Why is Aud Lang Syne not played at New Year in Japan but instead played by department stores and local councils at the end of the day?

The Japanese know the tune very well from the traditional graduation song “Hotaru no hikari”, a very pre-war sounding song about a student studying by the light of a firefly and then going on to serve his country, and most are unaware that it is not Japanese. How a graduation song became a end-of-sale-of-Louis-Vuitton-for-the-day song I’m not sure, but it does have a kind of ending feeling to it.

Lots more Japanese New Year explanations and links here.

Japanese number of the day

How can the same nation that has office workers who work 12 hour days and station masters who run up and down the platform in white gloves to make trains run on time produce such unmotivated language learners?

For most people English is a hobby. In Birmingham, the only French lessons available twice a week were exam classes- and most Japanese see learning English like the English see learning French. The other factor is that some may be keener than they seem- the Japanese are as reluctant to draw attention by being too enthusiastic as they are about being “the nail that stands up” out in any other way.

Why are Japanese kids so well behaved?

Japanese mothers seem to control their kids with an absolutely expert use of the kind of emotional blackmail that a Western parent might feel embarrassed about, plus a good dollop of indulgence and other manipulations. The net total result is a kid who will feel so upset themselves at displeasing their parents (mainly the mother), that no other punishment is needed- a child that will often grow up into an adult with much the same mentality. Another reason you would rarely see temper tantrums etc. if you are not part of the family is that a Japanese child quickly learns that different behaviour is suitable for different circumstances, and there is no such thing as “acting naturally” or “being true to yourself”.

More on this question in this New York Times article

Is calling an office Xmas party a “bounenkai” (forget the year party) just a joke, or does it have a more traditional and/ or deeper meaning?

Although most people can see the humourous connection being drinking and forgetting, the original meaning seems to have been to have a drink with someone to forget any disagreements or problems you might have had over the year so that you can start with a blank slate next year.

More on Japanese traditional festivals here.

Why do the Japanese eat chicken (including KFC) for Christmas?

The Japanese do not generally have the appetites or the ovens to cook and eat a turkey, so KFC was probably pushing on an open door when they started advertising the possibility of having an American Xmas with Kentucky chicken in the 1970’s- it is, after all, American…

More Japanese Xmas cheer in Japanese Xmas explained.

Why do young Japanese guys have such girly haircuts etc?

Just like the UK in the 70’s, when macho guys started wearing high heels and make up, the main male fashion leaders in Japan are gay but not out (SMAP etc.)

Gaijin explained Part One

Why do gaijin (foreign) guys who could never score at home always link up in Japan?
Popular theories usually mention how sad the average Japanese salaryman is and the gaijin boyfriend being just a fashion accessory, free English conversation partner or novelty item for a Japanese girl to impress her friends with. Other possibilities include the Japanese girlfriend feeling freer due to not being restricted by the Japanese language (no way to say I love you in normal Japanese conversation!) and his family being several thousand miles away.

I believe the main reason is that the gaijin male quickly convinces himself that he can throw off his lack of success at home, and so he does- i.e. purely the power of postive thinking and self-belief. Any unusual social skills that still hang around from his old life can also be passed off as being a foreigner or other cultural or language misunderstandings.

There is also the general question of why outsiders instantly become better dating prospects in almost every society, which is possibly tied into the desireability of bringing other genes into the limited gene pools that the often isolated groups of early humans would have been.

More on Gaijin on the Gaijin explained page.

Welcome to Japan Explained

This blog is mainly a collection of the questions I have had since I arrived in Japan four and a half years ago that I found plausible, interesting and/ or amusing explanations to from reading, speaking to people or my own pondering- along with a few questions that other people have asked me. If you have your own questions or pet theories, please leave a comment after any entry. If this gives you are taste for even more Japan trivia, please see my other Japan-themed blog- QuoteJapan.