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! :)