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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 21st January 2013, 12:29 PM
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Japan is a cultural faux-pas minefield! This is a society in which you have to pick your verb forms to suit the level of person you are talking to. It's more involved than just impolite/polite like in French and German; you have to consider age and class... if you happen to get the chance to talk to the Emperor, apparently there's a particular verb conjugation for him alone... or so I was told?

The reassuring thing is that as a gaijin (foreigner/outsider), you will be secretly considered akin to a bumbling fool and so any faux-pas you commit will not cause offence. The main one you will encounter day in, day out is to take your shoes off when entering people's houses, some izakaya (pubs), some ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and other dwellings. Usually it's obvious, but always be aware! It's a pretty heinous sin to enter someone's house fully-shoed. Normally you will see an entry porch with shoe boxes / a shoe rack, and the house or izakaya itself is raised up a level, beyond which you cannot place your shoes. So just keep your eyes open, and if in doubt, just ask...

There are hundreds of other things you should really do in polite company, like filling each other's drinks if you are seated with someone else (filling your own is akin to alcoholism, someone told me!), but obviously if you're a backpacker on your own enjoying some noodle soup and a beer, it's ok to flaunt this rule. I'll try to rack my brains and think of a few more and post 'em later...
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Old 22nd January 2013, 12:38 AM
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Thanks a bundle! Wow, that's a lot of things to think about. I'm glad I'll be dismissed as an ignorant foreigner. :p

Your photos are spectacular! Unfortunately I'll be there in December, so no climbing for me (I'm not too sad, since I'm going to be hiking through Nepal and possibly Tibet, and hopefully climbing Mt Kinabalu). Mostly I just want to see it because it is such a perfect, beautiful mountain.
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Old 25th January 2013, 11:20 AM
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Also, it is easy to offend people in Japan by the deepness and length of time bowing to someone! If you do not bow low enough or for long enough, you can cause great offence. And I thought a bow was a polite thing!

Interestingly Steve, verb use is the same here in Cambodia, but not for all verbs. There are 4 or 5 different ways to say "eat" in Khmer (nyam for us commoners), with one solely used for the King (sowy). A different verb is used for monks and a lower form used for animals. Obviously, if you use the form reserved for animals with a person, you are being rather impolite!

Last edited by Colonel Mustard; 25th January 2013 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 25th January 2013, 08:48 PM
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3000 Yen will get you a dorm bed in Tokyo; you might even get a capsule hotel for that (maybe do it once for the experience, but they are slightly depressing places full of overworked/drunk businessmen). Those that accept women are gender-divided by floor, so they are safe, and I bet the women's rooms and showers are in a lot better shape than the men's!



In Osaka, you can actually get (tiny!) private rooms for around 2000-2500 Yen IIRC. They are in an area where the Japanese will recoil in horror when you tell them you are staying there! In reality it's fine - a few homeless people about, but they never bother people that I have seen. The area is called Shin-Imamiya; it's one stop from Namba (a central area of Osaka) and near a famous Osaka tower called Tsūtenkaku. Worth a visit and there are plenty of stalls selling takoyaki (deep fried octopus balls). Put aside your veggieness and try 'em! :P

Where else to visit? Hiroshima is a must; visit the Park and the museum - harrowing but essential. It will have a big impact on you, so make sure you plan something fun for afterwards. Kyoto is a popular stop for being an "old-fashioned" city (not so much neon) and being full of temples. Yokohama is a nice city to walk around, being a harbour city. You can head up into the Japanese alps and visit some more rural towns like Takayama... people will surreptitiously stare at your Western features, though!

What kind of activities/sights interest you? To me the real joy of Japan is throwing yourself in head first and trying to converse with body langauge and pigeon Japanese, trying all sorts of food under the sun even (especially!) if you don't know what it is. I drew the line at chicken fallopian tube/ovaries, with half-grown eggs attached...
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Old 27th January 2013, 06:54 AM
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I shall work on my bowing! Definitely going to do some research before I go - can anyone recommend a good book about Japanese culture? :)

Those capsule dorms sure would be an experience, but they look a little claustrophobic...are they built to Japanese-sizes, or Western sizes? I'm 5'10", so I'd hate to crawl into one and discover that I don't fit. :p

The sights I want to see...mostly, I love history and culture, so museums etc are a bit of a must. I'm not really into art, although I do love traditional Japanese stuff - just not modern stuff so much. :) I'm also a wildlife gal, so any national parks with nifty flora and fauna, or other such places, would also be lovely.
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Old 31st January 2013, 09:11 PM
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Random budget hotel recommendation for Tokyo but I've stayed here a few times and it's a really cool place. Private rooms start at 2,900 Yen a night. They even have a real onsen (Japanese bath) with a rooftop (kinda) view:

Juyoh Hotel


It's a little out from the centre (out near Ueno) but the staff are super-friendly and can speak English well.
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Old 1st February 2013, 02:54 AM
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Thanks, Colonel. That looks like a nice place. :)
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