to board first if he elbows his way in well enough, no questions asked.

    Forgetting everything you learned about using indicators, stopping at red lights, not parking in such a way that you block the pavement and make pedestrians have to go out into the road, and not using anything like a phone/TV/Ipad to distract you from driving, after they've been handed their driving licence.

    Japanese "politics"

    The bizarre "Work hours put in relation to productivity" equation.

    Japanese apathy to much of the above.

  • 23

    Thomas Smith

    Foreigners find it painful to sit on the floor, really?? Somehow not any of the foreigners I grew up with. Sounds a bit more like "what some Japanese think is confusing to foreigners".

  • -13

    naruhodo1

    pigeon toed walkimg is caused from the way girls sit on the floor, it twists their knees over time, nothing to do with kimino, or looking cute. slurping noodles cools it down as mentioned by another. if u cant excuse urself to move and blow ur nose, then i prefer sniffling over hearing the phlem move through ur nosterals and onto the tissue, yuk. staring causes confusion for a lot of foreigners, but i like it. i feel like a star. so i smile or wave and they get all giddy. its cute.

  • 4

    LoveNot

    I hate plastic surgery. Why Japanese people are not satisfied with how they look naturally? Why do they bleach face, hair and make their eyes bigger, it is not natural and sometimes scary.

  • 9

    Maria

    I'm sorry?

    they are part of the Japanese psyche

    What?? Which one of these fits into that category, exactly?

    Stupid article. The fact that they included barley tea makes it stupid. When are they going to write about similarities between Japan and a couple other specific countries, and things that people like?

  • 6

    Andrew Decena

    If anyone found anything confusing about Japan, maybe it would be how to use the bath or bath house etiquette. Also some people also observe how cars stopped at a intersecton shut off their headlights when stopped during evening hours so as no to blind other drivers etc.

  • 4

    madammika

    As someone rightly pointed out, this is the 3rd or 4th article about what us foreign bods dont like/find annoying or find confusing about Japan! So how about an article about what Japanese find confusing about us foreign bods? That might get some interesting responses!!!!!!

  • 5

    paulinusa

    "Many young Japanese people instinctively form a vee with their fingers when they pose for photos. In many other countries, this is the sign of peace. But there is no such meaning in Japan."

    She's right and she's wrong.There isn't now but it probably did mean peace in Japan at one time. Younger Japanese people these days just don't have a clue about something that was last popularized in the West during 60's/70's.

  • 0

    sillygirl

    @Andrew - and then forget to turn those lights back on. that is confusing

  • 5

    LoveNot

    V sign is annoying, one of the most annoying things in Japan. People taking photos doing it look infantile and foreigners often make fun of them using this gesture.

  • 5

    Disillusioned

    Ah, yes! The not-so elegant pigeon toed walk of a baby giraffe taking its first steps in high heels! Always amusing!

  • 8

    herefornow

    Japanese people usually slurp when they eat noodles such as ramen, soba and udon.

    It was the salarymen slurping Italian pasta noodels like spaghetti that always made me crazy. At least try to adapt to the cuisine you are eating.

  • -2

    GyGene

    Mmmmm, mugicha... an acquired taste for adult westerners, but wow, we acquired the taste! Takuan, omochi, onigiri, oh me, and daifuku!! With green tea - daifuku and ocha - hard to beat...

  • 28

    choiwaruoyaji

    I'm interested in Japanese oyaji customs and would like more explanation of them...

    making a kind of clucking noise when passing a foreigner

    thinking hostess bars are a good entertainment

    disliking your wife (ok I kind of understand that one)

    having no interest in your kids

    disregarding personal hygiene

    going for the "barcode" hairstyle when the dreaded hage appears

    practising golf with an umbrella on the station platform

    etc.

  • 1

    Bebert61

    Confusing custom to American and Canadian foreigners: All of the smokers.

  • 5

    Ayler

    clearing one’s throat and swallowing phlegm are also habits that visitors may find unsettling.

    Unfortunately the true Japanese gentlemen prefers not to swallow and instead favours the custom of flobbing up big greenies on any adjacent surface.

  • 3

    bicultural

    People originally only slurped when eating soba. That is the correct way to enjoy the smell of buckwheat. You slurp in the noodles and then exhale through your nose. It has nothing to do with "cooling" the noodles. The custom of slurping noodles just carried over to ramen and other noodles.

  • 6

    Kabukilover

    This stuff is not confusing. What is confusing is when people you have trusted suddenly turn on you. What one thinks, what one says and what one does can be very different things in Japan. That is confusing. But this is nothing unique to Japan. If you want confusion, try dealing with an American insurance company.

  • 4

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    Fortunately, Japanese make the vee sign with the palm of their hand facing the photographer and not the back of the hand, which might get them in trouble overseas.

    Not in England it wouldn't. Flick the vees with your palm toward you and the back of your hand to a MIllwall supporter and you may find the ensuing interaction the very model of clarity.

    In many other countries, this is the sign of peace. But there is no such meaning in Japan.

    Is that right? So why is it, that whenever my daughter was having her photo taken with her kindergarten classmates, at least 60% of the gaggle of aproned mama-sand clucking about them would command "Peace wa?"

    It is not "instinctive" to make the peace sign in photographs, it's indoctrinated from an early age. Ask anyone why they do it, and the closest you get to an answer is "It is Japanese custom". (For which, a rough translation is "Because I have had any notion of independent reasoning thrashed out of me from an early age, and am still following what I was told when an infant".

