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Is there a thing called "Japanese claustrophobia"?

Is there a thing called "Japanese claustrophobia"?

Old Dec 3, 12, 10:20 pm
  #46  
 
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
When I hear stories like this I honestly wonder whether I live in the same country as these other people do. Perhaps this sort of thing was more common 20 or 30 years ago, but I can't imagine that anyone of room-temperature intelligence is still stuck in the mindset that foreigners don't speak Japanese, especially given all the Japanese-speaking foreigners who appear on TV these days.
Have to agree with this. The overwhelming emotion I get when I speak Japanese to someone who doesn't know me is "thank kami-sama for that, now I don't have to dredge up the half-dozen long forgotten English phrases I learnt in high school". I have never had someone refuse to speak Japanese to me or not realise I was speaking Japanese to them. I'm not doubting it happens, it has just never happened to me.
As for the OP's plastic bag problem I believe the magic words are ”シールだけ”. Works for me but ymmv.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 10:59 pm
  #47  
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
When I hear stories like this I honestly wonder whether I live in the same country as these other people do. Perhaps this sort of thing was more common 20 or 30 years ago, but I can't imagine that anyone of room-temperature intelligence is still stuck in the mindset that foreigners don't speak Japanese, especially given all the Japanese-speaking foreigners who appear on TV these days.
Same here. Even over the past 6-7 years, I've noticed small but significant changes in how (non-Asian) foreigners are treated.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 1:31 am
  #48  
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Originally Posted by hailstorm View Post
That's part of the subtle hints given to visitors. There is no public garbage can (except in certain areas of extreme congestion) because, in public, you are not supposed to be doing something that warrants the need of depositing garbage in transit....
Hey, I was told there were hundreds of thousands of public garbage cans, it's just that they were all attached to bicycle handlebars.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 2:26 am
  #49  
 
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On the issue of garbage cans, there is a somewhat interesting Wikipedia article in Japanese:

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%81%...81%BF%E7%AE%B1

It notes that there is a law about how many garbage cans have to be available to the public, but it is expensive to maintain public garbage cans in Japan, especially because there is no incentive for users to sort their trash, so whoever picks it up ends up having to re-sort it. Most municipalities deal with the law by asking convenience stores and railway operators to let the public use their trash cans. On top of that there is the fairly well-known fact that many crowded areas such as subway stations lost their trash cans following the sarin attacks in Tokyo years ago.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 2:49 am
  #50  
 
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Originally Posted by valve bouncer View Post
I have never had someone refuse to speak Japanese to me or not realise I was speaking Japanese to them. I'm not doubting it happens, it has just never happened to me.
Once, on a Northern Line platform at Kings Cross, a Japanese businessman asked me for directions. He was really struggling. He needed to get to the Circle Line, but few English people would have recognized his pronunciation of those words. I did him a favor and gave him directions in Japanese. He happily set off in the right direction. I got on my train. The doors closed.

That's the moment when he suddenly realized "Gee. That guy's English was easy to understand... Hang on. Did he speak to me in Japa...." I'll never forget the look on his face. I felt like Charnier looking out at Popeye Doyle. Priceless.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 7:52 am
  #51  
 
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I'll see jib's story and raise him this one:

I was riding my bicycle through Asakusa one night on the way home from work. I stopped at a red light at the main intersection by the river crossing—the one above the Ginza Line, which is ordinarily swamped with tourists.

A completely nondescript Japanese salaryman, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, came up to me and politely asked for help finding his business hotel—without even bothering to ask first whether I spoke Japanese, mind you. He had a printed-out map but had no idea where he was or which way he was supposed to go. I pointed out where we were and which way he should go, and he thanked me and left.

I spent the rest of the ride home wondering why the hell he asked me, Whitey McViking, in one of the most clueless tourist-infested parts of Tokyo, and to be honest it still keeps me up sometimes...
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Old Dec 4, 12, 8:27 am
  #52  
 
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Originally Posted by Pickles View Post
Fellas, it's all very simple. Mrs. Pickles and I have concluded years ago that the Japanese are the weirdest people in the planet. They have developed their own weird ways of doing things over centuries, and that's what they're like. Accept that fact, don't try to change it, realize that the collective neurosis that is Japan is part comedy, part anthropological field study, and just go with the flow. And thank god you're not one of them. Works wonders.
I agree with this advice completely.

I had an interesting experience today. I had to get on the JR Takarazuka line (where there was an accident 7 years ago - the building, complete with all sorts or damage, is still there) and, as the train was crowded, sat down in the priority seats, none of which were occupied by people in need (a bunch of HS kids and random adults). The train left the station and I started dozing off, only to hear the guy next to me start talking on his phone. This went on for a station or two and I was dozing off again. I was starting to get a bit confused as to whether or not I was on a farm on a train as the guy on the other side was chewing gum and smacking his lips like a cow. The guy on the other side took another phone call and then the woman across from me (who had been there the entire time) talk about how rude I was for sitting in the priority seats (and she was next to about 4 HS students). When I got off I told her that everyone could hear her and she was really rude.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 9:28 am
  #53  
 
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Speaking of rudeness on trains....

Some time ago (quite a long time ago actually), I was riding on a train and not feeling so well. It being a kaisoku, it did not stop for a long time and finally I ended up puking on the floor of the train.

