Why would anyone buy a Tokyo Walker-style entertainment mag that just has endless pictures of restaurants and doesn’t tell you which ones are any good?

Me and a student of mine were pondering on this for ages and then came up with the same answer at the same time- it’s mainly used as a conversation starter, e.g. for a new couple or colleagues groping their way towards a friendship nervously discussing where they should go away for a weekend trip. This realisation of how difficult the Japanese find conversation (even more than the British- see “Watching the English” for details), has been the biggest of all naruhodo moments for me. It explains the popularity of hostess bars, food that keeps your hands busy like yakiniku and okonomiyaki, akachochin mama san bars, karaoke, the endless talk about food and the weather, getting naked with your colleagues in a bath where it’s too hot to speak, limiting discussion of your holiday to the exchange of souvenirs, etc etc etc