  • 3

    JapanGal

    It is not just the VEE sign that is annoying, but posing in front of a sign at the places visited as proof they were there is stupid. I can photoshop that.

    Knocked knees comes from sitting on the floor and slowly damaging one's legs. The men do not have it so much as they sit crossed legged and not on them, unless they are from the village.

  • 19

    Nicky Washida

    This was clearly written by a Japanese thinking about what customs he or she thinks might confuse a foreigner - without actually asking a foreigner.

  • 1

    wtfjapan

    1. Walking pigeon-toed in high heels, this mostly caused by girls sitting on there legs too much, makes the bones muscles conform to a different shape if done too much.
  • 2

    bicultural

    Wow, I get a thumbs down for stating a fact that people failed to bring up? Just trying to share some trivia, people. Don't be hating.

  • 0

    Nicky Washida

    Dont worry about it bicultural.

  • 3

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    Bicultural - get used to it. One Japanese custom I'll never get used to is the constant need for reassurance, "What do foreigners think about Japanese XYZ?", then sulking like children when they don't like the answer.

  • 5

    kanoe81

    Well, everyone's more or less said so anyway, but the insistence that Japanese culture is SO unique that an outsider would never be able to understand or adapt is practically a custom for some now and it's actually pretty annoying. This list looks like it was gathered with no research whatsover.

    Is it just me or does the plastic surgery girl from the MADAME RiRi article photo look exactly the same in the before and after photos?

  • 0

    GW

    madame riri I am with chiowaruoyaji how a an oyaji special hahaha, probably wudnt learn much but wid love to see you giveit a shot LOL!

  • 20

    cleo

    I get the feeling this article was written 40-50 years ago and then left in the back of a drawer until someone with a pending deadline found it.

    Not a single thing mentioned is 'confusing'.

  • 1

    plasticmonkey

    because they are historically accepted, imposed by society or because they are part of the Japanese psyche

    The first two reasons are enough. There's no such thing as a national psyche.

  • 6

    Himajin

    It is not just the VEE sign that is annoying, but posing in front of a sign at the places visited as proof they were there is stupid. I can photoshop that.

    The worst example I ever saw was a bunch of girls doing it in front of a row of collapsed buildings 3-4 days after the quake in Kobe. Not normally a violent person am I, but DH had to stop me from going over to give them a piece of my mind! I was furious, I wanted to bang their heads together.

  • -3

    electric2004

    Andrew:

    There are even drivers who put the automatic car transmission into the "P" parking position, when waiting at a red light. Simply ignoring the fact that the driver behind might get very afraid, when the backward driving light on the car in front of him activates (Between Parking P and Driving D is R for driving backwards).

  • 18

    Qaueckernaeck

    I agree with some of the other posters; JT is going over the top with them vs us topics. It's nice for reflection every now and then, but this just pure overkill. Cut it out!

  • 3

    smithinjapan

    I find that most Japanese who make the peace sign know it stands for either 'peace' or 'victory', but not the origins of the word (ie. 'victory' -- the war is over, hence 'peace'). Either way, I wouldn't say it's a 'custom' so much as it is a habit, as with most of those listed.

    The only thing I think that people GENUINELY find unusual at first is the slurping (if they are unaware people in Asian nations often do this with soup and/or noodles). 'Sniffling' is also not a custom, but a bad habit that still bothers me.

    In any case, if in Japan, get used to these things -- you're not here to change the culture, and you wouldn't be able to if you tried.

  • 2

    Nicky Washida

    Is it just me, or does this Madame RiRi site seem unhealthily obsessed wth what foreigners see, think and feel about Japan?

  • 9

    plasticmonkey

    JT must have some contract with MADAME RiRi, so look for more of these idiotic stories. If you check out the MADAME RiRi website, it explains its theme as 'interesting things overseas' and 'the marvels of Japan'. Most of the headlines include either 日本人 or 外国人. Japan already has, unfortunately, too much emphasis on stereotypical cultural comparisons (us vs. them) without JT beating people over the head with it, especially recently.

  • -12

    JapanGal

    I walk pigeon toed on purpose when aiming at a certain guy, so that is done on purpose by many Japanese girls as men find it attractive, and that is our goal.

  • 3

    Nicky Washida

    Personally I have no interest in the kind of man who would find a pigeon-toed girl attractive.

  • 14

    SimondB

    Japan Gal (if that is what you really are and I have my doubts), that is the most ridiculous statement. Walking pigeon toed makes you look like a child or someone with a leg deformity. God knows what sort of men you are aiming at. If you did it towards me I'd either ask you dress in your correct gender or offer you a walking stick.

  • -9

    JapanGal

    What ever Simond. You obviously do not understand a girl being Coy and Sexy. All different cultures have their own things. desho.

    I hope you are not a man looking for love in Japan, because the pigeon toes come with this package and others too. Never saw a girl that walked like a duck here and am happy about that. Hugs Haruka

  • 14

    SimondB

    Japan Gal - FYI I'm happily married to a japanese woman who has no problem putting one foot in front of the other- sometimes for hours on end. I can accept the shuffle of a woman in a constricting kimono but the pigeon toe thing is a schoolgirl copy me copy you copy coolest girl thing. A bit like the ridiculous 4 inch soles on teenagers shoes about 10 or 11 years ago. Mature women do not do pigeon toes. Teenagers yes, real women, no.

