Why do Japanese dads bathe first?

As everyone shares the same reheated water, the water is cleanest then. A positive effect from the women’s point of view is that it stops him drinking and gets him out of the way while the women of the house clear up.

Why the girly men? 4th attempt

I’ve generally stuck up for young Japanese guys with their hairspray and whathaveyou, including reminding disapproving Westerners of New Romantics and Glam Rock. I’ve always been, however, quite sceptical that women can really, truly find “new men” (of any kind) attractive, even if they think that is what they want.

A science programme on Radio 4, however, proves me wrong. With made up computer generated faces they proved that, unsurprisingly, men are basically predictable and we all like the same thing (I should remind you that we are talking about faces here!) Women, however, were clearly divided into those who liked and disliked macho, square-jawed men. Whether that could be culturally determined or change over time didn’t get a mention, but interesting none the less…

Should you be wondering, theories one and two were about reacting against their gruff but actually quite weak fathers and the influence of in the closet gay fashion leaders (similar to 1970s UK). Can’t remember what number three was…

Why do notices tell men to take one step closer to the urinal?

Also here in Korea. Although it’s not as common in Japan as Korea, I quite often see guys spitting (or even dribbling) into the urinal before they start peeing. It occurs to me that leaving room for this might encourage standing a bit further back than might be suitable for urination.

As for why they spit in the first place, spitting in general is also more common in Korea (and even more common in China) but I’d wager it was also very common in Japan until Meiji-era authorities thought it ought to be stamped out along with mixed-sex bathing and samurai haircuts. Spitting no longer being allowed on the streets, men are making the most of the toilets, perhaps.

The theory why blowing your nose is okay in Europe and spitting is better in Asia is something to do with what infectious diseases were most common in those two places, but I forget which diseases they were.

Why do some Japanese men carry handbags? 4th attempt

A theory I hadn’t heard before that I recently read in a book about Korea is that it is connected to the wads of cash it is still common to carry around in many Asian countries, making them large wallets rather than handbags. Makes sense, but so did the other three theories I have somewhere elsewhere on this site…

Why does the average middle aged salaryman put up with plastic suits?

Meaning feeling like nylon rather than actually made of plastic- although if it doesn’t say 革 (kawa- leather) on shoes they probably actually are. Some theories:

– Their wives have control of the budget and won’t let them buy anything more expensive
– The clothes retailers know all the money is in youth and women, leaving 洋服の青山 the monopoly position to sell any old crap they like
– Not the most adventurous of market segments, they are scared off by anything that looks young, unfamiliar or foreign
– Most Japanese don’t have the fear of the manmade and artificial that has taken hold in the West, here meaning artificial fabrics but also including things like food additives
– It’s just because all the suits come from China
– They have to be careful not to dress better than their boss

Why do some gruff guys say “oss”?

 My wife is convinced it’s an incredibly short and macho version of OhayogozaimaS (the polite way of saying “good morning”) but suddenly I’m not convinced, because the aikido fighters in Angry White Pyjamas (which I’m reading) say it when it definitely isn’t a greeting

Why is a man’s hakama (very formal kimono worn during weddings) padded to emphasize the belly?

Possible influences:

-Showing your wealth (in the same way as men in some societies show off being able to feed many fat wives)

– The Chinese and Japanese philosophy of your mystic energy (気-ki, or chi in Chinese) being centred on your belly

– Wanting to look like rikishi (sumo wrestlers), the ultimate Japanese men

– Just to make a distinction between the female shape (also in a kimono and with breasts flattened, but with a big obi emphasizing any bumps at the back) and the male shape (obi worn under the belly to emphasize its shape at the front)

– Some kind of cultural universal of manliness that has been lost in the West (see paintings of Henry VIII of England for examples)

Why do Japanese girls and boys turn out so different, despite having the same upbringing?

“Girls fare better;they tend to like intense one-to-one relationships. But boys crave independence.”

Hence, according to his explanation, maza con [マザコン-mother complex.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why do many Japanese get red faced when they drink alcohol?

Me too! I don’t know if the reason is the same,but it is one of the things that makes me feel right at home in Japan.

“[It is] because of a heriditary lack of the liver enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde. It is this chemical by-product of alcohol that causes their features to become flushed”

Hokkaido Highway Blues pg 154

Why do my housewife students complain about their husbands so much?

This is a question that I have heard a fair few times. Many eikaiwa teachers come to the conclusion that Japan has a world record breaking number of miserable marriages. Whilst that is conceivable (some nation has to be top!), there are plenty of cultural factors to take into account before coming to that conclusion. One is a tradition of disparaging members of your family in order to appear humble, including the not totally disappeared habit of saying “my smelly wife” as a humble form of okusan. Another is a tradition of taking the mickey out of the man in the house and of the salaryman more generally, as explained in detail by Ian Buruma. As gruff macho dads tend to get this ribbing most, I’m guessing it is a way of evening up the power relationships in the home. The third factor is a comparative lack of safe topics of conversation in Japanese making each one appear like a national obsession, most notably with the topic of food but also with this one. The final influence that I can think of is that many Japanese people seem to think of slagging people off as as Western or British sense of humour, or alternatively find it to be a kind of humour they can easily express in English, and so tend to say those kind of things much more in English than in Japanese.

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