Of Course, Japan Isn't All The Same!

Illustration for article titled Of Course, Japan Isn't All The Same!

To: Totilo
From: Bashcraft
RE: The Last Magic-Marker Day Note


I must say Totilo. Your handwriting looks like a serial killer. :/

Right now, I am watching Himitsu no Kenmin Show. The program is about all the differences in various parts of Japan. So stuff that people think is "normal" to people, let's say, Nara Prefecture is totally bizarre to people in Ehime Prefecture. The show does play on certain stereotypes and is not without its critics, but still, it is interesting.

The food people eat varies slightly from prefecture to prefecture, the language differs, customs are different. (Of course, it's like that in pretty much any country on Earth!)

A good example would be seaweed. In Tokyo, people eat unseasoned nori (dried seaweed), but in Osaka people eat seasoned nori. I can't imagine eating unseasoned nori, because I've been eating seasoned nori my entire life in Japan! And when I eat unseasoned nori in Tokyo, I think it's rather bland. But people in Tokyo think unseasoned nori is best because it does not distract from the flavor of whatever you are eating nori with. However, people in Osaka think that unseasoned nori tastes terrible.

The reason why the nori is so different between the cities is that many years ago nori from Tokyo was transported to Osaka to be sold. And seasoning was added so the nori would keep. Hence, the flavoring!

As noted by the show, other differences between Osaka and Tokyo:

• The languages are slightly different, using different words and different pronunciation.
• When lining up on a moving escalator, people in Osaka stand on the right, leaving an open path for people to pass on the left. In Tokyo, people stand on the left and leave an open path on the right. The reason for this is rumored to be related that Osaka has historically been a city of merchants, while Tokyo was a city of the samurai. (Not sure if I buy the reason, but it's interesting!)
• In Osaka, McDonalds is "Makkudo" and in Tokyo, it's just "Makku".
• When people pay for things in Osaka, they sometimes say "thank you", while customers in Tokyo don't.
• When displaying fish, in Osaka, many fish sellers lay out the fish vertically (even with vertical price tags!), but in Tokyo, many fish sellers lay out the fish horizontally.
• Haggling over price is part of Osaka culture — people dig it. The same isn't really true of Tokyo.
• If you say bang to Osaka people, they will pretend to be shot. In Tokyo, they won't!
• In Osaka, people say add "chan" and "san" to food. For example, ame (candy) is "ame-chan". This isn't true in Tokyo!
• People in Osaka are funny. People in Tokyo are not. (Kidding! Well, sort of.)


The cities are about the same distance as Los Angeles and San Francisco, which are also two cities that are close, but very, very different.

Differences are fun!


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Vilhelm Smari

Having spent my first year in Japan in Okayama, which is in the west part of the country, saying "thank you" to the store clerk is a habit I cannot get rid of even after living in Tokyo for over two years now. I had a discussion with my Japanese friends about this a while back, maybe 6 months after I started Uni in Tokyo, and there seemed to be a unanimous consent that they say thank you in the western part of the country but not in Tokyo.

"I never say thank you," said a girl from Tokyo. "I just think it's wrong."

"Really?" replied a girl from Osaka. "I always say thank you, even in Tokyo, but I have noticed that people don't seem to do it here."

I will probably keep thanking for the services as it's one of the habits I deem "good." I think it improves my image as a "courteous foreigner." :P

As for the escalators, in Okayama people just stand wherever they want to when riding the escalator. No one is ever in a hurry during the day, anyway, so it doesn't bother anyone if the escalator is clogged. Apparantly people stand on the right in the morning, though, or that's what I have been told.