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Sandra Rivas-Cole.

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      Being from Orlando and being big Disney fans, my husband and I go to the Magic Kingdom quite a bit and people watch.  Yup - there are times we go to the House of Mouse just to look at the people.  That's it.  So it is because of this, that I learned how to watch people and because of this, I spent lots of time watching people in Japan. 

     Most of the things that I have read online are very true.  The whole thing about "Don't point with chopsticks." or "The Japanese are not very touchy feely people." are all true.  So why repeat myself?  I decided that instead of writing what people have written online and in books already, I would take a few and write what I saw.  I figured that would be the best thing.  On one side, you will see the "myth" and on the other side you will see my observation.  Easy, I think so...

Is this true?

My Observation

The Japanese are always on time. Oh my goodness yes they are!!!  I was more scared of being late in Japan than anything else I have every done.  It was nuts.  One of the girls in our group was late getting on the bus and I thought our tour coordinator was going to fall over.  And of course, the Japanese were NEVER late to any meeting or appointment.  Oh how I wish I could be like that!
Picking your nose in public is fine but blowing your nose is considered disgusting. I tried not to laugh on the subway when I saw the guy picking his nose but I couldn't help it.  I had to turn my face to one side.  In the U.S. picking your nose in public is just not done but in Japan it's ok.  I saw it a bunch of times but it just gets to you when you see a guy sitting there with his finger up his nose acting like nothing is wrong.
Japanese in-ground toilets vs. Western toilets (and the Toto toilet) When I walked into my room at the Akasaka Prince and saw my Toto toilet, I was amazed.  A toilet seat that warms your bumper... how great is that.   Then I saw the in-ground toilets and I wondered how can anyone possibly do that?  Several people in our group managed to figure out how to properly use them but I couldn't.  Not until I actually had to use one.  It was strange... weird... but I managed.  Most places had a western toilet and even most homes but the schools had mostly in-ground babies and well... many people waited until we returned to our hotel.  I give the Japanese lots of credit for keeping them around for so long.
Chopstick etiquette is kept to strictly and completely. This is completely and totally true in every way.  I know how to use chopsticks very well so I didn't have issues eating but I saw many of my friends skewer their food and I saw many Japanese people watch us and shake their heads.  I tried very hard to remember all the things I had read about chopsticks... No pointing with them, no skewering, no passing food, no sticking them straight up in rice, no passing food with the side that you ate with, no playing the drums on the edge of the table while you wait for your food.  I actually had an experience with chopstick etiquette.  I was eating food and there was something on my plate that I didn't want but that the daughter did.  So I went to give it to her when I saw them all freaked out when I went to grab at it with my chopsticks.  I quickly remembered to turn the chopsticks to the other side and then took the food and gave it to her.  The sigh of relief they gave reminded me to be mindful of customs.
Tipping is a no-no. This was strange considering that I come from one of the biggest tourist traps in the world.  But it is very true - they do not tip at all.  So instead of tipping them with money, I tried something different.  I tipped with tootsie rolls.  Oh yeah... and it worked like a charm.  I did it at the Akasaka and it was so much fun to see the maids, the bell hop, the cashiers, the conceirge, and all the other people smile and say, "Thank you" about a million times. 
They do not shove or push. I never once was shoved or pushed even on the subways.  They are very polite and value personal space.  It is a shame that they pack into the subways like sardines but because of how they are, even when they are tightly packed, they still don't push or shove.
Japanese eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  This is true.  Every meal had rice with it in some form - regular, porridge, soup...  it was at EVERY meal.  Also, fish was with every meal.  I am talking about EVERY meal including snacks.  There are even snack foods that are completely made out of fish - like dried fish on a stick.  It was interesting.  Because of all the fish, I have not eaten a single thing of fish and don't plan on it until August 1st.  I need to get it out of my system. Ha!
There is at least one vending machine on every corner. It sure seemed that way.  There were vending machines everywhere.  There were machines with beer, cigarettes, juices, toys, clothes... All kinds of stuff.  It was fun to go to the vending machine and see what was in it.  I even got a few toys from one myself. 
Japanese wear kimono or yukata (light summer kimono) with the left side over the right. The reverse is only for the dead at funerals. I was at the ryokan changing into my yukata.  We were told that we could walk around the resort with our room yukatas on so that's what we were doing.  Getting comfortable so to speak.  Well, I had my yukata on and was about to walk out the door when one of my roommates yelled at me to stop.  I froze and slowly turned around.  She quickly ran over to me and told me, "So you want people to think you're dead?"  I didn't understand but she quickly explained that I needed to fix myself because if I didn't, some Japanese person might think I was dead.  Hm... needless to say, I always checked my yukata after this.
Taking a train ride is a lesson in restraint.  Not a single soul speaks on a train. This was the most interesting thing to me.  Even with the trains filled to the utmost, not a single person spoke.  I would watch groups of friends walk on the train, take a seat right next to each other, and completely not say a single word to the other until they got off the train.  The only time I heard any speaking was from children but that was it.  Most of the people on the train were either listening to their I-Pod, text messaging their friends/family, reading a book, playing their Nintendo DS or PSP, or sleeping.  And when I say sleeping, I am talking hard core snoring.  Absolutely nothing like the trains in New York.
The Japanese are very helpful. Everyone in the JFMF group had a story to say about how someone helped them do something.  A few friends and I were kinda lost when we were trying to find Harajuku for the first time.  We didn't understand where we were and where to go.  It was miserable.  This gentleman saw that we were "lost" and walked us to where we wanted to go.  This happened to several people with one person telling us that this old lady left her store to walk them to the subway entrance.  Very, very, very helpful.
Road rage?? There's not road rage. True...  I don't think that I heard a single horn honked until the last day I was there.   If there was any road rage, I didn't see it.  But I must say that the Japanese drive like they are in the Daytona 500.  My knuckles went white SEVERAL times when I was with my host family.  
Very few Japanese people have seen a "real American". This statement took me by surprise.  Our translator told us that few people have actually seen an American unless they watch t.v.  Oh yeah...  This is why they acted the way they did when they saw us - wonder, amazement, a little shock.  Remember, everyone in Japan looks pretty much the same and for some people seeing us was like a treat.  It was very unsettling at times.  Every get that feeling that someone is watching you??? I had it all the time while in Japan.
   

     These are just a few "myths" that I decided to write about.  I know that I will be adding more, I just have to find my notes and get to writing!  Feel as if I got something wrong?  Should I put something else on my list?  Please email me and if it is something that deserves to be here, I will be sure to put it up and give you credit.  Thanks!