View Full Version : What is normal, what is strange ?

Nov 3, 2002, 21:32
I have found the following list of things you may not have known about Japan on Jeff Laitila's site Sushicam.com (http://www.sushicam.com/), the content of which I'd like to discuss.

When you buy a beer from a vending machine it doesn't cost anymore than it does in a supermarket (No bulk purchase discount)
You can buy damn near anything from a vending machine here (whisky, french-fries, rice, video games, ramen noodles, batteries, fresh flowers, used women's panties, ...the list is endless)
You can pay almost any kind of bill at any convenience store
ATM's are not open 24 hours per day, and usually shut down around 7 or 8 p.m.
Some workers at train stations do not go home at night, they sleep in dormatories at the station to be able to open the station very early in the morning and close it very late at night
Nearly everyone smokes
When you leave a gas station the attendants stop traffic for you so you can get back on the road easily, then they bow to you as you leave
Different denominations of Japanese paper currency are different sizes, the larger the denomination the larger the bill is
Japanese paper currency has brail on it
There are people who have the job of pushing people into trains during rush hour so that the doors can close
Most Japanese houses have no insulation
Coffee tables with built in heaters and an accompanying blanket quickly become your best friends here in winter
A lot of people use kerosene heaters in the house during the winter
Trains are Always on time
Gasoline costs almost $4 per gallon
A single can of beer costs about $2.20 in stores
A single beer can cost anywhere from $3 to $15 in bar
Some old women highlight their hair purple or blue, they think it looks nice (I'm not kidding)
The doors on taxis open and close automatically
In Japan you can rent music CD's, just like renting a movie
Japanese snowmen are made with two snowballs instead of three
It costs about $16 to see a movie in a theater
Magazines and books are read "right handed" or "backwards" compared to western publications
Nobody uses checks, everything is bought using cash or credit cards
A small name stamp, called "inkan", carries the same legal weight as a persons signature
Taxi drivers wear white gloves
All convenience stores have the same prices for their products and they even go on sale at the same times (Yes, price fixing is rampant here)
Most younger Japanese can read and write English
Most younger Japanese cannot actually speak very much English

Of course, most of what's written there is true (except that not nearly everyone smokes, magazines are usually read the other way than books, credit cards aren't much commoner than cheques, but these are details). What struck me is that a few of these things seem perfectly normal for me European, and are apparently not for the author who is American (and maybe on this forum ??).

For example :

- Gasoline costs almost $4 per gallon

It's actually more expensive in most European countries than in Japan.

- In Japan you can rent music CD's, just like renting a movie

Why ? Can't you rent CD's in the US ? What about video games ?

- It costs about $16 to see a movie in a theater

I agre that it is expensive, but you'd pay about 20 US$ in central London. Is it really cheaper in places like New York ?

- Nobody uses checks, everything is bought using cash or credit cards

Cheques have almost disappeared in Europe as well. The difference is that a Northern European would pay almost everything with a credit card, while a Japanese almost exclusively in cash.

I'd add a few more strange or unexpected things you'll find in Japan to the list. That's why I started this topic.

- Everybody rides a bicycle. Even in the Netherlands it's nothing compared to here.

- Among the thousands of bicycles in front of every station, you'd be lucky to spot a mountain bike or anything more expensive than 10000yen (10US$/euro). Mine too.

- Taxis are so old, my first impression of Tokyo was to be back in the 80's.

- I have never seen any stone or (real) brick building in Japan. Only concrete or wood.

- There are no squares in Tokyo (and other cities I know), only streets and crossings.

- You can get a better mobile phone than anywhere else in the world, for free ! What's more, they also change it for free after a few months when new models have come.

- Most public phone don't make international calls.

- ATM's don't take non-Japanese cards (even when they take Visa, only the Japanese ones !)

- Mizuho, the world's largest bank, has no service in English, not even ATM's (or just a few). You can't send money to another country either.


There is surely more, but I can't think of anything else for the moment.