  • 2

    majimekun

    Well, it looks like most of you haven't been long enougn in Japan, because otherwise you would know that : 1. the vee sign is viewed as a mere smile enhancement gesture with no meaning at all 2. slurping is done for lowering the temperature of the noodles in the mouth

  • -1

    JapanGal

    Yes Majimekun. Slurping by men and women both! Lowers the temperature to stop scalding the upper palette and the tongue.

    And the Vee sign, with it tilted about 80 degrees is considered cute. I do it when with my JP friends, and do not when not.

    Somond, I disagree with you but that is ok. I am sure you are not angry. Mature women do the pigeon toe. It is cute. Sorry if you do not think so, but that is your right to choose so. I never had a lover tell me I was a kid.

  • -4

    Lazzaris Alberto

    So, Japanese guys are attracted by:

    • Pigeon legs
    • Ugly smiles
    • Duck mouth
    • Micro skirts bellow zero
    • "Horse-eyed" girls
    • Bouncing boobies

    Oh Boy, I am trying to figure out something with all these "features"

  • 3

    Txbullnettle

    1. Many Asian people make vee signs when taking pictures, this isn't unique to Japanese culture.

    2. I grew up near a military base, where there were many Filipino people, and while they usually had chairs if the number of bums exceeded the seats available floor cushions would be brought out. I've also been in Chinese and Korean homes where floor cushions were available. So once again, this isn't exactly a unique aspect of Japanese Culture.

    3. Barley tea is amazing, and I can sit and drink a whole pitcher. However, I fail to see how opening the door to find...tea is in anyway confusing. If there were something that might border on confusing, it would be green tea flavored candy, bread, ice cream. However, opening a fridge and finding a cool, refreshing drink seems perfectly normal and understandable to me.

    4. Slurping noodles is probably the only thing on this list that is actually confusing. I have an American friend who after living in Japan for over twenty years, took some clients to eat at a Japanese restaurant here in the States. He was chowing down on some soba and noticed his clients were giving him some strange looks. He was slurping and didn't realize it. So, yeah, this could cause potential confusion.

    As far as sniffing is concerned, EVERYBODY DOES IT AT SOME POINT. How is people sniffing considered ever, to be a cornerstone of a culture (exaggerated sarcasm intended).

    1. Really? So no English speakers have ever been heard talking with the listeners saying things like, "hmm," "mm-hmm," "I see," or whatever other verbal cues which signify due attention is being given to the speaker. I'd be willing to bet that many languages offer similar "Aizuchi." The only thing particularly unique to the Japanese might be the guttural eminences from the throats and mouths of the listeners.

    If we want to get into confusing how about talking about animal sounds... wanwan and nyannyan. You have to understand some Japanese at least to know what those mean.

    1. Jackie Chan did this over thirty years ago to make himself more appealing to western audiences. I personally don't care one way or the other, but at least Madam Riri recognizes this one as Asian not just Japanese.

    2. I'm a 28 year old guy, and I don't know what this is or why it should/shouldn't impress me. Will Google later.

    3. I worked at a hotel resort and we had a large business convention with Korean companies. The Korean businessman bowed just as much as Japanese people I've been around. However, given the close proximity of these two countries I'm willing to let this slide as something potentially, "Confusing about Japanese culture."

    I'm unable to read Kanji, but who is Madam Riri and why do we keep getting these kinds of articles? I love reading about Japanese history and culture, but nearly everything in this article could be gleaned from the forward of a travel guide. I will join some of the others commenting here in asking for an article about what Japanese people find strange about different cultures. I would be interested to know what Japanese people think other places and people are like. Considering the slew of articles we've been getting about foreign opinions of Japan, it's only fair that we get to see the other side of the coin and read about Japanese opinions of foreign places. That's my point of view, anyways.

  • 0

    Txbullnettle

    *grr...my numbering messed up because I had to copy and repaste when it didn't load right.

  • -6

    majimekun

    Patrick Smash : Honestly, what sort of culture believes it is okay for everyone to despise someone else's culture?

  • 11

    tmarie

    Another 'Look at different and unique we are" trash article.... Surprise, surprise...

  • 9

    FruitsBasketFan

    I find it odd that I had to put my money on a tray and yet, I receive my receipt and change by hand (except at banks and airport currency exchange)......

  • 3

    Serrano

    "So MADAME RiRi, what does the vee sign mean in Japan?"

    You don't know? It means "We are having a darn tootin' good time!"

    bicultural - I gave you a thumbs up, but you're still 3 down, lol.

    "Drinking barley tea"

    Why would that confuse anyone? It's delicious, cheap to buy and make at home, and free in some restaurants like Matsuya and Ootoya.

  • -2

    The_True

    *The Night Is Black, Without A Moon. The Air Is Thick And Still. The Vigilantes Gather On The Lonely Torchlit Hill.

    Features Distorted In The Flickering Light, Faces Are Twisted And Grotesque. Silent And Stern In The Sweltering Night, The Mob Moves Like Demons Possesed. Quiet In Conscience, Calm In Their Right, Confident Their Ways Are Best.

    The Righteous Rise With Burning Eyes Of Hatred And Ill-Will. Madmen Fed On Fear And Lies To Beat And Burn And Kill.

    They Say There Are Strangers Who Threaten Us, Our Immigrants And Infidels. They Say There Is Strangeness To Danger Us In Our Theatres And Bookstore Shelves, That Those Who Know What's Best For Us Must Rise And Save Us From Ourselves.

