Low Productivity, Japan’s Dirty Little Secret

“The streets are so clean!” “Such excellent service.” “Public Transportation is quiet, clean and efficient.” “Gift wrapping is included with any purchase?!” “Japanese students clean their own classrooms!” “The streets are safe.” These are the common refrains you hear everywhere about Japan, and I left out quite a few for brevity sake. All these statements […]

Christmas Where Nobody Cares

Does Japan celebrate Christmas? No. Sure you will see Christmas trees in the shopping malls and illuminations throughout the winter, but those have little to do with the actual holiday. There are holiday sales galore, because who doesn’t love a good sale? But that warm, hearthy, childlike anticipation that reaches crescendo in the early hours […]

Japanese Free Time

Quite a few years ago, before I set foot in the Japans, there was a policy shift in the Japanese school system. They stopped holding Saturday classes and cut back on some coursework. It seemed a step in the right direction. It was supposed to help invigorate the youth, help them to more independently discover […]

Death & Destruction of Japanese Domiciles

With an aging society (as discussed earlier), you would expects there to be a huge surge in available home to purchase. But you would be terribly wrong. In fact, because of a variety of cultural-economic issues, purchasing a used home is anathema to the Japanese way of life. This saddens me because every day I […]

Geriatric Japan

Everyone knows Japan has a demographic problem. It’s society is aging rapidly, and this is constantly referenced in economic projections for the coming decades. But what does that mean on the ground, away from the statistics? I’m no spring chicken. I’m approaching forty at the time of this post. But on my daily commute and […]

Japan’s English Problem

It’s the elephant in the room. Observers of Japan will complain about the school system, the testing, the monolithic nature of it all. Sometimes they talk about the textbooks. All of these are valid issues, and all hinder students’ ability to learn the language well. My favorite is when they scapegoat the ALT (Assistant Language […]

Ode to the Salaryman

Recently I received some correspondence asking for my insights into Japanese culture, in particular the concept of “salaryman” (サラリーマン). Although my response may seem harsh, possibly exaggerated, the grain of truth runs deep. I’ve had to slightly edit my original response, but much of it remains intact. I may have been in a slightly jaded […]

Japanese School Lunch

The one and only thing Japan does well in regards to their school system is school lunch (給食, kyushoku). Each day, for a very reduced fee, elementary and most junior high schools, provide a highly balance Japanese style lunch. Each calorie and nutrient is carefully considered. Sugar and processed foods are kept to a minimum. […]

The Robotic “Ohayou!” Bell

I often joke about how the Japanese people are basically automatons, who mindlessly shuffle through their days, responding to stimuli much like one of Pavlov’s dogs, predictably and without spontaneity. Well, this actually isn’t a joke in most circumstances. Each morning I arrive at my desk around 7:45. I do this primarily so the vice […]