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Only-in-America

10 Dec

I’ve lived in Japan for most of my life now, and I have only been back to visit America a few times. In fact, my most recent visit there was over ten years ago ( Click here to read about the reverse-culture-shock I experienced on that trip.)

I was thinking about some things that seem normal to most Americans…but are actually unique to America and kinda odd to people who don’t live there.

1. Flags everywhere / “Pledge of Allegiance”
Every country flies their national colors. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the American flag is flown everywhere, everyday in the U.S. Even car dealerships and in school classrooms.
Speaking of school classrooms, American children stand with their hand on their heart, facing the flag in the classroom, and recite and pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag.
A bit like North Korea.

pledge

2. “Sales tax” –
By this I mean, the price shown on the products in stores in America is the pre-sales tax price.
To be honest though, it was the same way in Japan when I first arrived here. At that time, sales tax here was 3% and the after-tax price wasn’t listed on the price-tags. (Just before I came to Japan, there was no sales tax here at all!)
But in 1997, the law was changed that all stores in Japan must show the after-tax price on their products (the sales tax went up to 5% that year too. (Currently, it’s 8%)).

3. “Toilet stalls” –
When people from other countries visit America, the public restrooms are quite a culture shock! The doors are too small! It’s disturbing when you’re using a public toilet but don’t feel like you have privacy.

public-bathroom

4. “Tipping” –
There is no tipping in Japan. When I visited America, I was never sure who to tip or how much! I had to check my guidebook. Waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel staff, bartenders, et al. It felt like, no matter how mediocre the service, I had to tip everyone! And after tips were factored in, the cost for many things in America were actually higher than in Japan.

5. “Guns” –
Besides the police and military, there are virtually no gun owners in Japan.
All of the gun-related violence in America that is reported in the news is sad and shocking.

6. “Alcohol rules” –
In America, beer can’t be enjoyed outdoors in public. And there are hours (and even certain days) that stores don’t sell alcohol.
Why?

There are beer vending machines in Japan.

I’m not putting America down.
I’m just pointing out some peculiarities about the culture of the country of my birth. Every country has them…and sometimes it takes stepping outside the country and experiencing a different culture to see them.

What are some unique cultural peculiarities about America, Japan or any other country that you’ve noticed?

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Spring Blossom Fragrance Beer

16 Mar

At the start of each season in Japan, the major domestic (Japanese) beer brewers offer special beers related to the season.

I just bought Suntory’s new 発泡酒 (malt liquor beer) for this spring, called 「春咲く薫り」(“Spring Blossom Fragrance”).

image

春咲く薫り(はるさくかおり)

I like it. Tastes good!

image

Old beer posters

5 Nov

Here are a couple of retro Kirin Beer posters that I saw yesterday at an 居酒屋 (Japanese izakaya restaurant).

taisho15

「大正15年」 (1926) キリンビール (Kirin Beer) poster.

showa11

「昭和10年」 (1935) キリンビール (Kirin Beer) poster.

Compare those with a more modern Japanese beer poster:

Tokyo Marathon and spring beer

26 Feb

The 2012 Tokyo Marathon was held today.

Twenty-nine year old Michael Kipyego of Kenya, Africa came in first place with a time of 2 hrs 07.37 seconds.
藤原新 (Arata Fujiwara) came in second just a few hundredths of a seconds later.

Arata Fujiwara of Japan and Michael Kipyego of Kenya show their silver and gold medals, respectively.

I don’t enjoy running…or even jogging, for that matter. So I can’t imagine running a 42 kilometer (26.22 miles) marathon!

Do you like to run or jog? Have you ever run a marathon? The Tokyo Marathon?

++++++

Now that it’s getting closer to the end of winter and 花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing”) season will be here before long, many Japanese brewers have begun selling beers in cans decorated with 桜 (Cherry Blossoms).

Winter beer

26 Oct

Beer brewers in Japan are always offering special beers. One of the most common is season beers for spring, autumn, Cherry Blossom season, and starting at this time of year…winter beer.

