The Japanese are amazing people, and I’ve loved living and working alongside them for the past 27+ years. Although they’re kind and honest and hardworking, there are naturally some weird things the Japanese do. Here’s a list of 11 of them!
Kancho. Literally meaning “enema,” this involves sticking the forefingers of both hands up a person’s butt, sharply, without any warning. It sounds like something that’d turn out to be an urban legend, but it’s real. One of the first things you learn teaching in Japanese schools is, don’t let elementary school kids get behind you!
Superstitions. In addition to importing some core Western superstitions (unlucky number 13, a fear of black cats), the Japanese have a long list of local superstitions they follow. Don’t whistle at night or a snake will come, don’t sleep with your head facing north, don’t return from a funeral and enter your house without tossing salt over your body and so on.
Fake friends. Got a birthday coming up? Want to post some cool pics of your birthday to Instagram or Facebook, but don’t have any friends? Why not rent some friends via several services that will dispatch people to you so you can take pictures of your fake party, charging around $95 per fake friend per hour. Sadly, this is not an internet joke, but a real service people actually use, called riajuu daikou saabisu or Normie Substitution Service. One company’s slogan is, “Let’s aim for 100 likes on Facebook!”
Face masks. When foreigners visit Japan for the first time, they’re surprised to see so many people in public wearing what appear to be medical face masks. Is Japan a country populated by doctors who have just gotten out of surgery? It’s actually a tradition that started with the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak and never went away.
They turn bright red when they get drunk. Specifically, 50% of Japanese (and many other East Asians) turn red after drinking even a little alcohol because they lack a certain enzyme that handles the alcohol. This shows up in anime in the form of bright red faces.
Supposedly Japanese women never poop at work or school. They wait, and do it when they get home. pic.twitter.com/MByGSWAHIh
— J-LIST (@jlist) April 22, 2018
They refuse to poop while at work. According to my wife, it’s joshiki (common sense) that people will avoid pooping while at work, choosing to wait til they get home, because…I have no idea. And the Japanese have imported the British terminology for the porcelain altar, which is “toilet,” rather than being shy about naming the location, like Americans generally are.
They think crooked teeth are the cutest things. They’re called yaeba and are represented in 2D characters in the form of a single fang. Since moe is all about imperfections that make a person appear charming to others, crooked teeth become a great moe point.
Despite offering the best service in the world, there’s no tipping in Japan, and it would be so odd to leave a tip in a Japanese establishment that the staff would probably chase after you to return the “money you forgot on the table.”
Another on the list of weird things the Japanese do is, they don’t name their streets, which forced me to learn the layout of my city spatially, in terms of “turn left at the pachinko parlor then right at the beauty shop.” It wouldn’t be so hard in the Google Maps-endabled age we live in today, but back in 1991 it was really a challenge.
There’s nothing that can’t be made kawaii. Take construction sites, for example. You need to set up some barriers so cars won’t drive into dangerous areas. So why not make them out of cute characters, like Gunma-chan, the official character of Gunma Prefecture?
Japan has an annual Penis Festival. Yes, this really exists, at a Shinto shrine in Kawasaki, between Yokohama and Tokyo. While famous for the giant penis imagery you’ve seen all over the Internet, it’s a general fertility shrine for both men and women wanting to have children. Read my post about the Kanamaru Festival here.
Got any more items for our list of weird things the Japanese do? Tell us on Twitter!