Language reflects the character of the people who use it, and this is definitely true of Japanese. One of the first bits of Japanese grammar students of the language learn is the verb ending ~masho, which corresponds to “let’s…,” as in 食べましょう tabemasho (“let’s eat”), or 行きましょう ikimasho (“let’s go”) or タバコをやめましょう tabako wo yamemasho (“let’s not smoke”). In situations where verbal or written warnings would be worded in a command form in English (e.g. do not smoke, do not ride on the escalator backwards), it’s common for Japanese to express the same message with this softer “let’s…” verb form, essentially placing a social expectation on individuals that they’ll alter their behavior for the good of the larger group. Some examples of this might include, “let’s put our telephones into vibration mode when riding on the train” (maanaa modo ni shimasho) or “when a pregnant woman or elderly person gets on the train, let’s give our seat to them” (seki wo yuzurimasho). Another situation when this fuzzy “let’s all cooperate” type of language is used is tax season, when the Japanese Tax Office sponsors commercials featuring TV personalities walking to their post office to mail their income tax forms while saying, “Let’s all fill out our tax forms accurately and honestly.” Speaking of taxes, they have them here in Japan, of course, and they work pretty much the same in Japan as they probably do with your country. There’s a National Tax Office with local offices in every city for collection of taxes, which are distributed to the various regions of Japan so they can function. (This year a new Tohoku Reconstruction Tax kicked in, to help fund the rebuilding of Northern Japan.) While most tax and accounting concepts present in the West exist here, there are a few fundamental differences. There’s no concept of joint ownership of homes or bank accounts by married couples in Japan, with the odd result that the house we live in is owned by my father-in-law, but the land is owned by his wife. While the U.S. government creates programs like 401(k) and IRAs to encourage people to save for the future, Japanese actually save too much, so the government tries to erect penalties to discourage this. Finally, some common concepts in the U.S. like property being held in a living trust are totally alien here in Japan, which can cause confusion when you live with one foot in each country like I do.
“Let’s file our taxes accurately, everyone!”