Hackernoon logoAsk Me Anything About Japan by@Limarc

Ask Me Anything About Japan

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@LimarcLimarc Ambalina

Editor @Hackernoon by day, VR Gamer and Anime Binger by night

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Japan is home to many things and is one of the longest-lasting civilizations in the world. While many people think of anime, ninjas, or video games when they think of Japan, there is so much more the country has to offer.

I've been fortunate to call Tokyo my home for the past four years. I've worked as an English teacher, taught college classes, and eventually transitioned to a full-time content writing career. I've gone through immigration processes, learned the language (but still have a way to go), and even got married here. Thus, I am always open for anyone in the Hacker Noon community to ask me anything about Japan!

This Slack discussion occurred in Slogging's official #AMAS channel, and has been edited for readability. This discussion was the first of our daily AMAs being hosted in our official Slogging channel, every weekday at 12PM MT.

Ask me Anything About Japan

Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:00 PM
Hey ya'll! I've been living in Japan for the past 4 years. Ask me anything
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 7:03 PM
How long did it take you to speak the language?
HangFeb 11, 2021, 7:05 PM
I heard people in Japan are quite strict with investments, as in they don't put much in investing. They tend to "save" more. Is that true?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:06 PM
"How long did it take you to speak the language?"

I still have a long way to go, my Japanese is only N4 - N3 ish which is a Japanese language certification level. N5 N4 N3 N2 N1, with N1 being the highest level you can achieve.

I'd say it was about 1 year before I started getting better and 2-3 years before I became comfortable with handling most any daily tasks. Now I can go to city hall and get paperwork done on my own if I do enough prep beforehand!

I learned basics from videos and textbooks but the best way to learn is to start dating a Japanese person 🤣.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:07 PM
"I heard people in Japan are quite strict with investments, as in they don't put much in investing. They tend to "save" more. Is that true?"

Yes very true and very interesting. There is some investing here and similar systems like Mutual Funds, but it is not that common. I've even met some French foreigners in Japan that said investing is more of an American concept.
HangFeb 11, 2021, 7:11 PM
Hmm interesting. I once had a whole economic lesson/theory about that. My professor and colleagues suggest that after the bubble in the 90s they became much more conservative about investing.
HangFeb 11, 2021, 7:11 PM
Also, why did you decide to move to Japan?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:14 PM
Hmm yeah it would be interesting to study the reason for that but I did watch a short documentary about how Tokyo used to be like Manhattan and people had more money than they could spend and would go to Korea just to buy more expensive stuff.

I moved to Japan because it had always been my dream. I loved Japanese anime and games and those stories inspired me to be a writer. It was always my goal to live in Japan and teach English there, so I went right after I finished college!
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 7:14 PM
What is Japanese pop culture really like in terms of music, film, and art? Is it really all about anime? And how does it differ from North American pop culture?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:17 PM
It's not "all about anime" at all. One of the most ..."unique"...things about their music culture is the idol culture where girl groups with artists aged anywhere from 12 - 30 can pack out stadiums. Check out AKB48 and Babymetal.

Interestingly, the movie theaters here are expensive AF, but the best thing about them is they are always reserved seating only so you don't have to get there early. In terms of the actual films, I'd say normally 50-60% are Japanese and 40-50% of films shown in theaters and Hollywood films. So even if you don't speak Japanese, you can still enjoy movies here.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:18 PM
The art scene is cool, especially in Tokyo! There are tons of art museums scattered around from tiny exhibits in small galleries in Harajuku to large exhibits in Ueno Park
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:19 PM
But of course, gaming and anime could be considered pillars of their pop culture. Some of the biggest companies use anime to advertise their products and it is still one of the last places in the world that has video game arcades!
HangFeb 11, 2021, 7:19 PM
Limarc Ambalina what is the name of the documentary (asking for a friend) 😅
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:23 PM
Hang I forgot...but it was on Netflix so I'll try to find it and send it to you haha
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 7:30 PM
What surprised you the most about Japan?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:35 PM
Oh so many things......but if I had to choose one thing I'd say it's the safety and higher sense of morality. I don't know if that's the best word for it, but when I was teaching a college class, I asked them if they $100 on the street, would they keep it or turn it in and everyone said they'd give it to the cops. When I asked why, they said "because it's not mine".

Even if they were all lying to me, it is still interesting that they all feel the need to at least say that they wouldn't keep the money. And to be honest, I believe them. IF you drop your wallet in Tokyo, there is like an 80 - 100% chance that you will find it at the nearest police box. On top of that, there is like a 50 - 70% chance the person who returned it didn't take any money out of it as a reward.
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 7:46 PM
What is the general perception of Japanese idol groups and the older men who follow them? I’ve heard that there are girls that are under 12 who are child pop stars and they get idolized in a sexual way.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:52 PM
I remember walking through a park one day and there was an idol group who must've been like 4 girls 14 at the oldest.

There was a general crowd of just people who were in the park for a festival and the front row was lined with old men, who were all standing, singing along with synchronized dance moves, At the time, I assumed they were the girl's fathers. It was later that I realized they were probably just super fans who follow the group to every concert.

Idol groups (both male and female) are part of pop culture and accepted by the community (for the most part). Just like KPOP, idol groups usually produce the country's top 40 hits every year.

