Chances are since you’re visiting our site, you probably already have an interest in Japan or other Asian countries. But have you ever had a friend who knows next to nothing about Japan, but you just have a feeling that they would come to love the island country given the right incentive?
If so, you may recognize some characteristic qualities of that friend in the following list written by Japanese blogger and all-around-life expert Madame Riri. This time, she’s come up with some common traits of foreigners who grow to love Japan based on her own observations from time spent abroad.
Do you find yourself conforming to any of the following patterns?
In English, we’ve got a lot of terms for lovers of Japan. We’re sure you’re all familiar with at least one Japanophile, whose deep interest in Japanese culture leads him or her to study Japanese and visit the country several times. Maybe you also know a “weeaboo/Wapanese,” who tries a little too hard to sound like he knows what he’s talking about and borders on the slightly obsessive side with his huge anime DVD collection. The term otaku has even made its way into the English lexicon, despite its negative connotations in Japanese. But before those people had any connection to or knowledge about Japan whatsoever, was there some kind of hint that would predict their later infatuation with the Land of the Rising Sun?
The following list by Madame Riri tries to answer just that. As you’re reading, remember that the list refers to people who don’t know much about Japanese culture yet, but if you were to, say, introduce them to some cultural aspect or bring them to Japan just once, then BAM!–the spark of love towards Nippon will grow by leaps and bounds.
Madame Riri also stresses that these items are to be taken with a grain of salt. This list is not meant to imply that every Japanese person shares these common features, nor that people who have these commonalities are guaranteed to fall in love with Japan. They’re just personal observations that she has noticed in many people who fit a general trend.
Enjoy her list!
1. They like one or more of the following: manga, anime, or video games.
Yep, let’s just get this one out of the way nice and early.
2. They are vegetarian. Or, they’re health conscious and take great care in what they eat.
We think what she’s trying to say here is that these people place a high value on fresh, seasonal food and take great pains with presentation.
▼A traditional Japanese breakfast
3. They think that a society with men in charge is for the better.
Despite slow progress, Japan remains a male-dominated society, with women largely expected to quit working once they start a family.
4. They think characters like Hello Kitty are adorable.
Along with that, they have ridiculously large collections of character goods, like one 29-year-old Brit Natasha Goldsworth:
5. They harbor good feelings toward unassuming people, even if their own list of career achievements is impressive.
Maintaining a sense of modesty is emphasized, as in Japanese culture.
6. They like polite people, and are personally always thanking people with a smile.
Tied in with Japan’s culture of extreme hospitality, or omotenashi.
7. They would choose fish over meat, given the choice.
But that’s not to say they don’t go wild for yakiniku, either!
8. They somehow feel at ease when they see shy people, or people who can’t express themselves well.
9. They get irritated when others aren’t punctual or can’t keep promises.
In other words, they’ll probably get along well with people from the country where station staff have mastered the seven-minute-art of cleaning the bullet train:
10. They aren’t religious, but believe there’s a god out there somewhere.
If asked, most Japanese people would say that they have no religious affiliation, though they do regularly participate in several Buddhist and Shinto (arguably more of a spirituality than a religion) practices.
On the other hand, Japan does have a comic about young Jesus and Buddha living together as roommates in modern Tokyo…
11. They think that couples will do better if the women walks a little behind the man (metaphorically speaking).
See #3 above.
12. They dislike parties that last for a long time. They’d rather go home early.
Perhaps along the lines of Japanese work-related drinking culture (see nomikai), which is a necessary but usually time-restricted aspect of Japanese work culture.
▼A typical nomikai
13. They often feel like shouting, “Don’t just talk about yourself but listen to others, too!”
Group harmony is valued over individualism, perhaps?
14. They have slightly unconventional hobbies. They are probably seeking approval from somewhere.
15. They live by a sense of the changing of the seasons–appropriate flowers are displayed during each month, only vegetables in-season are consumed, etc.
▼Extra points if they love cherry blossoms!
16. They constantly check up on the latest technology.
17. They can’t not go to the latest popular travel spots.
Case in point: What happened to Mt. Fuji after becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year:
18. They don’t get along with people who tend to think that America and Europe are the center of the world.
19. They have a weak stomach. They often get stomachaches.
We’re not quite sure what she means by this one…
20. They enjoy taking baths–it’s the height of relaxation.
21. They are skilled at working with their hands, such as when wrapping Christmas presents.
Furoshiki add a nice touch to any present, don’t you think?
22. They are often told that they are too serious.
The key word here is majime, which suggest a strong sense of earnest diligence.
23. They think people should be praised for working hard and long.
24. They don’t like to smell sweaty, but they don’t like to use perfumes, either. Unscented is the best. However, they do enjoy sniffing a waft of fragrant shampoo.
▼We recommend Shiseido’s popular Tsubaki Shampoo, made with oil from the camellia flower.
25. They often find themselves saying, “I’m busy,” or, “I don’t have time.”
26. They tend to be on the soft-spoken/taciturn side.
Madame Riri is definitely referencing Japanese adults here, and not the crowds of squealing high school girls ubiquitous in Japan.
27. They are often called “kind” by others.
A bit vague…
28. They always wash their hands before eating when eating out. Or they kill germs with hand sanitizer.
Japanese people are very fond of cleanliness before eating. If you’ve ever been to Japan or to an authentic Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably noticed that the server provides you with a hot, wet towel (oshibori) to wipe your hands with before dining.
▼But the real question is, can any of you fold an oshibori bunny??
29. They are economical and hate wasting things.
There is also a very specific Japanese word for this trait–mottainai.
30. They think that small details are very important regarding business matters. They believe that the success or failure of something depends on what extent they have emphasized the particulars.
So–have we got anyone humming “I think I’m turning Japanese“ yet? Your friends may need just a little nudge, and soon you’ll have all the enthusiastic travel companions you could ever want on your next trip to Japan!
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