Why do tengu have long noses?

The book on matsuri I’m reading at the moment suggests that, especially given their propensity for kidnapping females, it is almost certainly a phallic thing. However, Wikipedia’s suggestion that it was a beak (possibly derived from Garuda) that morphed into a nose seems much more well argued – particularly as Wikipedia also shows that tengu are often the spirits of girls and abduct males too.

Tengu on Wikipedia

Why do tengu have red faces?

According to the book on matsuri I’m reading at the moment, it might have been directly based on the faces of Dutch sailors arriving in Japan in the 17th century.

If the Japanese are so shy, modest and self-conscious, why are the guys in my gym quite happy to be seen admiring their own naked bodies?

What makes it acceptable is the habit of standing around starkers in the onsen hot spring changing room to let the heat disipate and the moisture not mopped off by the tiny towel dry off. If you are doing it front of the mirror while clenching your stomach muscles, well, same difference…

The fugu myth

Fugu pufferfish liver is deadly poison

(partly) MYTH- “only one third of all wild fugu have enough poison to kill” (International Herald Tribune 26 Apr 08) and farmed ones are totally harmless

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”

This overwhelming favourite Japanese proverb amongst Japan watchers is a MYTH. If you have ever seen a Japanese school teacher or mother at work you can instantly see that there is no hammering going on. The nail that sticks out is indulged until it decides it would rather not stick out after all in case that indulgence disappears.

See the Japanese Myths section for more Nippon stereotype busting.

Japanese Myth of the Day

Japan is a small country

MYTH! Read the rest of this entry »

Why do Japanese companies have a reputation for being more interested in market share than profit?

It’s a natural reaction to an economy that grows rapidly for 30 years- if the market and your competitors grow and you don’t, you basically disappear. As predicted by this theory, businesses have been much more interested in the bottom line since the growth finished. In other words, despite what 90% of books about Japan say, there is nothing special about Japan in this case. The same is true of China now and was true of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.