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Japanese and Cool
There’s no one single reason that would be enough to justify calling Japan one of the most interesting place on earth. I remember reading once in Vice magazine something about Japanese being from another planet. Can’t remember if there was any actual proof but if you think about it, Japan is home to Manga, anime, Fruits fashion, sushi, sashimi and sukiyaki as well as square watermelons, people who dress like cartoon characters, the love hotels, 18-hour work day and oxygen capsule hotels, Hello Kitty, Gothic Lolita, karaoke festivals… Then there’s Japanese ice cream with flavours ranging from seaweed to goat cheese to horse ice cream that apparently has chunks of actual horseflesh in it. Sure, not so ”cool” but where else would you find it?
If you have any friends who went to Japan to teach English – and who doesn’t, really? – you’ve probably heard lots of funny stories about doing something inappropriate because of a lack of knowledge of very specific Japanese manners. A friend who went to Japan couple of years ago was a known ”hugger”. She hugged everyone from small children to grown-up strange men she just had a nice talk with… She loved the physical contact and not being aware of Japanese aversion to excessive physical (and eye) contact she made a lot of people embarrassed and uncomfortable by wrapping her loving arms around them.
Or perhaps you’ve heard of the interesting tradition of exchanging business cards. When you get a business card in Japan, you should offer your card to the other person with both hands and make sure that the card is presented right side up to them. You receive cards with both hands also and you have to make sure you look at the card, not just stuff it in your pocket without admiring it first. This is just one of the many examples of how cultural traditions in Japan are also much different than what we encounter in a Western world. In Japan, you remove shoes before sitting down to a (usually beautiful and intricate) meal. In the Western world it is a genuine miracle if a man removes his baseball hat before chomping down on a hamburger.
Japan is a mix of the traditional and the futuristic. Japanese incorporate the Western world but interpret it in their own way. It would be impossible to describe all of the things that make Japan such a unique country and why some non-Japanese joke that Japanese are out of this world. Perhaps one of the examples that could illustrate, to some extent, how to perceive this country is Roger Shimomura’s work. A Japanese artist he uses images that are aesthetic and political comparison between contemporary America and traditional Japan and between old and new Japan. So you’ll have images of Superman being mounted by a geisha, Pokemon jumping happily on top of a man’s thigh in the traditional shunga painting (old Japanese erotica) or confused-looking samurai giving V peace sign or giving thumbs up.