Gaijin stat of the day

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Why do Japanese students often switch off during explanations of games or grammar in English?

In Japan modelling is always used after/instead an explanation, so the explanation is not so important. In some schools, explanations in English are also followed by the same explanation in Japanese, so it usually is unnecessary to listen to the English version. There is also generally more tolerance for students not paying attention to the teacher in Japanese schools than in most Western ones.

More of this ilk in Japanese Education explained and Japanese English explained.

Why is Japanese coming of age day on January 15th?

Actually, since the government tried to move all public holidays to Mondays to make long weekends (known as the Happy Monday system, apparently not inspired by the wild times of the Manchester band) it is now the second Monday of January. The day was founded in 1948. I’m guessing that they wanted to put it as near to New Year as they could without actually interfering with the New Year holiday, but haven’t been able to find any data on that yet.

More on Seijin no hi on the relevant page on the right

Japanese stat of the day

Why is coming of age in Japan 20 years old, not 18 like most countries?

It’s a lucky number (which is also why the 20th of the month has a special number that doesn’t follow the counting sequence), and has stayed that way since the first official age of majority was declared in the Meiji era (before that boys came of age at around 15). Knowing Japan, I’m guessing young people have never been in a hurry to grow up and get involved in politics, especially as the drinking and smoking limit of 20 has been widely ignored until recently. There are plans to make it 18 in the next few years, though.

Much more Japanese coming of age stuff on the Seijin no hi Explained page on the right

New look advice needed

Have changed the look of the blog on the advice of a reader (thanks!). Feedback on the readability of this version gratefully accepted.

No new entry today, but have updated the Japan by Numbers

Why are there so many pylons everywhere in Japan?

The industry has no incentive to change as burying them is more expensive, and the government agency staff they take out to expensive Ginza hostess bars is not likely to force them. And again, the explanation of earthquake problems is totally bogus- during the Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake falling electrical wires caused a major danger by blocking roads.

More on this in Japanese architecture and town planning explained

Why, despite the hardworking and serious nature of the average salaryman, are there so many accidents, spillages and safety problems in Japanese nuclear facilities, food companies, chemical companies etc. etc?

Firstly, that hardworking salaryman is tired and overworked and cannot possibly do everything he is asked to do by his boss. If missing long term safety inspections are going to be the thing he is least likely to get bollocksed for, those are the things that are going to be missed. A lack of a whistle-blower culture also doesn’t help (over 90% of Japanese employees say they would not report their company if they realized it was doing something illegal).

More of this on the Japanese Business Explained page.

Why do the Japanese say Year of the Mouse while we say Year of the Rat?

There is only one word for both in Japanese (as in many other languages)- “nezumi” (鼠 ねずみ). White mice are cuter (a very important property in modern Japan), so tend to be chosen for seasonal postcards etc.

More Japanese New Year stuff here (recently expanded and updated).

Why are adults quite happy to been seen in public reading manga comics?

First of all, the vast majority of Japanese adults would in fact be highly embarrassed to be caught reading a manga, let alone a pornographic one, in public. The salarymen you seeing reading dodgy comics and magazines on trains are the same who slurp their pasta, spit on the ground etc. in ways that well mannered Japanese never would. Manga does remain more popular amongst adults than in other countries, though. Amongst the salaryman population, this is because they hardly have the energy to read anything more demanding, especially as reading difficult kanji can put a strain on even strong readers. There is also no social pressure to spend your free time productively and an acceptance of reading manga etc. for nostalgic reasons.

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