How do people feel about the groups of old men aged 30 - 65 that idolize these groups and young girls with...frightening passion? I can only speak with personal anecdotes and every Japanese person I asked said they thought it was creepy.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:53 PM
On the other hand, baby metal is a group of girls all under 15, and they are popular all over the world? I assume no one thinks the people who attend their concerts are creepy.

But one of the creepiest parts of the idol culture in Japan is that many...many people will pay extra so attend a "handshaking" event after the concert where they are allowed to shake hands and talk to the idol for a set amount of time 10 seconds, 30 seconds, etc. and it is literally timed and they use all of the time.

Is that normal? I'd say hell no, but some people try to justify it. I recommend watching this documentary if you want to get really creeped out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0df7k__KEHw
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 7:54 PM
And what about sex in Japan in general? The perception amongst North Americans is that Japanese people are squeamish about sex and that young people don’t really have sex
Amy TomFeb 11, 2021, 7:55 PM
I mean, to play devil’s advocate (although I definitely don’t support the sexualization of young girls) isn’t that just like a “regular” fan meet and greet?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:56 PM
There are probably studies done and statistics we can find, but in general Japanese people tend to lose their virginity later in life compared to America for instance. I remember hearing that statistic somewhere.

But are they squeamish about it? No. It's just that the culture is much more conservative. People wear less revealing clothes, for example, almost no one wears shirts that show their belly button for instance. I'm often the only one in the general vicinity wearing a tank top despite the sweltering heat.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:58 PM
Another problem could be that the lifestyle in Tokyo is too busy to date, and there are just fewer people entering relationships and thus we are having fewer babies and have an aging population problem.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 7:59 PM
"I mean, to play devil’s advocate (although I definitely don’t support the sexualization of young girls) isn’t that just like a “regular” fan meet and greet?"

I guess so, but I think it's different if the girl is 13 and all the fans meeting and greeting are men over 30. Especially if those men go to every event and always pay for the meet and greet.
Linh SmookeFeb 11, 2021, 9:15 PM
Oh is it over yet I wanna ask about technology in Japan!
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 9:19 PM
Go for it!
Utsav JaiswalFeb 11, 2021, 9:21 PM
I read somewhere that the ATMs in Japan shut down at 8PM. Is that true? What can a night-owl do in Japan?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 9:22 PM
Not exactly 8pm, but it is true that they shut at a certain time and it depends on your bank. I learned this just last month when I tried to withdraw money at 11 pm at 7-11 and it said "your banks service is closed for the day".

So night owls have to either withdraw money early or I believe you can withdraw from a credit card at any time.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 9:26 PM
Fun fact: we still use bank books in Japan...I feel so old school going to the bank every month to update my book
Linh SmookeFeb 11, 2021, 10:39 PM
Ah cool. Question is: we’ve been to Japan once and were so impressed with their technology. What’s your favorite tech Japan makes?
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 11:17 PM
Let me give my true answer and then a more entertaining answer. My real answer is sinks above the toilet tank. Why hasn't the entire world adopted this? How much water would we save if people washed their hands with the clean water that enters the toilet tank after we flush?

That was the one technology that I've thought WTF! How have we never done this yet in Canada?!
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 11:17 PM
This is what I mean. Almost every toilet in Japan as this.
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 11, 2021, 11:22 PM
This answer might also be boring, but I also love IC payment cards, most common ones in Tokyo are https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html and PASMO. We use these to pay for train fare and we can attach a monthly train pass to them so we aren't paying per ride, but a flat rate per month.

On top of that, you can load any amount of money on them and use them as "tap pay" cards at all convenience stores, most fast food restaurants, family restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and vending machines as well. Almost everywhere accepts them. While Japan still uses a lot of cash for payments, we also have IC cards for super quick contactless payments
Feb 12, 2021, 6:44 AM
Damn I'm so late to this party but my question would've been I've got 72 hours in Japan - what do I do? 🤗
Limarc AmbalinaFeb 12, 2021, 6:52 AM
That's way too short a time, so I would say stay in one area either:

IF you're going to Tokyo, I'd say go to Harajuku to see the famous fashion scene there. And while it's touristy, you should go to Asakusa to try different Japanese foods, wear traditional Japanese kimonos, enjoy a tea ceremony, and go to one of the most famous temples: Sensoji Temple. At night time head to Shibuya for its clubbing scene, stay at the club until 2 am and (since the trains don't start up until 6 am) head to a karaoke room afterwards to keep partying or take a rest. I'd also recommend checking out Odaiba which is on the coast, where you can take a short cruise.

Since Kyoto is such a famous place, another option would be to spend 72 hours touring Kyoto and Osaka. Kyoto is famous for numerous temples, shrines, and matcha tea. It's a good place to visit because it's very close to Osaka, which is another famous area of Japan famous for great food like Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, and Kushikatsu. While Japan is a very respectful, reserved, and quiet country, I see Osaka as like the rowdy area where people are said to be louder and speak differently...maybe we'd call it the Boston, MA of Japan. But anyways, this is a terribly short guide plan, so if you actually are planning to visit after this pandemic calms down, head to http://GaijinPot.com for any guides and destination reviews! They are one of the first companies I ever got paid to write for and I still contribute to them from time to time!

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