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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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          Published on November 14, 2018

          Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

          Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

          With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

          For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

          In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

          Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

          Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

          It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

          For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

          Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

          Symptoms of Fatigue

          Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

          • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
          • mental blocks
          • lack of motivation
          • headache
          • dizziness
          • muscle weakness
          • slowed reflexes and responses
          • impaired decision-making and judgement
          • moodiness, such as irritability
          • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
          • reduced immune system function
          • blurry vision
          • short-term memory problems
          • poor concentration
          • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

          Causes of Fatigue

          The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

          • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
          • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
          • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
          • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

          Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

          Medical Causes of Fatigue

          If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

          Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

          Anemia

          Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

          Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

          There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

          Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

          Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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          This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

          Diabetes

          Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

          Sleep Apnea

          Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

          Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

          Thyroid disease

          An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

          Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

          • Lack of sleep
          • Too much sleep 
          • Alcohol and drugs 
          • Sleep disturbances 
          • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
          • Poor diet 

          Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

          • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
          • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
          • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
          • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

          Psychological Causes of Fatigue

          Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

          • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
          • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
          • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

          How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

          Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

          1. Tell The Truth

          Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

          To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

          Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

          The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

          One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

          • How you feel
          • What time of day it is
          • What may have contributed to your fatigue
          • How your mind and body reacts

          This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

          2. Reduce Your Commitments

          When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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          If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

          When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

          Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

          3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

          If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

          Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

          If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

          Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

          Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

          4. Express More Gratitude

          Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

          It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

          Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

          5. Focus On Yourself

          Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

          There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

          But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

          We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

          6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

          Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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          Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

          The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

          Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

          7. Take a Power Nap

          When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

          Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

          This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

          8. Take More Exercise

          The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

          Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

          The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

          You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

          9. Get More Quality Sleep

          To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

          Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

          My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

          10. Improve Your Diet

          Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

          Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

          On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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          To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

          Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

          Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

          11. Manage Your Stress Levels

          Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

          When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

          Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

          My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

          12. Get Hydrated

          Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

          Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

          If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

          The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

          The Bottom Line

          These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

          If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

          Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
          [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
          [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
          [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
          [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
          [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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