I found this nice list of ‘strange customs of Japan’ on the GenkiJACS blog (the school in Japan I will study at). The students could write down anything they thought strange or special. Some points are very interesting, other strange and of course some are just funny. In between the brackets are the comments the writer made, someone who already lives in Japan for a very long time.
1. Special slippers just for the toilet.
2. Shop staff who follow you out of the store and bow to you as you walk away.
3. The streets aren’t named, just occasionally the intersections! (Even taxi drivers have problems finding their way around!)
4. No paper towels anywhere, and some restrooms don’t even have soap!
5. Women-only wagons on the train.
6. In most department stores, it is forbidden to drink or eat.
7. Store staff shout “irasshaimase!” even when nobody is around. (いらっしゃいませ！ is the equivalent of the English word “welcome!”, and traditionally in Japan store staff say it to customers entering a store. However, they also shout it at random intervals too, for some reason.)
8. EXPENSIVE PUBLIC TRANSPORT! (Yes, Fukuoka is quite bad for this, although recently 100-yen tickets on the bus and subway have been increasing.)
9. Where are the trashcans??? (For a very clean country, there are extremely few trashcans around. Part of this is that people don’t eat on the streets, of course…)
10. “Condoms” for wet umbrellas… (In most larger stores, a dispenser by the door gives out umbrella-shaped bags to make sure your umbrella doesn’t drip everywhere.)
11. Where is all the litter, since there are no trashcans??? (Somebody found a theme, I think.)
12. People in clothing stores insist you take your shoes off before fitting, and want you to put your shirt over your current one…
13. Timed parking meters for bicycles … Funny! (Fukuoka ranked number one in Japan for the number of abandoned bicycles a few years ago, so there is now a big effort to improve bicycle parking in the city center. The main thrust of this is installing parking meters, at 100 yen a time.
14. Filling out questionnaires after a punk show. (Doesn’t sound very punk…)
15. Wiping of dog after it eats, pees or poos.
16. Sales person made us stay for tea, cookie, and then kneeled for my $ (￥).
17. All the plastic food displayed in the windows of restaurants.
18. Women are doing their make-up while riding a bike, or shaving eyebrows on the train.
19.Actually, the friendliness of shop staff, waiters, etc. Try to find this in Europe or the US.
20. Women in beautiful high heeled shoes but actually dragging them with every step, totally taking away the effect.
21: Japanese gear shift! (We don’t know exactly what the student was surprised about – are they very different from those in other countries? Almost all cars in Japan are automatic, but also allow manual switching.)
22: Traditional Japanese bath (You are expected to wash your body before you get in the bath, and everyone shares the same water.)
23: Japan is the #1 importer of reggae. (It’s true that reggae, and hip-hop, are very popular in Japan – there are always posters and fliers around the downtown area for concerts.)
24: Girls stopping dead in their tracks to yell かわいい！ (“kawaii”, or “cute”)
25: Overly complicated toilets (Many Western-style toilets in Japan include heated seats with temperature control, adjustable bidet functions, sound effects, and more.)
26: Customs has a mascot. (Sometimes it seems like almost all companies and offices have a cute cartoon mascot – even the tax office puts little animals on their documents…)
27: Everyone assumes I’m American. (Japanese people do have an unfortunate tendency to ask foreigners “Are you American?” This can be very annoying for non-US people.)
28: Bus drivers turn off the bus during red lights. (This is most likely to help reduce pollution. There is a fairly large campaign called “Stop the idling”.)
29: and my friend told me there’s a sign on the bus saying that the exhaust is good for the environment!
30: People saying えええええええええええええええ (“eeeeeeeeeeeeee”, an expression of surprise. Usually said with a rising intonation).
31: Public buses have no priority over other cars, and no separate lanes.
32: No napkins even in good restaurants. (Although, to be fair, they do give you a wet towel instead.)
33: I went to a Japanese party and they were separated into 先輩 (“senpai”, senior) and 後輩 (“kouhai”, junior).
34: Bike riders wear gloves to protect themselves from the sun, but no helmets!
35: Why do so many people hand out packets of tissues but it is rude to blow your nose in public?
36: Hand basin on top of toilet cistern. (This is often considered a case of good design – the clean water going into the toilet cistern can be used to wash your hands after using the toilet.)
37: Little flashing lights on kerbs and junctions at night.
38: Riding bikes with high heels.
39: Look! There’s another 外人 (“gaijin”, foreigner)! (Yes, foreigners are still somewhat rare in Fukuoka, but the number is increasing all the time!)
40: No laughing in the movie theater. (This might be because subtitles aren’t as funny as the original movie, but in general Japanese people are pretty quiet at movies – even scary ones.)
41: Swatting flies by clapping your hands.
42: Girls shave their arms and eyebrows as well as their legs.
43: There’s two settings on the toilet handle, 小 (“shou”, small) and 大 (“dai”, big).
44: The public transport system – it works!
45: There are billions of vending machines!
46: My host father took off his pants after dinner because he was too hot! (We’ve seen this in several places, actually, including teachers at a high school unzipping their pants when hot.)