Why are Japanese towels so small?

 “…the idea is to let your clean body dry as naturally as possible by exposure to the air”

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Why do the Japanese not worry about mercury etc. in fish, shellfish and seaweed?

I’m really puzzled on this one. Japanese people in England have problems getting all the seaweed they want for cooking because it is banned, quite sensibly, due to high levels of dodgy chemicals from polluted seas in Japan and the UK. And the International Tribune has a story of tuna sushi in New York that should have a health warning on it. Maybe they just don’t want to believe it about something they don’t want to live without- a bit like Scottish people and cholesterol, and everyone and smoking.

Why does politics (and sometimes even the same cabinet position) run in the family in Japan?

Unlike the civil service, becoming a politician is not a job most mothers want for their children.That and the fact that those who rely on carisma soon get squashed by jealous colleagues and/ or the system, leaves those whose families do have such an aspiration a free path. The fact that most factions (and even some parties) are divided more by clannish personal loyalty more than policy or ideology means that the children can often rely on the same power base as the parents to reach the same position, even if their political positions vary. And as little debating skills, personality, looks or leadership skills are historically needed for the job, there is no reason why they shouldn’t make it all the way with that support and a bit of luck.

See the Japanese Politics Explained page on the right for more of the same.

Why is it rude to blow your nose in public in Japan?

One theory is that in Asia the most common diseases could be passed on through handkerchiefs etc, while those in Europe were more likely to be passed on through spitting- hence the fact that spitting didn’t start to die out in Japan until the Meiji authorities decided it wasn’t something seemly to do in front of foreigners.

Why did the WWII Japanese caricature always have bucked teeth?

This is an odd one, because although Japanese teeth are just as bad as British teeth, bucked teeth doesn’t particularly stand out as a problem. I’m sure someone could write/ has written a whole PhD thesis on this, but here are my theories: That classic Eastern racist anti-hero Fu Man Chu was always portrayed with bucked teeth long before Japan became the biggest yellow peril, so it could have been transferred straight from the Chinese as the Japanese became the biggest threat both in California and in the Pacific. Alternatively, it could have started as a caricature of one particular person that then spread. The whole fact that teeth was such a factor could be due to the caricature coming from America, home of the good teeth obsession.

If Japan is a traditional whaling country, why do they have to send their ships all the way to the South Atlantic?

First of all, there a tenuous link at best between modern Japanese whaling and the few villages that have had this industry for hundreds of years. The technology for modern whaling came entirely from the West and it was Western countries,ironically, that hunted most of the whales in Japanese waters close to zero. It was also, by the way,the American occupation authorities that gave the biggest boost to postwar Japanese whaling

More on this topical topic on the Japanese Whaling explained page on your right.

Why did Japanese women blacken their teeth and why did they stop doing it?

Showing your white teeth was thought to be like showing the white of your bones. The blackening liquid was also thought to preserve the teeth. The practice was outlawed in the Meiji era in order to not offend foreign visitors or more generally to gain their acceptance as a Westernized and therefore equal nation.

Salaryman stat of the day

Why are the Japanese so obsessed with their kids being genki (energetic, lively)?

Thailand is quite similar. It could it be an inherent trust in the good nature of kids due to Buddhism having no concept of original sin, or an understanding that lots of energy (more than lots of original ideas) is what they are going to need in their future educational and working careers. Alternatively it could be because rebellion and mental health problems in Japanese tend to come out as being lethargic and withdrawn

More on Japanese families and education on pages on the right

Why do some Japanese girls do the “dinosaur walk” with shopping bags on the inside of their elbows rather than in their hands?

The bags would touch the ground otherwise??

For more J-girl mysteries, see Japanese women explained

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