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10 Things About Life In Japan You Probably Don’t Know

10 Things About Life In Japan You Probably Don’t Know

Life in Japan can be challenging, but also absolutely amazing and wonderful. Having spent two years in the country of the rising sun as a kid I still remember quite a lot of things that kept me thrilled and amazed. Here are ten things about the Japanese lifestyle that you should know before moving in or traveling to this wonderful country!

1. Christmas is a lover’s holiday

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    Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Japan. Though, in recent decades it became popular to decorate everything with lights and buy fur trees, do not expect a traditional evening meal with a turkey in a family setting. Think of Christmas in Japan more like of Valentines day in the US. On December, the 24th you are expected to ask out your date to a fancy place, think of a unique date idea or some other couple activity and yes, prepare a gift, but a romantic one. In Japan, gifts are rarely exchanged among family members and friends unless that was pre-arranged earlier.

    Another peculiar Christmas tradition in Japan is going festive at KFC! It emerged after a surprisingly successful ad campaign in 1974, where a group of foreigners were desperate to find a turkey for Christmas and ended up celebrating at KFC. There’s always a huge queue in front of any KFC at Christmas as everyone are eager to grab a 40$ special meal of chicken, wine, cake and champagne. The tradition is so popular in Tokyo, that you need to pre-order your Christmas-special chicken meal and book a table in advance!

    2. Keep your trash with you

    One of the first things you notice in Japan – trash cans are impossible to find at public places! Yet, there’s not litter on the streets either and by no means you should become the one who leaves it! So, what are you expected to do with your bento pack or a melon soda can? Put it in your bag and carry it home like all the Japanese people do. Alternatively, veteran expats pointed out there are public trash cans available at McDonald’s and konbini (convenience) stores.

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    When living in Japan, you will learn a lot about handling trash. As the islands are tiny and densely-populated, it was crucial for the Japanese to focus on recycling and minimizing their impact on the nature around. That’s why one of the first things you receive when moving in your apartment is a gomi guide – an immensely detailed instruction on all-things-trash, from sorting it the right way to days when certain types of waste are collected. Caveat: if you missed throwing the appropriate type of trash on the right day, you will have to wait for another week till you can get rid of it!

    3. Driving experience is different

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      First of all, you need to get used to the fact that your steering wheel is now on the right side of the car and you are obliged to drive on the left side of the road. Also, all the speed limits are listed in kilometers, not in miles. Make sure you can convert them correctly before stepping on that gas pedal. Traffic lights are horizontal and double stacked, so it takes some time to figure out which one is working for you now. While most Japanese drivers are really accurate and attentive, there’s another road hazard – careless cyclists who often pop out unexpectedly on intersections and sometimes ride on the opposite side of the road.

      Remember, you are not allowed to drive in Japan with a US-only license. You should either have an International Driving Permit that can be retrieved from American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) back in US. However, those are valid only for short-term stays in Japan (less than 90 days). If you plan to settle in Japan for longer, you should either get driver’s license of the international standard or switch overseas driving license to Japanese ones.

      Don’t get upset if the whole thing looks difficult to you, Japan has impeccable train service that will get you to any place at no time.

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      4. Bowing isn’t as easy as you think

      You do know that the Japanese bow at practically any occasion from a greetings to apologizes. Learning to do it the naturally graceful way for a foreigner may be really tricky. Here are three main types of bows:

      • eshaku – leaning about 15-degrees in an informal setting and as a greeting.
      • keirei – 30-degree bow to show a higher level of respect say to your boss or other people who are higher than you on social scale
      • saikeirei – 45-degree bow reserved for major occasions like meeting the emperor or say when you’ve screwed up really big (think destroying someone car).

      5. Always carry an umbrella in summer

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        The rainy season (tsuyu or baiyu) takes place in most parts of Japan from early June till late July and a month earlier at Okinawa. Whereas it does not rain straight for two months in a row, the weather becomes really unexpected. You can leave the house while the sun shines bright to realize it’s raining cat and dogs in a mere hour when you are about to leave the shop. Unless you’d like to spend ¥100 each time it starts raining (or get soaking wet), do carry an umbrella all the time.

        Also, do not forget it’s impolite to enter any store or other venue with your dripping umbrella. There are special boxes installed outside where you should place it. They are never stolen, yet if you don’t have a particularly distinctive parasol, it might be accidentally taken by someone else. Surprisingly, you can find it the next day at the same box as that someone returned it for you.

