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Asian culture - specifically, Japanese

Japan Asia Folklore Fantasy YA

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#21 MZM


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Posted 09 April 2015 - 09:31 PM

You're free to feel however you want about it and the OP can do whatever they want to do as per research. I have been watching anime for 15 years of my life and most of what I've learned about Japan didn't come from it.

Saying that Japanese culture can be easily deduced from watching a cartoon is insulting to Japanese culture.


Please note I was referring to manga, not anime. I'm well aware of anime's limitations. There are thousands of manga and many deal with Japanese culture as well as history and mythology. Most very well researched and not much different from the books that have been recommended. There are databases of translated manga such as mangafox/mangahere etc where you can search hundreds of titles for which type of manga you're interested in. No, I don't think saying that you can gather the broad strokes of Japanese culture through manga is an insult to it at all, so I guess we'll have to disagree on it. =)

And like I said, Teen Wolf will give me the broad strokes, for a Brooklyn teen, then I would look in depth.


Maria M.

#22 Jennie


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Posted 12 April 2015 - 01:35 AM

Thanks guys. So it's set in modern times. The main character is from a small, podunk town in the states. I realize my question may seem too broad, but I have very, very little knowledge of Japan or the Japanese culture, therefore I'm not sure what questions to ask. Are chopsticks used for all meals? Is it impolite to wear shoes inside? Are kimonos still worn, and if so, in what situations? What are the older generations like compared to younger generations? Any information helps. I also don't have a Japanese town in mind yet. Maybe you have suggestions? The story is (obviously) in the super beginning stages. Eastern culture is so different from Western culture, and I just want to make sure I get it right, so I'm gauging the scale of what I'll be working with here.


Thanks for your help.


I spent almost a month in Sendai, Japan about a decade ago. While some of the culture has probably changed since then, here are some random things that really stood out to me while I was there:


- Grand openings and reopenings for gas stations. They would give out stacks and stacks of toilet paper. The toilet paper would just be piled outside. They'd do a grand opening and then sometimes a grand reopening a couple of months later.

- No shoes inside, but slippers are provided for you. 

- They don't heat their entire house in winter, just the room they're going to be in. A lot of houses had a giant square coffee table in the living room with a heater underneath. The table would have a blanket skirt so that you could sit on the floor and scootch under the blanket and have toasty feet while you watched tv.

- Japanese drivers are truly frightening. I would see them drive up on sidewalks all the time and the pedestrians would just move out of the way. They would frequently run red lights, but as long as they give you a little apologetic hand wave and nod, they're good to go. Also, the cars are really tiny.

- A lot of families do not live together once a teenager gets into high school. High schools are extremely competitive, so the mother will move with the kids to the area of the high school and the dad will usually stay with his job and see his family once in a while. I met several families like this.

- Chopsticks are always used. There's a deep soup spoon used for broth when you're done slurping your noodles. And yeah, they definitely slurp them. 

- Kimonos are used for really special occasions, like weddings or rites of passage for little kids. They're not used everyday. One woman let me try on her wedding kimono and those things are a beast to get into. 

- Everyone I met was incredibly hospitable. One family I stayed with set up a bed for me in a room with a heater so that I could be warm all night like I was used to. They also bought a ton of bread for me because they heard Americans like bread. They also bought several CDs of some of my favorite bands for me to listen to while I was there. Another family handmade me juggling balls (I was super into juggling at the time) in Japanese style. 

- Crooked teeth are considered cute.

- Slouchy socks (complete with glue to keep them up) were a huge trend while I was there. They are apparently coming back into fashion. http://kotaku.com/th...ocks-1450614462

- I encountered a lot more curry than I expected, which is unfortunate since I hate curry and I like pretty much everything else they serve.

- Good luck ever having a true debate with a Japanese person you do not know well. They will say they agree with you in order to help you save face.

- As far as I know, all Japanese high schoolers learn English. Most of them were really excited to practice on me. They do not have the "l" sound in their language, so I couldn't understand what one girl was trying to say when she told me she had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio.

- They make gourmet "candy" out of sweet potatoes and figs(?). It looks amazing, but really didn't taste anything like I expected.


Hope that helps! :)

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#23 jadah


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Posted 12 April 2015 - 09:20 AM

Jennie, you da best!! Also, those slouchy socks with the Crocs are awful...

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#24 Caligulas


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Posted 12 April 2015 - 01:15 PM

- Good luck ever having a true debate with a Japanese person you do not know well. They will say they agree with you in order to help you save face.

Oh god, so true. I've had a lot of penpals and I've never been so yesman'd in my life.

#25 MicheleD


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Posted 05 July 2015 - 11:50 AM

I spent four months in the Osaka region three years ago and studied the language in college, so here's some other stuff to know:


-Convenience stores are big. Konbinis, the romanized way of saying it, offer the standard fare of food and general goods. In addition, you can buy concert/event tickets, movies, some manga, and alcohol (hello 5 gallon bottle of vodka). The food is GOOD and cheap. Really anything you can imagine there's probably a konbini that sells it.

-There are places where wild animals roam and freely mix with people (monkeys at Arashiyama in Kyoto, deer in Nara park and at Miyajima, Rabbit and Cat Islands)

-The two main religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto is the native religion that is heavily nature-oriented. Buddhism was brought over from China and the Japanese adopted and molded it into something of their own. Most people do not consider themselves religious in the western sense of it, and if asked most would not say they are religious. People generally practice some mix of the two. My host father was Buddhist and would pray every morning but we also went to some Shinto festivals.

-Trains are the preferred method of transportation. People have cars but there's generally only one for the whole family.

-Japanese people do not expect foreigners (gaijin) to speak Japanese, and are surprised when anyone obviously foreign can say anything beyond, "Hello how are you?"

-Japan is 70% mountains, geographically. If you're not on a mountain, you're in a mountain valley.


Also, if you're going with Japanese folklore in your story, I highly recommend looking up Lafcadio Hearn. While an interesting person in his own right, he was the first non-Japanese person to seek out and record their folklore and stories for western audiences. His Kaidan (or Kwaidan, depending on the publisher) would be a good place to start. An anime/manga to look into would be Gegege no Kitaro. A lot of the characters are Japanese monsters.


If you have any other questions feel free to shoot me a message.

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Japan, Asia, Folklore, Fantasy, YA

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