I was also very surprised that Japanese houses walls were a mere 15cm thick (or thin, don't know) and hollow inside, with of course no insulation, like Jeff mentions.

Nov 4, 2002, 01:03
I have never seen rental CDs in the US; I'm fairly certain there is no such thing.

However, you can rent video games there. But not in Japan, right?

In Kobe, there are at least 4 ATMs I know of which accept foreign Visa cards. There are a number of stone or brick buildings as well. (Of course, Kobe has a long history of foreign influence.)

Nov 4, 2002, 02:40
I just want to say how incredibly factual all of the information you have offered here actually is. On my multiple travels to Japan I had also witnessed practically everything you and Jeff Laitila had mentioned here. It almost seems as if I had taken 50 pages out of my own journal in order to compress it into one page.

deborah gormley
Nov 4, 2002, 07:43
wow,, now thats a factual peice if work! Maciamo thanks for shareing it with us, its the kind of things we would never think of asking and therefore never know, unless you had visited yourself and seen the gas attendants helping you back out into the traffic ect, this is facinating,:bow:

Nov 6, 2002, 22:13
That slays me that you can rent CD's...Gas is about $1.59 per gallon here and a year or 2 ago it was only just over a dollar a gallon. There are a lot of things in Japan that really thrill me but the cost of living is outragious to me...being an american that is.

Nov 6, 2002, 22:52
Overhere in Holland it was also possible to rent cd's at video-rental stores. Actually you could even borrow cd's at the library.
I don't know if it's still possible though, with all this piracy going on.

Nov 6, 2002, 23:37
In most European countries, I know that it's possible to rent CD's, either in video/cd shops or in cultural centers and libraries. You can also rent video games or PC programmes in the same places or in specialised video game shops. I wonder why it's not possible in the US - but that wouldn't be the only freedom restriction Americans wouldn't be aware of. In most US states, people can't drink before 21 or even 25, and cannabis can bring you in jail (except maybe in California or Colorado ?). Take a country like Belgium were there is legal age for drinking (it's perfectly ok for 12 years old to drink beer at a pub after the school exams), or the Netherlands were you can legally buy cannabis. Of course, consumption and possession of small quantities or cannabis is either legal or not punishable in most EU countries. There has even been 4 "cannabis cafe" opened in the UK recently (to copy Amsterdam). From a European point of view, I think life in the US has quite a lot of restrictions - except for driving a car when you are 14 and keeping a gun at home, both of which I wouldn't want to see in the EU.

I personally don't drink or smoke, but I would feel insecure in a country like Singapore (as rich and civilised it is) for fear of being executed for drug possession because a jerk has slipped some herb in my bag when I wasn't looking. Hmm, yeah, the US also have death penalty, though not everywhere.

deborah gormley
Nov 7, 2002, 08:14
@ micaimo
country like Belgium were there is legal age for drinking (it's perfectly ok for 12 years old to drink beer at a pub after the school exams), or the Netherlands were you can legally buy cannabis.
This is shocking!!!!!!
"I must live a very shelted life not to know this already" or am I just so wrapped up in my own countries problems that other countries are a "fictional peice of history?" this shocks me sooooo much I cant put it in writeing:shock:

Nov 7, 2002, 12:20
Here in the US, gas is so cheap because the government keeps it cheap. When I first went to a different country, I was shocked to see gasoline for three, four $ a gallon. There was one point where I could get gas for about 98 cents a gallon here, which is increadibly low (for the US even). That's probably why we have so many cars here. It just doesn't cost as much money.

Nov 7, 2002, 16:50
Officially it's not legal in Holland. But it's allowed by the Dutch government because people are going to smoke it anyway, so better this way then to keep it in the dangerous criminal scene.
Coffeshops are not allowed to advertise it or even to keep it on display in their establishments.
It is, however, perfectly legal to own up to two cannabis-plants for personal use.

