Japanese People

Japanese People; Interesting Cultural Questions

Updated November 9, 2019 | by Chad A. Thiele, 23 year veteran of Tokyo.

Every once in a while someone will ask me something about Japanese people, and Japanese culture, that I haven’t answered at least a thousand times already.

What follows is a collection of some of the lesser asked questions, but I thought it would be interesting to share with you.

Why do Japanese people like to wear glasses?

This is an interesting question. If you’re not paying attention you might not have even noticed that quite a few people have glasses on in Japan — particularly career-minded people (usually in suits).

This is partly because while many people do you need glasses for their eyesight, many are also using them for smart fashion, or to protect their vision for the future.

Of course, fashion style comes and goes, but some of the fake glasses are also intended to block UV or blue light to protect the eyes from harmful light.

This is especially true for office workers who may stare at a computer screen for many hours during the day.

Why do Japanese people like to stand in line?

I’m not sure they really like to stand in line, but they do like to travel to well-known spots. And well-known spots can be quite busy.

Also, the Japanese are very patient people and very calm. Maybe some will be angry, but they won’t display it to the others around them often. It’s rare to see loudly angry Japanese people in Japan.

And of course some may tolerate standing in line better than others but I suspect that most don’t actually enjoy it.

Why do most Japanese people use iPhones?

One of the most interesting things I think is that Apple seems to have a real grasp in Japan. Everywhere you look people are typing on their iPhones, and Android seems to be quite rare.

This could just be the part of Japan that I’m in but I suspect they also have a little bit of competitive feeling towards Korea so they don’t want to buy Samsung phones as much — which is the most popular maker of Android phones.

That said, my Japanese father-in-law has an Android phone, even though the rest of us in the family all use iPhone.

Why do many Japanese people put covers over the books they’re reading?

There are probably a couple of reasons why someone to cover their book.

First, the bookstore will actually cover the book for you right at the point when you purchase it. That’s right, they will wrap the book right there at the cash register with a brown paper, usually branded with their name — Hiding the cover of the book.

This not only protects the book but brings me to the next point, they want some privacy. A long train commute offers quite a lot of time to read, but maybe they don’t want others to know exactly what they’re reading so a book cover helps with that.

Do people split the bill on a date in Japan?

While yes, it can happen, it’s quite rare. In Japan, it is still common for the man to treat the woman when on a date.

There really isn’t much more to say about this it really is one-sided here, so don’t go on a date with the expectation of splitting the bill.

It may work out if you plan ahead and work out the details before the date, but that may end up in not having a date to go on at all.

Why don’t Japanese married couples hold hands?

Some do. I suspect this is more of a traditional thing. Older couples growing up when this was not the social norms, so they still don’t do it today.

But adventuring around in Japan today you will notice more and more couples holding hands. Though many will be younger, possibly unmarried couples, it is more frequent today to find married couples holding hands too.

Why are Japanese people so quiet at movie theaters?

This is one of the biggest reasons why I love going to movie theaters in Japan. Not only are the theaters really comfortable but they’re very quiet and you can hear everything much better.

The Japanese people normally feel that being loud in public is bad manners, especially in quiet places like a movie theater.

That said, you will experience some snickers, laughs, crying, etc. when watching a movie in a Japanese movie theater.

Why do Japanese people sometimes call a person “teacher” who is not a teacher?

This really is an interesting question, it took me a while to get used to it when I first arrived in Japan too.

It turns out some occupations such as doctors, writers, and lawyers are referred to as ‘teacher’ in Japan as a form of respect.

You may even hear it if you happen to share some new information or knowledge

Why do so many Japanese people love karaoke?

Did you know Japan was the birthplace of karaoke? It is, in approximately 1971.

Japan offers quite a lot of variety of karaoke from private rooms to big public calls, and it’s ingrained in society to the point where going to karaoke is a favorite past time — not a nerve-wracking event to endure.

You can find karaoke shops all over the place, especially around train stations, where Japanese people like to duck in for an hour or two of karaoke before heading home.

Why don’t Japanese people shake hands with a firm grasp?

It’s not normal for Japanese people to shake hands, they have a custom of bowing when meeting people. I imagine this means they haven’t developed the practice of shaking hands and maybe don’t understand that a firm grasp has meaning.

Also, many Japanese are timid and maybe don’t want to shake hands but try anyway. But you will find some, maybe who work in international business, who do have a firm handshake.

That’s not to say you won’t run into a Japanese person who does a have a firm grip though. They do exist!

Why do Japanese people drink so much?

This is definitely an interesting conundrum. On one hand, you have a genetically low tolerance for alcohol and on the other a social construct pushing people to drink.

Of course you’ll find some people who can drink a ton and not drop, but in general Japanese people have a lower tolerance for alcohol.

But the bigger problem is the social construct where business drives people to drink —to wine and dine clients in order to win at business.

Plus after a long day of work the office will often go out to a local Izakaya to drink together before going home — whether everyone in the office wants to or not.

Why do women give men chocolate on Valentine’s Day in Japan?

It seems pretty strange, doesn’t it? But it is true. In Japan, women give men chocolate on Valentine’s Day.

In fact, there’s even a social obligation for women to give friends, colleagues, and bosses chocolate.

This is called giri-choco and is usually a store bought box of chocolates.

On the flip-side is honmei-choco, which is for lovers, boyfriends, and husbands. Similar to how a man will give his significant other chocolates in America.

But don’t worry ladies, you’re not left out. There’s another day for you — exactly one month after Valentine’s Day is White Day, where men give women chocolate — and wouldn’t you know it, usually, it’s white chocolate.

What is White Day? What do you do on that day?

It wouldn’t be fair if women didn’t have a day to balance Valentine’s Day now would it?

So what is White Day anyway?

It’s not so complicated, but maybe a bit old-fashioned.

Often a woman reveals her crush on a man by giving him chocolate on Valentine’s Day.

On White Day the man is to “answer her” by returning the favor if he wants to accept her offer.

Interesting culture in Japan for sure.

However many believe that today it’s nothing more than a ploy by candy makers to make more money — and its working.

It’s said candy makers earn almost half of their annual $5 billion in revenue from these two holidays.

That’s crazy to think about, but not hard to imagine, is it?