As with other countries, communication in Japan goes beyond simple words, and people say as much with body language as with speech. While some areas of non-verbal communication are universal – a happy smile, expressing “no” by shaking the head from side to side, an embarrassed reaction – a surprising number of the gestures the Japanese use every day might be hard for us to read. These include the way Japanese gesture “me?” by pointing to their noses rather than to their chests, that shy “pushing the fingertips together” thing you see in anime a lot, or the way Japanese signal “come here” by waving a hand at you…which seems to Westerners to mean “go away” the first time we see it. There’s that cute gesture Japanese women do, holding their sleeves in a way that makes their hands look tiny so they’ll seem more childlike, and a popular insult is to pull the skin under your eye down while sticking your tongue out and saying “akanbe!” Some of these gestures can be really confusing unless you know the cultural context. If you wanted to accuse a co-worker of “brown-nosing” his superior, you’d grind up imaginary sesame seeds in your open palm with your other hand in a fist, since lick-spittle underlings in Japanese companies always show their loyalty to their bosses by grinding their sesame seeds for them before eating.
One of the themes I write about a lot is the way Japan will look very different from the outside, especially when viewed through the “lens of the Internet” which makes it seem that everyone here is eating wasabi ice cream and looking at ecchi tentacle anime all day long, when in fact 99% of people are just looking at pictures of cats on the Internet. Before I came to live here, I knew the basics of the language and history of Japan, but hadn’t come to appreciate the detail I was missing by trying to view the country from California. Since arriving, I’ve naturally been able to observe Japan from close-up, and at every turn I’ve discovered interesting details I never suspected. Like the father of a girl I was teaching, who seemed like a garden-variety salaryman on the outside, but he’d recently realized his life’s dream of traveling from Vladivostok to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Or J-List’s mild-mannered buyer of Japanese snacks and anime toys, who spent several months hitch-hiking along the silk road through China, India and Iran, something not many people have done. Over the weekend I went down to Tokyo to attend a performance of Turkish-style belly dancing, which has been growing in popularity in Asia. Not only were the Japanese dancers amazing, but the music was performed using traditional musical instruments from Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Sweden…all performed by normal Japanese musicians who had developed a fascination with the music of the Middle East and learned to play.
At J-List, we think of our company as a giant mirror that reflects everything that’s good about Japan, from the latest anime series to kawaii bento boxes and accessories to products that can help you learn more about Japan. We also have hundreds of gorgeous anime and related figures in stock, from Zelda to High School DxD to Sword Art Online and Fire Emblem. You can browse the most popular figures with this link, or see what figures customers have been adding to their wishlists here.