        6. Policemen are really friendly and concerned (sometimes even too much)

        Japan traditionally tops the list of the safest countries in the world with extremely low crime and murder rates. Hardly anyone actually locks the doors at home and if you lost your phone or wallet at the train station, there are 99.99% chances you’ll get it back the next day with the same amount of cash. Therefore, Japanese police is busy sorting out other issues the citizens have. Say, if you got lost in Tokyo, a policemen will surely guide you back to your home or the nearest metro stations. You can chit chat with them and joke all the way back home. Also, these folks can call you a cab and lend you money if you had a rough drinking night and missed the last train.

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        However, as Karin Muller pointed out in her book “Japanland: A Year In Search of Wa” sometimes the local police friendly concerns can become too much. The local officers were really concerned about her nightly running habits, numerously talking her out of jogging around the beach after dark for no specific safety reason. But that’s kind of a cute motherly-like concern, right?

        7. There’s no need to double-check anything

        There are zero chances you will receive the wrong amount of change from a cashier. Not a single chance the item you ordered would be fake or lack any accessories that were sold with it. Japan has no tolerance for scamming or dishonesty. Not only it is highly shameful to trick anyone, but also rather costly with huge fines and legal consequences for those who’ve attempted and got caught.

        Also, bargaining isn’t a thing in Japan. All the prices are fixed even at street markets. Do not ask for a discount unless it’s already listed on the product.

        8. Night clubs are not for dancing

        It is just as odd as it sounds – you are not allowed to dance at a vast majority of night/dance clubs around Japan. Basically, any night venue in Japan has a “Please, no dancing sign” and if you get rebellious after a few shots and still decide to get low on the dance floor, you can get kicked out. According to a law adopted back in 1948 (and never changed since then), clubs with a floor space less than 66 sq/m  (710 sq ft) cannot obtain the proper license and allow customers to dance. A later law adopted in 1984 bans dancing after midnight. Real estate prices in Japan are whooping. Finding and renting a place over 66 sq/m gets extremely expensive and hard to find. Add extra fees for obtaining “dancing license” from the government and we get an absolutely broke club owner who will need to work for decades before he starts earning at least something from the venue.

        If you plan to have a night out dancing till dawn, look for clubs based outside the city or in industrial areas like ageHa based in Shin-Kiba (port district) in Tokyo. Free shuttle buses run from/to various parts of town, plus the venue’s open till late with an array of professional dancers to round out the onstage entertainment. However, there’s been a slow shift in the society and the “no dancing” law could be modified by Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

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        9. There are special sleepers to attend the bathroom

        First of all, when entering the house you are supposed to take of your shoes and either put on the sleepers proposed by the owners or walk barefoot around cozy tatami floor. Also, there’s a set of special sleepers reserved for walking in the bathroom only. Usually they are left next to the door or right in front of the entrance. You are supposed to wear them only while using the toilet and it’s extremely embarrassing to forget changing them back after you’ve finished all your business there. Also, it’s polite to put them back just the same way they were standing, so that the next person could easily slip into them.

        You’ll find the same “bathroom sleepers” in numerous restaurants and venues around Japan. Make sure you do not end up walking in them back to your table. Also, you are required to take your shoes and leave them aside before entering a fitting room at the shop. All of them have special clean podiums where you should stand barefoot.

        10. Laundry is usually done every day

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          Basically, each Japanese family does the laundry every day. By 7 am you can see an array of crispy clean clothes drying outside. Usually, it is considered inappropriate to wear any clothing item twice without washing it first. That’s a crucial point to consider if you plan to share your living space with a Japanese person.

          Featured photo credit: Moyan Brenn via flickr.com

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          Elena Prokopets

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          Last Updated on January 17, 2019

          8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

          8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

          In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

          Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

          Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

          Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

          Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

          The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

          There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

          How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

          According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

          Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

          Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

          The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

          Listen carefully:

          We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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          The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

          Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

          8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

          There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

          Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

          1. Pray Daily

          You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

          When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

          Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

          Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

          2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

          A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

          By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

          Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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          If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

          This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

          How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

          3. Smile Often

          Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

          Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

          Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

          The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

          4. Organize Your Working Desk

          A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

          When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

          Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

          Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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          5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

          I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

          Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

          What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

          6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

          God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

          I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

          I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

          7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

          You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

          How do you do that? This is my formula:

          First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

          If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

          If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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          If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

          Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

          8. Go Exercise

          Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

          The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

          You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

          12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

          The Bottom Line

          It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

          It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

          Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

          More Resources About Mindfulness

          Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

          Reference

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