An elderly Japanese woman sitting across the aisle got up, walked across to me, and offered me the handkerchief she had tucked in the folds or her kimono. It was one of the most touching acts of kindness I've ever experienced.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 10:41 am
  #54  
 
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
I'll see jib's story and raise him this one:

I was riding my bicycle through Asakusa one night on the way home from work. I stopped at a red light at the main intersection by the river crossing—the one above the Ginza Line, which is ordinarily swamped with tourists.

A completely nondescript Japanese salaryman, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, came up to me and politely asked for help finding his business hotel—without even bothering to ask first whether I spoke Japanese, mind you. He had a printed-out map but had no idea where he was or which way he was supposed to go. I pointed out where we were and which way he should go, and he thanked me and left.

I spent the rest of the ride home wondering why the hell he asked me, Whitey McViking, in one of the most clueless tourist-infested parts of Tokyo, and to be honest it still keeps me up sometimes...
The bike blew your cover.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 6:04 pm
  #55  
 
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Originally Posted by goinggoinggone View Post
The bike blew your cover.
Perhaps, but since when do you bug someone on a bike for directions...?

acregal's anecdote above reminds me of another bike-related story. My house is near a major arterial road where they recently added bicycle lanes to the sidewalks. There is also a supermarket on this road where they bring in new produce every morning around rush hour. I was headed to the metro station one morning and the pedestrian side of the sidewalk was cluttered with carts and boxes for the supermarket, as well as some old people doddering along, so I ducked around a lamppost through the bike lane for a moment, for lack of any room to pass on the pedestrian side. One of the old farts on the sidewalk immediately tugged on the sleeve of my coat and impatiently pointed at the bike lane sign. I sighed "bakayaro" and went on with my day. (FWIW, cyclists seem to observe the presence of the bike lane only when it suits them...)

That said -- again, I think a lot of the reason foreigners label Japanese people as weird/crazy is that there are simply so many people in such a tight space here that you can't avoid interactions with weird/crazy people from time to time. No different than, say, New York or London, where many people go through culture shock even if they are from the same country. Where I come from, you generally deal with weird/crazy people from the isolated safety of your car on the freeway.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 6:24 pm
  #56  
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
That said -- again, I think a lot of the reason foreigners label Japanese people as weird/crazy is that there are simply so many people in such a tight space here that you can't avoid interactions with weird/crazy people from time to time. No different than, say, New York or London, where many people go through culture shock even if they are from the same country. Where I come from, you generally deal with weird/crazy people from the isolated safety of your car on the freeway.
Personally, I think it a miracle that I can get on a crammed packed train and expect that, over 98% of the time, something weird/crazy will not happen. I don't think that the percentage would be nearly that high in any Western country.
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Old Dec 5, 12, 8:30 am
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Originally Posted by hailstorm View Post
Personally, I think it a miracle that I can get on a crammed packed train and expect that, over 98% of the time, something weird/crazy will not happen. I don't think that the percentage would be nearly that high in any Western country.
On my morning train to work, there's one crazy guy and one disabled girl with her mom (they take the women only car, but I see them on the stairs). The crazy guy walks around the train and into the women only car. Sometimes he shouts stuff and this obviously tends to scare people off. One day he was shouting 「何もない」 at the top of his lungs.
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Old Dec 5, 12, 8:56 am
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OP has a pretty good problem to have tbh. They are treating you as Japanese while a lot of "more Japanese" foreigners will never get that kind of acceptance.

Anyway I can kind of understand the self consciousness. You look Japanese but can't do some of the most basic things expected of you. So people sometimes look at you like "... is wrong with this guy" which probably wouldn't happen if you had blond hair and blue eyes (just an example). I have family in China and Japan and I get that feeling as well in both countries.
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Old Dec 10, 12, 12:19 am
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Originally Posted by Scifience
As everyone else has said, it takes time to get used to the differences. Culture shock is a [insert expletive of choice].

<snip>

Honestly, the trick (at least for me) was to simply come to terms with the fact that it is never really possible for a foreigner to completely assimilate into Japanese society, realise that I will always stand out as "different," and just stop caring so much.

<snip>

It'll get better over time and Japan will start to seem more normal and comfortable.
"It'll get better over time and Japan will start to seem more normal and comfortable." -- unless, of course, it doesn't.

Culture shock is a well understood phenomenon. It can be considered an 'acute' psychological reaction. But there is another aspect to this that is not so frequently noted or discussed, which might be described as the 'chronic' form. I call it 'culture fatigue'.

I'm not talking about Japan specifically, as I've never spent any extended time there. But I think my principle applies universally. When an expat (or immigrant) makes the effort, over a period of years, to assimilate into the local culture -- learning the language, adopting the customs, even converting to the religion -- it can be an extremely disheartening realisation when it finally dawns on you that all your emotional investment has been futile and you will never really be accepted as one of them. It is then, much more than at the beginning when everything is strange, that you truly wonder, 'What am I doing here?'.

This obviously does not happen to everyone but neither is it unusual.

cheers,

Henry
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Old Dec 10, 12, 1:14 am
  #60  
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As for me, I neither tried to become Japanese, nor stubbornly clung to all of my gaijinitee (Is that a word? If not, I claim it and all royalties afforded) I established a new normal. It wouldn't work back home, it wouldn't work for a Japanese here. But it seems to work for me here, so I go with it.
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