    Quick To Judge, Quick To Anger, Slow To Understand Ignorance And Prejudice And Fear Walk Hand In Hand.*

    Do you guys think neil peart was thinking about the Japanese System when he wrote that song?

  • 2

    JapanGal

    Patrick-kun

    Cultures are different. Disgusting to your thoughts is normal to others. Please be more open minded. ne!

  • 7

    gaijinfo

    Many young Japanese people instinctively form a vee with their fingers when they pose for photos

    I'd just like to point out that this is pretty common in both Korea and Taiwan as well, as are many of these other "unique to Japan" behaviors.

  • 2

    Laguna

    Nodding is surely a universal human trait; it is the inability of Japanese to shake their head that is unique. Truly: try getting a Japanese friend to move their head back and forth in a horizontal movement. It is like their neck muscles are fused.

    We'll see how long Madame RiRi lasts before analysis of all the mystique of Japanese culture is exhausted - when we're down to subjects like, why do Japanese say "いく!いく!" while Americans say "Coming! Coming!" Don't laugh - at this rate, it will ... come ... eventually.

  • 4

    JapanGal

    I agree with you gaijinfo/

    It is all over Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong. Shanghai and Guanzo. No one has complained about my pigeon toed gravatar, but then again, i never even open that mail...

  • -3

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    If anyone has ever been confused by finding mugI-cha in someone's fridge, I'd like to see the look on their face if they came across the Kazakh vodka and human heads in mine...

  • 8

    JapanGal

    Dearest Payy-kun,

    Why are you in Japan?

    Have you ever watched a TV CM here? When they are selling beer and other drinks, the most handsome men and prettiest girls make gulping sounds. Is that wrong? I do not think so! I would not do it in Florida with family, nor ever do that with my NY relatives.

    It is cultural. What is revoting to you may not be to others. If you kiss your woman or boy friend here in Japan in public, that is repulsive, but you can suck the tongue out of your lover in NY City,,,, my city, but that is revolting. But I accept it....

  • 5

    bass4funk

    @Japangirl

    I disagree with you but that is ok. I am sure you are not angry. Mature women do the pigeon toe. It is cute. Sorry if you do not think so, but that is your right to choose so. I never had a lover tell me I was a kid.

    I'm sorry and "No," I don't believe that ANYONE finds anything amusing about a woman walking pigeon-toed. Yes, you might have your occasional Otaku fetish lover totally into it, but other than that, No way! It is totally unattractive.

  • 14

    choiwaruoyaji

    Regarding the slurping of noodles...

    I think Patrick is correct... not all Japanese people choose to eat noodles like that.

    Speaking to a very refined and highly educated Japanese businessman about slurping noodles, he said:

    "That is shita-machi style... I don't eat noodles like that..."

    So there you have it.

  • -1

    tmarie

    As I type this, there is a "ohhhhh Japan is so strange" program on TV. Honest to god, complex or what? They've got a Saudi guy commenting on the bowing, the service... he left his wallet to see if it would be turned in.... Sigh.

  • 6

    Hybrid4

    -The slurping sound is really annoying to me too. My japanese mother also finds it appalling. Her parents never did it.

    -The Vee sign... for me that's a herd thing. "They do it so I do it".

    And the Vee sign, with it tilted about 80 degrees is considered cute. I do it when with my JP friends, and do not when not. People who do things constantly to appear cute to others tend to annoy me.

    Also, I usually try not to offend people who have different manners, but I certainly wouldn't want to mimic them.

  • 0

    Hybrid4

    "People who do things constantly to appear cute to others tend to annoy me." That part was my comment....

  • 6

    hatsoff

    Sniffling, clearing one’s throat and swallowing phlegm are also habits that visitors may find unsettling.

    No, let's get it right. Most of the men don't sniffle, they snort like pigs; and they don't swallow the phlegm, it gets spat right out on the street. Unsettling? Nah, just plain old disgusting.

    And those freshmen salarymen in their recruit suits and white socks slurping their coffee in Doutor should realise they are no longer in high school. Drives me round the bend.

  • 4

    warnerbro

    The only Japanese custom I find objectionable is that of spewing radioactive materials over the better part of the population.

  • 1

    oberst

    Some Japanese girls cannot walk gracefully in high heels and end up walking pigeon-toed...................

    very true, they need to take lessons from their Korean sisters ( esp. those from Seoul )

  • -1

    HonestDictator

    Custom or not, thats why they're called customs. Each country has its own cultural differences that is shown through out their society. What works in asian countries might be weird in not just "western" countries but middle eastern countries, african countries etc.

    Although the eyelid surgery really sucks in my opinion, some really do need to get braces and learn that dentists do more than just fill in bad cavities. But then again it could be cost that stops parents from getting their children braces when needed.

    As for the pidgeon toed idea, seems like its like that in many asian countries, I know my ex from hong kong walked like that and she didn't wear high heels...

  • -8

    Soochi

    Speaking to a very refined and highly educated Japanese businessman about slurping noodles, he said:

    "That is shita-machi style... I don't eat noodles like that..."

    So there you have it.

    Case closed then, we can all go home. Personally though I find people who slurp their noodles far less offfensive than bigoted remarks like this - nothing refined or educated about that geezer whatsoever.