Nov 7, 2002, 19:32
Originally posted by Luxpyre
Here in the US, gas is so cheap because the government keeps it cheap. When I first went to a different country, I was shocked to see gasoline for three, four $ a gallon.

So which one do you think is better ? In Europe petrol (gasoline, for Americans) is expensive because justly the governments want to keep it this way, like the alcohol and cigarettes, to avoid abuses. What am I talking about ? The environment of course. The US withdrew from the Kyoto treaty that aims at reducing CO2 emissions. The question is why don't Americans people care about the environment and I am forced to hear it's a good thing that petrol is cheap (let's drive and drive then !). American cars are famous for having a high petrol consumption per km. European car producers try hard to reduce consumption and manage to keep it as low as 5l/100km, while American cars use 3 or 4 times this.

Nov 7, 2002, 19:34
Originally posted by Twisted
It is, however, perfectly legal to own up to two cannabis-plants for personal use.

And I believe it is the same in most Western countries, even Canada and some US states have I heard (?).

Nov 8, 2002, 00:35
@ CDs
Japan used to rent American Music CDs but got their fingers slapped for break ing copyright laws. It's pretty funny, Blank MDs, CD's, and cassette are lined up next to the video store registers.

@ Weed
Never heard that Weed was legal in the states, Although Berkely has it's protestors crowd, hmmm ... I wonder if Steve Jobs shows up?

@ List
Lot's of interesting topics there that could be expanded upon. Anyone please feel free to start a new thread just for that topic.

Nov 8, 2002, 00:50
It is not legal here at all, they are even trying to ban the use of it for medical reasons

Nov 8, 2002, 01:07
I heard that weed is safer than cigarettes and alchol. hmmm ....

deborah gormley
Nov 8, 2002, 08:02
@ moyashi,, yes I'v heard thats it is safer too, but I'v only ever heard it from some-one who smokes its themselves, so I'm inclined not to put too much truth into it:sorry:

Nov 8, 2002, 13:33
I would say that it is about the same as cigarettes. A lot of the bad stuff comes just from the burning of the substance, allthough something could be said for pot not being processed like tobacco is.

I haven't heard of any place where pot is legal here in the US. (If you don't count medical uses, which are also controversial here) There was just a measure voted down in Nevada that would have legalized marijuana. It was being treated as a big deal because it would have been the first place in the US to make pot legal, had it passed.

Nov 8, 2002, 13:40
I have started a new thread on the legalisation of cannabis here (http://forum.japanreference.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1007)

Nov 8, 2002, 22:37
actually, weed is better for you...less toxins within the smoke...and it has some medicinal purposes as well.

Nov 8, 2002, 23:01
Japan was one of the very first to jump on the DVD bandwagon. I remember going with my wife into a public library in her hometown, and finding that they would let you borrow DVD's, but only to watch on the libraries machines with headphones in a little cubicle. The actual DVD itself could not leave the building.

In the USA, our public libraries have been allowing the free checkout of CD's, VHS and cassette tapes for nearly a decade now. Recently the government has allotted in the budget to provide an incredible number of new releases on DVD for free checkout.

Look out Blockbusters! :p

There's Free DVD checkout at our public library!:happy:

Nov 8, 2002, 23:40
hmm.... I used to checkout CDs and VHS tapes and more recently DVDs in my local public Library. That' isn't so strange to me.


Nov 9, 2002, 00:04
The point I was trying to make was that while renting these things may be big business, public libraries will let you check them out for free.

Nov 9, 2002, 00:19
Overhere the library collection is usually not very up to date.
You can find the big blockbusters in the rental videostore way before it's finally in the library.

Nov 9, 2002, 11:12
There are a couple of places in San Francisco where you can rent CDs, that is all I have ever personally heard of in the US. I haven't checked in a long time, but it was normal to be able to check-out albums and movies from the public library.

The first time I visited countries outside of north america (happened to be in europe), I too was shocked to see that gas was priced as much per liter as we pay per gallon.