Things to take / Thing to leave #1

Here’s the first of my 5 entries on “What I can do with and what I could do without” on my life in Japan.  One note need be said: this is purely subjective and pertains only to my observations and experiences.

Thing I can do with:  Conversation Skills and Style

In general, Japanese people seem to be great conversationalists.  First, they really enjoy talking about the weather and food.  I’d say 75% of the conversations you hear in a day center around these two topics.  A simple conversation about the weather might go on for 15 or 20 minutes.  This means one needn’t bring the heat to kindle a good conversational fire. 

Much more so than people back home Japanese people seem very at ease talking to newly met people.  Often times when you’re out and about it’s impossible to tell who are lifetime friends and who just met for the first time.  For example, I made a post a while back about a Hakuba trip I took with a teacher and his family.  Of the 9 people on that trip only 4 had ever met before.  Still, from the second people initially greeted each other there was non-stop chatter and camaraderie the entire time.  For an entire weekend.  They might be tremendously shy and timid to approach people, but once in there Japanese people can hang with the best of the gregarious bunch.

Just like this. Every time.

Just like this. Every time.


Something I personally appreciate is the style with which Japanese people converse.  Simply put, they don’t fear silence.  In America (perhaps in the west or in English-speaking countries as well) silence is like the drunk cross-dressing uncle with whom you don’t want to be seen in the same room.  It’s treated with as vitriol as polio in the 50s and exterminated with as much ferocity.  How many times have you experienced someone just saying the stupidest crap ever muttered just for the sake of breaking silence?  Think of how many people refuse second dates because there was “too much silence” on the first one.  Japanese people don’t suffer this phobia.  To them silence is just a point in the conversation to reflect about what you’ve talked about or what to talk about next.  I really appreciate this aspect as I tend to be an extremely silent conversationalist.  My friend B and I used to go out for drinks back home and in the 3 – 4 hours we’d be out we could go an hour with barely saying a word.  I appreciated that he knew silence was not a bad thing, and I appreciate the Japanese know this, too.

Thing I could do without:Coldness

I have no actual proof of this but I have to believe Japanese people are the coldest people on the planet.  I’ve posted about this before.  The other day it was 70 F (21 C according to my phone) and everyone had on sweaters, a few with a winter jacket, walking around saying “it’s cold! it’s cold!”  Now, maybe I’m insane, but this is insane.

Maybe I mentioned this before but I never heard the words “summer sweater” used together until I came to Japan, where it is a staple of dress in August when temperatures consistently reach 95+ F (35? C). 

The temperature in this picture is approximately “oven”.

This is probably exacerbated a bit since I’m from a very cold winter state but this is extreme.  So why does this bug me so much?  I think because I feel at some point coldness is no longer a subjective feeling but a qualitative fact.  2 people may disagree on whether or not 65 F is time to hang up any long sleeve article of clothing or not, and that’s fine.  However, when people are still dressing in jeans and sweatshirts when it’s 90 F something is wrong.  Also, as I explained before I think the fact Japanese people need to express everything at all times plays a part.  Hearing “it’s cold!” 100 times a day when it’s 90 F and I’m sweating just from existing starts to wear thin.

And yes, my pictures are shamelessly ripped from the net.