Why do the Japanese have their names outside their houses?

This one puzzled me for a while, because most Japanese didn’t strike me as the kinds of people who’d want every stranger passing in the street to know their names and where they live (especially if there name is Gomi like someone in my street!) It turns out the reason is because several houses in the same street/ block have the exact same postal address and so the only way post and guests can reach the right one is by reading your name outside. This is also why post that is addressed to you sometimes doesn’t get there if you don’t stick your name outside (and JPLT refuse to send you anything if it isn’t) or c/o someone whose name is there, although all these things are less true for flats (apaato, mansion, coopo etc) as it has a distinctive building name and then an individual room number.

Getting back to my original query on why the Japanese would be happy to have that system, despite seeming to be very private at times, privacy is not a Japanese system (hence the use of the borrowed English word in Japanese), and certainly not privacy from your neighbours!

The Japanese street and home (non) numbering system is explained someone else on this blog somewhere- one of the pages perhaps??

Why are Japanese apples so huge?

Was about to eat a “normal” sized one for the first time in years and was wondering whether the lack of fibre due to peeling off the skin or the pesticides due to not was going to kill me, and it suddenly occured to me that peeling a small apple is an awful lot more difficult than peeling a nice melon-sized Fuji. Japanese virtually always peel their fruit, if the look of shock on my in-laws’ faces when I ate one without is anything to go by.

The other possible reason that springs to mind is the fact that fruit is often given as a gift in Japan, so the larger, more impressive and more expensive the better- hence also the baskets of fruit that cost three times as much as buying each piece of fruit seperately (the typical Japanese opposite of bulk discount).

More of this kind of stuff in Japanese Food and Drink Explained page and posts.

Why are people more fascinated with Japan than Korea?

There is little point in talking about the fundamental appeal of the countries as they are now, but I’ve come up with some possible historical explanations:

- Japan opened up to the world just as Chinoiserie was getting old hat, making Japanisme a sure fire hit. By the time that Korea also opened up, the last thing people wanted was yet another Asian fashion boom

- Like it or not, military success (even of your enemies) has a certain appeal. Just as the Nazis are much more interesting for the Hitler Channel (“affectionate” nickname of the History Channel) than the sufferings of the Dutch, the military exploits of the first Asian country to defeat a European one are much more interesting to read about, both as fiction and history, than the litany of victimhood that is the Korean past.

- Ditto for the militaristic Samurai and the bureaucratic Yangban, or at least the self image of them

- The economic growth of Korea is even more impressive than that of Japan, but happened when the Japanese overtaking the US made the news much more than the Koreans rapidly coming up behind.

- Korea simply doesn’t lend itself to the simplistic one line explanations that have spawned a million bullshit but still readable books about Japan

- Much of what we think we appreciate as exotic Japanese art (such as late ukiyoe, manga, Murakami Haruki, Kurosawa movies, and contemporary Japanese art) is much more affected by Western influence and therefore palatable to us than we might think

- Other examples of the Japanese just getting there first while we were still interested, such as Akira Kurosawa being the first Asian to win a big cinematic prize

- The conscious selling of Japanese culture by the Japanese government and business. The Koreans have mainly concentrated on selling their own pop music and soap operas to other Asian countries, a market with some understandable resistance to the Japanese, leaving the Japanese to take over the west

- Some random influences, like Memoirs of a Geisha, Shogun and The Last Samurai being the right kind of populist escapist tosh at the right time. They could just as easily have been based in Korea, but they just weren’t. Unfortunately for the Koreans, each random happening like that sets up another whole generation of people who are fascinated by Japan and so more likely to support the next Japan based Western cultural product rather than a

- Just as the Japanese economy was sinking and anyway becoming a story that had been covered to death and the Korean economic miracle looked like becoming newsworthy, the Chinese economy opened up and the film industry took off, making for a cultural version of most of their historical overshadowing

Why is a painkiller called “Eve”?

In Japanese, that name has the same pronunciation as the first two syllables of “ibuprofen”, which is what it is

So, not because it is especially designed for women as I thought. Took me an unbelievably long time to work that one out- sorry if it is obvious to everyone else in Japan!

Why does NHK call the Korean language “hangul”?

…ハングル being, properly, only the name of the Korean alphabet.

 “There is no politically neutral way of describing the Korean language in Japanese, and NHK feared criticism from South-leaning Koreans if it described the language as Chosen-go… or from North-leaning Koreans if it called it Kankoku-go…” Read the rest of this entry »

Why do many yakiniku restaurants boast of their tripe?

Horumon (ホルモン) being the sign that proudly displays the posibility of grilling lungs.

“Yakiniku cuisine was invented by Zainichi Koreans shortly after the war, initially as a way of making the internal organs of cows more appetizing at a time when widespread poverty meant that most people could not afford more expensive kinds of meat”  Read the rest of this entry »

Why does cucumber sushi have the special name “kappa maki”?

A kappa is a strange and interesting Japanese monster that really likes cucumbers (“maki” just means “wrap”). This also explains why some of my students think it is funny that foreigners use that name in English, I think, as it is a quite idiomatic nickname that has become standard.

Why are the Japanese names for North and South Korea so different?

Kita Chosen (北朝鮮) is supposed to be just a geographical name, and therefore to save giving the North Korean government the same legitimacy as the “Country of Koreans” (韓国 – Kankoku) in the South

Why do Japanese companies branch out into so many totally unrelated areas of business? Second attempt

One reason is to find jobs for people moving out of shrinking parts of the business rather than making them redundant

Why do most Japanese households have a fax machine?

“Everybody had to have a fax machine in Japan… because nobody would come to your cocktail party if you didn’t fax every guest a map of how to get there” Read the rest of this entry »

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