Day 9, April 7 (Cultural Observations)

    This morning we got up, brushed our teeth, looked outside……

Just kidding :) I know no one really wants to hear about our lives in that much detail.  It feels like we’re really getting settled now and I’m sure our days will be less eventful from this point on.  I’ll stop writing in the blog daily for now, but I’ll make sure to document any other interesting events as they come up.  In our first week, we’ve noticed a lot of things about Japan that are different from Canada. 

The following is a list of interesting observations:
Drive on opposite side

What’s different in Japan.

- People get to and from places by walking, bicycle or underground subway.  
- People drive on the opposite side of the road, and when a pedestrian is walking towards you, remember to hang to the left rather than the right.
- Bicycles share the sidewalk with pedestrians, so you have to get used to dodging bicycles while walking anywhere.   All the bicycles have baskets in the front.  
- At stores, everyone pays with cash rather than plastic.
- There are vending machines outside, and they’re all over the place.  They sell mostly drinks, but also alcohol, and cigarettes!
Vending machines everywhere
- The streets are narrow, the cars are smaller, and the people are smaller too.
- There are so many old ladies walking around that are under 4 feet tall!
- Many people wear white face masks that cover the nose and mouth and are attached by elastic bands around the ears.  At least 1 in 10 people wear them when traveling the subways, and when walking around outside.  I think it’s to protect against germs.
- Often, the signs that are translated into English aren’t grammatically correct.  Ex) Toast of the ham and cheese.
- White people, or people of a nationality other than Japanese are rare, especially when you get away from central downtown Kyoto where the tourists are.
Narrow roads, no sidewalks,
walking is the norm.
- Most of the time when you ask for directions or where to find things, the person you’re asking won’t know any English at all or only very limited words.  We find we’re more successful communicating with our limited Japanese vocabulary.
- Everyone is big on recycling here.  Bins are specified for plastic, paper, etc in every store and food place.  
- There are no public garbage cans, yet the streets are extremely clean.  Haven’t figured that one out yet.
- All the women are into looks and fashion.  Hardly anyone has natural black hair, they all dye it this light brown colour.  High heels are all the rage.  It’s rare to see a woman in flat shoes.
- Everyone is very helpful and extremely polite.  
- People bow when buying things, selling things, and greeting one another.  No one shakes hands or hugs.
Japanese squat toilets (face left)
- Smoking is more common here than in the west, more so with men than women, but there are smoking sections in many restaurants.
- All stairs go up at a much steeper incline than in Canada, probably a full 45 degrees.  In Canada, the building code is something like 30 degrees.
- The traditional toilets are squat style, basically just holes in the ground, and you encounter them in many places.  The sinks in the washrooms give cold water only.
- The weather is unpredictable here.  Thunder storms come and go quickly, and it doesn’t rain, it pours.   

- Umbrellas are sold in every corner store, and there are baskets for people to leave their umbrellas in when they enter a building or restaurant.
Public phone

These are just the things off the top of my head.  Being in a different country sure makes you realize that the way we do things in Canada isn't necessarily the way people do things in other parts of the world.  An obvious observation maybe, but its kind of cool when you actually get to see that.
Day 8 (Applying for courses/household items)<<<Previously                     Continue reading>>>Restaurant Food Displays

Ben and Kailey lived in Japan not too long ago and also visit Kyoto every year.

Ben is developing a Japanese Practice site. It's current main functions are:
1. a Flash Card system that features a leveling system where you must answer correctly and "level up"to gain new cards, receive money and buy new decks - anime decks included!
2. Fill in the Blank system where you can choose to focus on particle practice or verb practice etc.
Japanese Practice Blog is here. Check out the Japanese Practice site here


  1. Hi Kailey,

    Hope you're enjoying Japan! I lived over there for two years and its great! I remember noticing all of the above things too! The masks are actually because those people are sick and they don't want to get others sick. If you tell them that people in the West don't do that, they will think you crazy.

    Have fun! Be sure to do some Karaoke while your there. The Japanese do it best.

    Chris Leeson

    1. Hey Chris,

      Yeah we are still enjoying Japan. I can't wait to talk to you about it in person sometime when I get back to victoria. Also, It'll be cool to try talking to you in Japanese:) Surprisingly enough, I have yet to do Karaoke, but I definitely want to sometime! Take care.


  2. Dear Kailey and Ben:
    I laughed, I cried, I said prayers of thanks for your ingenuity, resilience and survival in what seems like an overwhelming amount of frustrations and daring dos.
    Thank God things have levelled out a bit with some warm, fuzzy moments and home comforts. Not like home. We never dreamed it would be that trying. Just to live is a blessing. But it can only get better.
    You've got what it takes. Go for it and Congratulations.
    Grandma MacK


Post a Comment