Why is Japanese frost different?

Frost is quite rare here in Tokyo but tends to look like shards of ice that lie in the soil or point straight up from the ground - in fact I’ve mistaken it for broken glass before now. In six years I’ve never seen the crunchy icing on the top of the glass style of frost that is one of the best things about a British winter.

I’m guessing the main reason is that Japanese winters are dry whereas British ones are fairly humid (or damp is probably a better word), with British frost being basically frozen dew made from moisture that comes out of the air.

Why is Eigo de Asobo so crap?

I simply can’t think of why this NHK English-language programme for kindergarten kids is so terrible. Yesterday’s edition was pretty typical in that they only taught two words, one of which is already used in Japanese (shoes) and the other of which is useless (yum). Then there are the same old songs with misleading or absent mimes (why not point at a belly button if you really have to include that word??), unnecessary translation at odd places, jumps from sketches where only one English word is used to animated songs that don’t seem to be graded at all, etc.

Here are the only explanations I could come up with:

- Decisions on what language to use are made by non-English-speaking staff and managers, in typical Japanese office style

- The English native speakers hate their job and so are just taking the piss

- The Ministry of Education doesn’t want anyone to actually speak English in case they become less Japanese by doing so or work out that there are different ways that Japan could be

- The two Americans on the programme were sent by the CIA in the 80s to sabotage Japanese attempts to learn English and so hold their economy back (also one possible explanation for TOEIC)

Why are there suddenly loads of cheap Disney DVDs in Japan?

When the 250 to 500 yen copies of Bambi, Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland and Fantasia starting appearing in secondhand shops I just assumed they were all pirate copies from China or Russia (which do sometimes appear in Book Off) and ignored them. One day I noticed that some of them were published by Toho, a proper film company, and took a closer look. According to the back of the boxes they have appeared because in Japan copyright has lapsed on those titles and so it’s all legit. Although the picture and sound quality aren’t as good as Disney DVDs, let alone remastered ones, they are much better than most pirate DVDs and all have proper dual sound and subtitles. Dumbo only cost my 500 yen but is now officially my daughter’s favourite film!

Why are most biscuits individually wrapped?

I don’t know if it’s cause or effect, but there’s a lot of passing biscuits round the office everywhere I’ve worked in Japan and that usually includes leaving them on the desk for people who are elsewhere. If they aren’t individually wrapped that means walking round with a stack of paper napkins and leaving the biscuits on top of them. The few times when Japanese people have visitors in the house they tend to give snacks still in their packaging as well.

The Japanese equivalents like manju have to be individually wrapped because otherwise they all stick together, so there might be an influence of that as well. The Japanese are also far less likely to sit down and scoff a whole packet of biscuits than certain Westerners (e.g. me).

Then there is packaging still being seen as good service in Japan and the general lack of awareness of green issues…

Why does my onigiri fall apart while I’m eating it?

You’re supposed to press it together while it’s still wrapped in plastic and then open it.

Why smoked turkey legs in Japan?

I’ve been looking for British Xmas food in Tokyo for my new blog, and most international supermarkets that cater mainly to Japanese people such as Seijo Ishii and Kinokuniya have smoked turkey legs that look like a kind of ham rather than any uncooked turkey. 82 Ale House also had it on the menu last night.

This could well be just my overactive imagination, but I can picture it being something imported for the Occupation troops and then picked up by the locals, as was the case with spam. Then again, Japanese bacon is always cooked and more like ham too, so maybe it is just the influence of the big ham companies like Nippon Ham and Nissin. Why the ham companies are so big would be another good JapanExplained kind of question, of course…

Why are bananas by far the cheapest fruit in Japan?

There is sometimes a big bunch for 98 yen next to apples which start at 298 yen a piece.

I’m guessing the government puts few restrictions on their import because they aren’t grown here and so there is no danger of Japanese farmers being hurt. There is also a Japanese free trade agreement with the Phillipines, where most or all of them (including those sold by American companies like Chiquita) seem to come from.

Same explanation seems to work for why fruit salads in convenience stores and supermarkets are always at least 80% pineapple.

Why are there Xmas-themed love hotels

You can see Santa on top of one from parts of Enoshima beach, which makes for a rather bizarre sunbathing experience.

I’ve always assumed it’s because Xmas day is the chief day for romantic meals and love hotel trips in Japan, even more so than Valentine’s Day (which is mainly taken up with distributing giri choko to your colleagues). According to Japanzine, however, it’s because there’s something pervy about Santa:

Santa’s Xmas Shame

The thing I really learned from that article is that they are all part of one chain, so the alternative explanation is that it was a random business decision and that there’s nothing cultural going on at all.

More on Japanese Xmas:

Japanese Xmas explained

or click on the category below for more posts on the topic.

Photo stolen from here.

Why is Kyoto famous for tofu?

Apparently it has a good supply of the right kind of water. Being an aristocratic kind of place also fits in with a connection to tasteless food, like the weak Earl Grey tea and such like of a typical English stately home.

Why have there been so many Meiji and bakumatsu era dramas recently?

One explanation I read was that people see a parallel between the end of the Tokugawa period and now, and a similar need to reinvent the country without losing its uniqueness.

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