  • 1

    Shox0511

    Some Japanese people even bow while talking on the phone. I used to always do this unconsciously, and now in New Zealand as well. By the way I'm wondering what MADAME RiRi would like to do... I can often see its article like this. I can't figure their purpose out and it's as if they tell us `Japanese style is weird eh.' Who cares. Where is it? It's neither USA nor Europe. It's Japan. There is nothing to care about for us. But what we have to do is just to behave well or properly as usual.

  • 0

    HansNFranz

    Each and every single article from this "Madame Riri" strikes me as the worst type of shallow click-bait, written by what I imagine must be bored valley girls dabbling at "journalism".

  • 8

    HansNFranz

    True about the barley tea. When I first saw a bottle of Barley tea in a Japanese fridge, I collapsed and had to take a week off work just to get over the worst. It was a few years ago but I think I am still recovering from this neutron-bomb grade cultural shock.

  • -1

    Nicky Washida

    The barley tea (is that mugi-cha?) was something I could never really stomach until I was pregnant. Then suddenly I couldnt get enough of the stuff! I have never looked back since. Just my taste but to me it is more refreshing than plain water in the Summer.

  • 7

    choiwaruoyaji

    Just my taste but to me it is more refreshing than plain water in the Summer.

    Yes. Mugi-cha is great in the summer. It has a bit of a strange taste... kind of like.. umm.. delicious paper

  • 2

    HansNFranz

    @choiwaruoyaji That is close enough for me. Have any Japanese men made that "tsk" sound when you passed them today? I also get that a lot and would like to know more about this "cultural phenomenon". Let's start a research fund.

  • 1

    LoveNot

    Yes. Mugi-cha is great in the summer. It has a bit of a strange taste... kind of like.. umm.. delicious paper

    You can brew coffee from mugi powder too.

  • 10

    Tim_Fox

    I don't think Japan is a such a rarified culture anymore to warrant continuuing so many of these columns.

    Perhaps the only thing I find strange anymore is the continual insistance on distinguishing Japanese from the others (foreigners).

  • 0

    Ben_Jackinoff

    I'm shocked! You mean to say people don't automatically understand everything about a culture they are unfamiliar to begin with?

  • 2

    Ranger_Miffy2

    Sorry Madame RiRi, but this one is only for "just of the boat" folks. Pretty boring for the JT crowd.

  • 3

    psychopathsareincontrol

    Lame articicle, bro

  • 2

    Thomas Smith

    Funny seeing all the comments saying pigeon toed walking is caused by sitting seiza, but missing the fact that men who sit that way constantly do not have the problem. It IS a learned behavior even by those girls who do not sit that way, and is how you're taught to walk in kimono.

  • 6

    DS

    The unique thing in Japan is the constant insecure navel gazing. I've never seen a country so fascinated with its own image and how others see it. Also so desperate to be unique...

  • 0

    wipeout

    The unique thing in Japan is the constant insecure navel gazing. I've never seen a country so fascinated with its own image and how others see it.

    I have.

  • 1

    Singh Kulwant

    I think all the Japanese customs are good and not harming to any body, people from the West may dislike, I think , wonderful customs, Now to say goodbye or hello/appologise, bowing is wonderful style, nothing wrong with it...

  • -1

    tamanegi

    I am going back to bed now...yawn

  • 5

    cactusJack

    After coming to Japan I can't stop nodding at everything said to me. It is almost like a kind of mental sickness. I think I need professional help.

  • 2

    Himajin

    Funny seeing all the comments saying pigeon toed walking is caused by sitting seiza, but missing the fact that men who sit that way constantly do not have the problem.

    Men do not 'sit that way constantly'. Look at any funeral or wake you may attend. As soon as the ceremony is over and it's time to eat or drink, the men switch to sitting cross-legged while the women continue to sit seiza. They also take tea ceremony lessons and flower arranging lessons where one must sit seiza, and men do not.

  • 3

    Greapper1

    The only one of Madame Riri's "confusing customs" that I agree with is the "sniffling" I really don't understand why the majority of Japanese people just don't go to the bathroom and blow their nose. I get annoyed every time my nose starts to drip. So I blow it and cease to have that sickly annoyance.

  • 8

    Nessie

    I've got just one thing to say about these incessant Madame Riri articles: Riirii!?

  • 2

    Himajin

    Nessie- :-D Wish I could give you a dozen thumbs-up!

  • 1

    Maria

    Nice one Nessie! I lol'd (but don't worry, I remembered to cover my mouth).

  • 0

    Serrano

    I checked out madameriri.com. Interesting site.

  • 0

    ForeignKiri

    Double-eyelid surgery

    Foreigners may wonder why Japanese women get cosmetic surgery for their eyes but don’t do anything about their teeth.

    Yes my point EXACTLY! And whats with the self distortion on their eyes not being beautiful as they were created? Some one is pushing the beauty factor WAY OVER the line. I will always take care of my teeth first! In Japan men like me on my smile alone... I didn't have to have cartoon like character eyes to be attractive.

    AND Walking pigeon-toed in high heels!!! I feel for the future of their feet and walking ability as they age. That is not confusing...its just annoying.

  • 4

    Samantha Ueno

    I prefer to sit on the floor, even in a chair or booth somewhere like a restaurant I take off my shoes and sit cross-legged or seiza. It keeps me more alert and in a better posture, so I prefer it. I drink water just fine but hubby likes flavor so we're drinking mugicha....it is non-caffienated and has minerals so probably not a bad idea in the summer. And if walking pigeon toed is caused by seiza how come people like me or men don't do it? Especially when in Japan seiza is the way boys and girls sit from infancy through preschool, years when little bones are developing and bending the most. And only those asinine Shibuya-types do it too. hmm....willing to bet that its a learned habit.

