Strange, Interesting, and Awkward Things About Japan

Driving
Many of you probably knew this already, but I was surprised to see everyone in Japan driving on the left side of the road (for some reason, I thought only the British did that). Also, everything in the car is opposite: I try hitting the left turn signal and end up putting my windshield wipers into “There’s a Hurricane” mode. I want to flash my brights and instead spray washer fluid all over the windshield. Needless to say, my friends are very entertained when I’m the driver. And the lack of names for any Japanese streets doesn’t help my directional deficiencies.

Sumo
Some facts I learned the day I went to the sumo tournament:
– One may not step into the sumo ring with shoes on.
– After every couple sumo matches or so, they perform the shiomaki ritual: throwing salt into the ring to purify it and prevent injury to the wrestlers.
– At the college, high school, and junior high (yes, there is junior high sumo) levels, wrestlers must keep their heads buzzed. Only at the professional level can they grow those cool hair-dos.
– Another part of the preliminary rituals: both wrestlers face each other, squat, then slap their hands together and raise them to the sky. Evidently, this is to show that they aren’t carrying any weapons. Based on the pictures I posted, I’m not sure where they would hide them; their outfits don’t leave much for the imagination.
– To begin a match, all four fists of the wrestlers must touch the ground. I don’t know how they decide which wrestler starts with his fists down, but the other one can try faking out his opponent by pretending to touch the ground. I relate this to the Hot Hands game when the slapper twitches his hands to fake out the other player. I’m not sure what the penalty is when the wrestler falls for the trap, other than, of course, the embarrassment of being duped. Sneaky sumo…
-Regarding the sumo diaper (the mawashi): they are never washed. The only thing wrestlers do for cleaning is brushing it. Makes me wonder what pranks occur in the sumo locker room…

Doorways
Are too short. I can count on two hands and one foot the number of times I have banged my head walking into a room. The students, of course, love it.

My Futon
Is actually long enough for me. This is especially surprising considering most American beds only reach me at mid-calf.

Toilets
I have already discussed the fancy seat-warming, spray-or-bedet option Western toilets in Japan. However, I conveniently left out the much more common Japanese squat toilet. I have had the displeasure of using these uncomfortable bathroom fixtures twice, and I will do everything in my power to limit any future use. The first time I encountered them occurred on my first day of work. I asked my supervisor where the bathroom was, he pointed the way, I walked in, and there it was, staring me in the face…err, feet. Compared to the posh Tokyo toilets I was used to, this hole-in-the-ground was quite a shock. What followed was the most ungraceful, uncomfortable, awkward bathroom experience I have ever had. Having no idea which way to face or what to do, I contorted my body into positions only advanced yoga practitioners¬† can handle (and I don’t do yoga). Thankfully no one came in, for if they had peered beneath the stall door, they probably would’ve seen something resembling the game of Twister going on.

The second time, Nature called at one of my elementary schools. This time, I wisely sought some squat toilet instruction before entering. It still wasn’t pretty, but at least I knew which way was front.

This is only the beginning of the list of strange and interesting things in Japan. I will keep you posted as I discover more/they are forced upon me.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Talk to harris. He can give great advice on this subject, we recently had a long conversation about it.

    Reply

  2. Posted by rrrrrika on September 19, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    have you learned how to communicate solely using punctuation yet? (i hear its part of japanese 101)

    do you think that you will ever have the chance to karaoke to mr. roboto while in japan

    (+) big hug bran

    (++) next time you want to impress the kids, do an around the body wave, w000 w000

    Reply

  3. Posted by Joel on September 22, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Black and beats vibes baby!

    Reply

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