Why do only some pedestrian crossings make sounds or play music?

I discovered recently that some only do it when you push the button for blind people by mistake, but I don’t think that covers all of them. Any theories?

Why does my gym have no smoking signs in the poolside showers?

I really do mean in the showers, not just in the shower room! It’s under a hotel, so the only thing I can imagine is that once in the halcyon smoking days of the 80s hotel guests would sit around the pool on loungers (even though it is indoor, but I saw someone doing that in the Iidabashi Konami Sports today) having a puff. That is strictly my imagination, though. Any better theories?

Why do half of the offices I work in have some very medical looking mouthwash in the bathroom?

The connection seems to be that they are offices of chemical and engineering companies, although the people actually in the offices just do desk work so can’t imagine they would have any special practical reason for using it???

Why do they often write the single word “hifu” with one kanji and one katakana character?

The full kanji version 皮膚 (skin) has a second kanji that is no longer in the official list of 2000 or so that are learnt at school, so it is often written 皮フ outside doctor's etc. Why they don't just have done with it and switch to all katakana or hiragana I'm not sure.

I think I've seen a few more similiar examples, but I can't remember what they were and this is by far the most noticeable

Why are there many Iranians in Japan?

For a while, in exchange for an increase in oil imports, the Japanese dropped all visa restrictions.

I probably never would have been aware that so many of the Middle Eastern looking people in Roppongi were Iranians (I can spot the other largest group, Turks, as I still speak enough Turkish from when I lived there to at least spot when it is being spoken) if a friend of my wife wasn’t married to an Iranian guy. Now that I’ve looked into it, though, I’ve found a couple of great links that I think would be of interest to anyone:

A short story about Iranians in Japan from The Iranian

Wikipedia on Iranians in Japan (surprisingly detailed for such a seemingly obscure subject)

For Japanese people, now that the fake phone card dealers are long gone from the parks the only famous connection to Iran is Yu Darvish, the half-Iranian baseball player who is apparently good at this “sport” and apparently good looking. Can’t make a judgement on either count I’m afraid, you can judge for yourself here. What I can now tell you is that he probably shouldn’t be in this post at all as his parents met in the states, making his father far from a typical Iranian in Japan.

Why is going over your boss’s head such a huge crime in Japan?

A real question this one, although strangely from a Japanese friend of a friend…

This is never popular in any country, because it takes away some of your boss’s status. The additional element in Japan is that managers and prospective managers are being judged overwhelmingly on their ability to keep the peace, so any indication like this reaching your boss’s boss could well ruin their promotion chances forever. For more details on this, see the fabulous book “Office Ladies and Salaried Men“, the complete guide to what really goes on in the Japanese office.

Another factor might be the fact that such hierachies were written up in Tokugawa period law (if you went over someone’s head to report their wrongdoings, they might get punished but you almost certainly would as well for stepping out of your place), but I think that is less important in this case.

Why do the Japanese use the “English” expression “China dress” for a cheongsam?

They gave it a Japlish name because the fashion came to Japan via Hollywood films?? The English expression, btw, comes from Cantonese, the Mandarin Chinese version being “quipao”

Why do the Japanese pronounce Genghis Khan with a soft g?

Actually, the Japanese pronunciation is  closer than the English to the original

Why do so many small local shops have automatic doors?

I hadn’t noticed this until I read it in Tokyo by Donald Ritchie, but it certainly does seem to be true. He doesn’t bother asking why, but I’d go for:

– Electronic = modern= showing you are successful  counts even more in small rural towns

– The original doors were sliding too, so it’s not such a big change

– The reason for the original and new sliding doors is that there is no room to open them either into the shop or into the street

If the whole point of sushi is that it is fresh, why does it go round on a conveyor belt for hours?

Not a clue on this one. Anyone else?

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