  • 3

    Maitake

    One thing I find bizarre is how some poeple make this huge hheeeeeyyyyyyyyyy..?? or hhhaaaw???, and the pitch in their voice rises ,when they learn a new fact or are a little surprised by something. It's overly dramatic and it actually sounds to me like they are mentally retarded.

  • -2

    m6bob

    Customs like showing the V-sign while being photographed are cute. Noisily slurping noodles does not cause any hygiene problems. Taking off your shoes before you enter a house is hygienic. But in the West, blowing your nose into a handkerchief and then stuffing it back into your pocket while in a restaurant is so disgusting! Get of your high horse, Patrick! You probably wear your dirty shoes into a Japanese home many times without thinking as you think 'it's my custom' so its ok. Sick!

  • -2

    LH10

    Walking pigeon-toed in high heels is cute ^o^ but i'm really sad that the Asians (not just in japan) change their eyes to make em bigger T_T i LOVE those asian eyes xD japanese habits are so cute =^o^=

  • 0

    Pixilated

    Some Japanese girls cannot walk gracefully in high heels and end up walking pigeon-toed.

    After years of living here, that is one that I still don't understand today. It's not just while walking or wearing high heels, for Japanese women are often pigeon-toed while sitting down and wearing sneakers, shoes, etc. What's up with that?

  • -1

    Patrick Hagger

    Wow do you realize we all wasted our time responding to someone sick joke. Not one of these are warnings found anywhere else. There are cultue differences ofcourse but not any discussed in the article.

  • 1

    Simon Phillips

    the pigion toes is not so much of a problem, its the three times the size of your feet wearers that gets me. They wear highheels that are way to big for them and slide like they are walking in slippers!

  • 2

    almostshat

    I like to make the V sign (oops! the wrong way round) to the police cameras on the motorway. Peace off! 10-9-8-7-..Mod!

  • 1

    almostshat

    @Pixilated, its because J culture indocrinates that the knock-kneed, pidgeon-toed look makes you appear cute, vulnerable, and pathetic, ie non-threatening, submissive and shaggable. Obviously. Sqeak, sqeak..

  • 0

    mtwildman

    Having spent a fair amount of time in Japan...i find these "customs" to a wonderful way that a culture expresses itself...the customs/walking/teeth/and various sounds of Japan are quite easy to deal w/compared to those of my country (USA) where the attitude's are aggressive,foul,rude and angry!

  • 0

    Joseph Garrett Baxter

    Everyone gets used to their own customs and traditions and people do not easily change unless you learn to meditate and decondition your mind. The slurping sound sounds bad to us since that has been ingrained into our heads and it is your conditioning that you have not broken through. The slurping is necessary to eat hot noodles or else you will burn your mouth. Very practical and one of the greatest things if Japanese eating. At first I was disgusted and amazed but over time one gets used to everything as new conditioning patterns set in, but if you keep the idea of disgust in your mind then that make get stronger.

  • 0

    gogogo

    How about some explanations to why the Japanese do those things?... I would really like to know the meaning behind why Japanese do the peace sign in photos.

  • -3

    Shanique Smith

    I was told by some kids that the vee sign is for peace. Some other culture uses 'peace out' while showing the vee sign. I've seen people outside of Japan say 'peace' while making the vee sign. Obviously Japan is not only influenced by secluded cultures. What I find shocking is before coming to Japan being told that the people are conservative kind and peaceful. Conservative? Those revealing short skirts worn by young girls from Hokkaido to Okinawa? I almost believed the part about kind and peaceful until I left Tokyo. Most of the Japanese people I come across lately are cold lie and deceitful (my experience). One man in a 7/11 truck tried to run me down on a sidewalk in Okayama; people spitting when they pass you; slamming their windows after shouting insultives; making funny sounds when they pass you; police cars stopping abruptly infront of you; your doorbell ringing 3 a.m etc;. **Japan is an unfriendly country **and this is strategically hidden behnd outward seemingly friendly gestures. If you find a genuine Japanese it's usually someone who is seen as an outcast for one reason or the other. They find it hard to fit in. Those are usually the ones whose hearts are true. These unfortunately are few. I have heard tales of other people's experiences....not good at all at all at all.

  • 3

    cleo

    people spitting when they pass you; slamming their windows after shouting insultives; making funny sounds when they pass you; police cars stopping abruptly infront of you; your doorbell ringing 3 a.m etc

    Never had a single one of those things happen to me in all the time I have been here. Maybe you just attract the wrong sort, or live in a bad area.

    If you find a genuine Japanese it's usually someone who is seen as an outcast for one reason or the other. They find it hard to fit in.

    No it isn't, no they aren't and no they don't. I'm surrounded by genuine Japanese people with hearts that are true, including family members, my nearest and dearest. None of them find it hard to fit in, none of them are outcasts. That's my experience.

  • 2

    Nessie

    Seven out of seven are not exclusive to Japan.