Around this time last year, I bought Kirin’s winter beer…and today, I bought a case of Asahi 「冬の贈り物」 (“Winter Gift”) beer.

(Actually a 発泡酒 (low-malt liquor)...but tastes like lager beer to me)

Do beer brewers in your country sell “seasonal beers”? Do brewers outside of Japan sell 発泡酒 (low-malt liquor) that is similar in taste and appearance to lager beer…but cheaper?
Have you ever tried a Japanese 発泡酒 (low-malt liquor)? What do you think of them?

Beer posters

23 Oct

I’m sure that many countries have beer posters and advertisements that feature pretty women.

I remember the Budweiser Beer “Bud Girls” ads in America.

I remember this "Bud Girls" poster from the '80s in America

Budweiser Beer has "Bud Girls" in Japan, too.

It’s interesting to see how advertising changes and evolves over time in a particular culture.
Pre-World War II beer posters are quite fun to look at. They’re so different from more modern advertisements. Sometimes Japanese 居酒屋 (pubs) and restaurants will have some of these old, retro beer posters on their walls. I like it when I go to a place that has them.

Old "Kirin Beer" poster

Another old 「キリンビール」 ("Kirin Beer") poster

Old 「エビスビール」 ("Ebisu Beer") poster

This one says 「サッポロビール」 ("Sapporo Beer") written from right to left.

When I first came to Japan, it was very common to see beer posters in Japan that showed girls in bikinis holding a mug of beer.

Nowadays beer posters with girls in bikinis can still be seen…but it seems to be more of the trend to have the models in the beer posters be more “conservatively dressed”.

Beer poster for 「サッポロ生ビール」 (Sapporo Draft Beer).

Beer posters are interesting, especially how they’ve changed over time…but what really matters is that the beer is cold!

Autumn is coming

9 Sep

The weather is still hot and humid in Tokyo now, but some signs of Autumn (秋 (Aki) in Japanese) can be seen now that it’s September.

The leaves haven’t begun to change color yet. That’s called 紅葉 (Kouyou) in Japanese and it does happen in late October or so and it’s very beautiful…especially to someone like me who came to Japan from Florida where the leaves on trees are green all year round.

The signs of Autumn that can be see every year in Japan at this time of year are some foods and drinks that can be purchased now.

All of the major domestic beer brewers in Japan offer special seasonal brews at the turn of each of the seasons. Right now, they’re all offering their various Autumn beers.
I currently have in my house a case of Suntory 「秋楽」 (“Aki-raku“) beer.

Suntory "Aki-raku" autumn brew with 6% alcohol!

This beer’s name translates to “Comfortable Autumn”.
Kirin Beer offers a beer in a similar can called 「秋味」 (“Aki-aji“), which means “The Flavor of Autumn”.

Another sign that autumn is near is when McDonalds in Japan offers their special, popular 「月見バーガー」 (“Tsukimi Burger“).
This burger is only available for a limited-time each year in autumn.  And it’s currently on the menu again.

The "Tsukimi Burger" is currently available at McDonalds Japan

The Tsukimi Burger has an egg on it because the egg looks like a full-moon in the sky.
You may wonder what an egg resembling the moon has to do with anything…

But you’d need to understand that for centuries, 月見 (tsukimi)…which means “moon watching”…has been a popular autumn past time in Japan.
月見, autumn moon-gazing parties, are popular and McDonalds capitalized on that and offered a temporary burger for the occasion every year.

Another recent sign that autumn is approaching in Japan is the increasing number of stores that put up Halloween decorations.
When I came to Japan in 1990, Halloween was unheard of here…but, recently, it’s become much more well-known. But it’s still not really celebrated. Going “Trick ‘R Treating” around the neighborhood isn’t done here, and private homes aren’t decorated. But many stores capitalize on the western holiday and put up Halloween decorations in an attempt to draw customers.

Are there unique customs in your country in the transition between seasons?