  • 1

    garomakaikishi

    what a crappy article total BS

  • 1

    BBLuvJp

    I found these differences fascinating. Not so strange in my opinion but one I didn't know before I went to Japan was when I smile at someone they don't smile back. So I just asked a friend and they let me know they don't smile at strangers and that me smiling at them probably made them feel like I was making fun of them. Makes since to me. So I go along with it now. Also, I have been treated very kindly everywhere I go in Japan.

  • 3

    ReformedBasher

    Slurping's never bothered me. I've tried it - find it hard to do without scalding myself - must be doing it wrong so I bung it on a little.

    Don't like ppl hawking and spitting when they're nearby. I prefer to be discreet and do it only when nobody's nearby :-)

    It's a constant battle at home regarding whether putting one's hand over one's mouth when coughing or sneezing is acceptable or not. One thing that made me a little uncomfortable in my English teaching days were kids with snot trickling out of their noses and their mums who looked shocked when I got a pack of tissues out.

    Think most of us switch off to most differences after a while. I remember a girl ride past me on a unicycle in the middle of the country when I first moved over. That was funny the first time I saw it.

    @BBLuvJp

    I didn't know before I went to Japan was when I smile at someone they don't smile back

    I've found ppl smile back just as often as back home, but this depends where you live, both in Japan and overseas. I recall being offered free fruit by complete strangers, wait for it, by those dreaded and nasty people of Taiji. Local police helped me dig my car out of it's snowy grave in Takamatsu, I just asked if I could borrow a shovel but these guys came out and rolled up their sleeves so to speak. After a hard day getting down off the mountain, I can tell you it was appreciated.

  • 1

    commanteer

    This patronizing article is written by Japanese for a Japanese audience. The subtext is deplorable. It says "we are an especially unique culture that foreigners just cannot understand." (Barley tea - oh, how confusing!) It provides more lame excuses for the Japanese retreat from connecting with the world that is passing them by.

    I wondered at first why this stuff annoys me so much, but that's the crux of it. I care about the future of the country, but Japanese like the person who wrote this would rather stick their heads the sand and pat themselves on the back while the country crumbles.

  • 2

    kitzrow

    Can we talk about recent customs like Japanese girls wearing short, short skirts even in the dead of winter, making up being applied while on the train, constant opening and closing of cell phones to check if there is a message, guys with scruffy hair on their chins maybe thinking they look more manly, ....... ha ha ha .. sorry .. Just thinking .. I guess these come under the topic of pet peeves and not customs ..... Oh, I could so easily add to this list ... NAH will stop here.

  • 2

    Balefire

    It has been said that the V sign became common because it was often used by Janet Lynn, the very popular figure skater in the '72 Sapporo Olympics. She did indeed mean it as a peace sign, but it's doubtful whether many of the current users remember that. Not everyone who uses it here now makes the "peace" connection, although plenty of them do.

    I don't remember anyone in Japan other than anti-war protesters using the sign before that (I arrived in '70) in photos or anywhere else, and it seems to have proliferated very quickly after Janet Lynn's overnight celebrity status here, so I tend to believe the explanation. Other countries in Asia seem to have picked it up from Japan, although I'm told that it means "happy" rather than "peace" in Korea.

  • 0

    presto345

    Also some people also observe how cars stopped at a intersecton shut off their headlights when stopped during evening hours so as no to blind other drivers etc.

    Never see that anymore. Instead its more like people love to blind other drivers with their HID altered lights and having the wide beams and fog lights on as well although there is no fog. This would be illegal in Europe. But who cares. Enforcing regulations? Nah.

  • 0

    Bill Hickey

    Head, shoulders, pigeon toes!

  • 1

    FightingViking

    presto345Apr. 13, 2012 - 09:10PM JST

    Also some people also observe how cars stopped at a intersecton shut off their headlights when stopped during evening hours so as no to blind other drivers etc.

    Never see that anymore.

    Then you've never driven in front of me! I always dim my lights while waiting at a red light!

  • 1

    Balefire

    FightingViking, so do I, having picked up the custom here long ago. It horrified my sister when I did it by habit in California, though: she maintained that it would get me a traffic ticket if observed by a minion of the law there.

  • 0

    oberst

    if the girl is only in high heels, I don't care if she's walking like a pigeon or a duck,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,i surrender !! LOL

  • 0

    Gaijintoday

    I understand if it makes you feel better in terms of self-esteem by all means do what you must; BUT PLEASE Japanese women don't surgically alter your eyelids just so they appear rounder. Your eyes look fine just the way they are. Actually I think they are beautiful. And before anyone jumps on me (as most assuredly they will) for stating how I feel about that; I must make it clear that the natural shape of a woman's eyes did not evolve nor were designed solely for my personal pleasure, I just happen to find pleasure in them.

  • -1

    bellsmyre49

    In Western countries, the handshake and hug are more common.

    I've never hugged anyone of the same sex in my life and I'm not starting now just but because it says so here

  • 0

    Long-underwear Man

    Japan is a great people with customs going back before westerns even heard of the Nation

  • -1

    Fadamor

    I always figured the "V" they're flashing in photos was just copying the American soldiers who had a habit of flashing a "V" after WWII when their photo was taken. "When the Romans occupy your town, you do as the Romans do" and such.

  • -1

    Fadamor

    The soldiers were flashing a "V" for "Victory", of course.

  • 1

    Anthony B.

    Just make sure you bow many times while you're talking on the phone...

  • 0

    Gaijintoday

    I've never hugged anyone of the same sex in my life and I'm not starting now just but because it says so here

    You've never hugged your father?

  • 0

    titd001

    Today is off duty for me,and I've just read this article.I respect this suggestions.I think recently situation has been changing a little,but for me,these customs apply to me,hahaha.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    "Perhaps this one applies to many women in Asia, not just Japan. Double eyelid surgery is common because young women want to have bigger eyes."

    It's interesting that RiRi has to bring in other countries to try and defend cosmetic surgery, but feels that things like 'sitting on the floor' or bowing are only common in Japan. Point of fact: Japan has the world's highest right of minor cosmetic surgery, like the double-eyelid thing, or some injections, etc.

    As for swallowing phlegm being unsettling, it's because it's bloody disgusting. The people who constantly sniffle and swallow phlegm, I read somewhere, 'drink' an average of up to 2 litres of mucus a day.

    The peace sign thing.... I actually unconsciously do it myself sometimes. Yes, it means 'peace' -- as in 'the war is over, we won ('v' for 'victory'!), hence peace'. Ironic the Japanese use it so much given the war ended when they surrendered. Shouldn't they be making an 'L' shape?

    Anyway, this is another fluff article full of generalizations that could be applied in other nations, and where exceptions are prevalent.

  • 1

    bicultural

    Point of fact: Japan has the world's highest right of minor cosmetic surgery, like the double-eyelid thing, or some injections, etc.

    Links, please?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/niptuck-nations-countries-cosmetic-surgery/story?id=16205231

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2012/04/147_108586.html

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/04/daily-chart-13

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    "Point of fact: Japan has the world's highest right of minor cosmetic surgery..."

    I really have to start editing and shut off my auto-correct function. RATE, not 'right'.

    bicultural: What I said is correct. However, you have to take into account whether or not we're talking about total number or per capita. Japan exceeds SKorea in plastic surgery (including botox or such injections) by sheer population (2009 stats put it 411,000 Japan vs. 365,000 SK). However, SKorea exceeds Japan per capita. You also have to ask what you consider 'minor' surgery. If you include breast augmentation then the US leads by FAR. In this case we're talking about double eye-lid surgery, injections, Kana sisters, etc. There's also the problem of 'cosmetic tourism'. The statistics for SKorea include Japanese going to South Korea on 'pucchi surgery' tours, (ie. the number of surgeries is based on borders, not nationalities) because it is so much cheaper in SK than going to Kawasaki or Takase clinic here. Finally, South Koreans have little or no qualms about admitting the fact that they have plastic surgery, whereas in Japan it's quite taboo even in celebrity circles, so many cases go unreported (saw a variety show where they anonymously asked the 30 some tarento on the show and more than half said they had had minor plastic surgery, to which of course you got a big, "eeeeEEEEEEHHHHHH?" from the audience. Out of the majority, only two outted themselves and said what they had done).

    My whole point, though, was that in this article RiRi lists a bunch of gross generalizations but ONLY in the case of plastic surgery does she suddenly suggest it might not be just a Japanese thing. In my opinion it undermines and already pretty fluffy article.

  • 1

    TokyoHipHop

    None of this confuses me...irrelevant article lol.

  • 0

    realist

    "Sniffing, clearing one's throat and swallowing phlegm are also habits that visitors might find unsettling." No, visitors actually find these traits nauseating, and they are also extremely unhealthy. Most "visitors" find these actually to be repulsive and distasteful.

  • 2

    Nessie

    I'd have to say the 'custom' of key money

    There's nothing confusing about extortion.

  • 0

    timtak

    The V sign is said to trace its origins - at least of its widespread popularity - to the Hokkaido Winter Olympics when a female figure skater fell to the ice after a jump, and waved one or two V signs when she got back to her feet to sign that she was okay. In any event, this is the meaning - "I am okay, positive, happy, or in a word "genki"," and by implication "sure, take my photo." According to my research Japanese auto-photography (in response to a twenty photos test) is generally more positive and posed than that taken by Westerners who do not mind taking photographs warts and all since visual self presentation is not an issue for them. Westerners on the other hand make similarly positive and also "posed" (in that they conform) linguistic self presentations in response to a twenty statements test. The reason for this differance, it seems to me, is that Westerners have simulate, or believe in, a linguistic Other (super-ego, super-addressee, generalised other, impartial spectator) that is always listening, whereas the Japanese other - imaginary friend or gods - watch(es) and protect(s). I call this Nacalian because it is the theory of Jacques Lacan backwards.

  • 0

    Nicole Yamagawa

    I'm still waiting to know what the confusing customs might be.. Not these right? Meanwhile, I love it how there is not a single explanation to these "confusing customs" at any point in the article.. To quote another comment; What does the "vee-sign" mean in Japanese then?

  • 0

    Magdalen Sarah Mean

    Oh please, what cultural ignorance/chauvinism! I think the term you are looking for in place of "foreigners" in this article may be the term "WASP"

  • 1

    Magdalen Sarah Mean

    my point being that the term "foreigners" is loosely applied to cover the entire world without any cultural distinction in a context where the meaning makes it clear that it applies only to a very specific cultural minority. I can't for example imagine that a person from India would be surprised about sitting on the floor, or that a Chinese person would be surprised about slurping noodles, or that a Californian would be surprised at the idea of cosmetic surgery (of any sort)....

  • 0

    Wicho

    That is not japanese culture. just mere superficial stuff ..

  • 0

    m3keith

    @Wicho

    What is "not Japanese culture"? What is Japanese culture?

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