MIXI vs Facebook

I’m going to assume that most of the readers from America have at least heard of Facebook but I’ll explain the basics of it just in case you’ve no idea what’s going on. Facebook is a social networking internet site where you can add friends who’ve also gotten a Facebook. On Facebook you can chat with friends, post or send messages to friends, upload and tag pictures, and play games. MIXI is the Japanese equivalent to Facebook. Mixi, unlike Facebook, is only available to the Japanese and is largely used on cell phones as opposed to browsers on desktop computers like Facebook. Now not being a Japanese citizen there’s not a whole lot I can tell you about MIXI from experience because 1) I don’t speak Japanese and 2) You are required to be invited by someone who also has a MIXI and also to have a recognized Japanese e-mail address. So most Japanese are unaware of Facebook because something like 80% of the Japanese social site users are on MIXI and 99.9% of American’s can’t use MIXI, social disconnect.

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Height and Weight Comparison

I’m 6 feet and 3 inches tall or 190.5 cm (they use the metric system in Japan) and weigh 175 pounds or approximately 79.5 kilograms. In America I am tall, not out of the ordinary tall but taller than most people. In Japan I am out of the ordinary tall. While taking the subway or walking in a crowded public place I can see over everyone. It’s like I’m in a sea of black bobbing talking and bobbing heads. When we go to tourist places I can clearly see who the foreign people are not because of how they look but because their head is well above the crowd. Now there are large/tall people in Japan it is just not their normal genetic profile. Obese people are starting to become more prevelant in Japan but when I say become more prevalent I mean that they went from 5 fat people in 2009 to 10 fat people in 2010. Most everyone in Japan is small and skinny, probably has something to do with the food they eat. Here in America we’ve got problems, but we don’t need to go into that.

Drinking (Alcohol)

It appears that in the United States is only one of a few countries around the world that heavily enforces underage drinking laws.  In Japan, like Europe, the drinking law age limit is ignored for the most part, the official age is 20. The drinking age law is so unenforced that alcoholic beverages are found commonly in vending machines everywhere. When asked about the drinking age law many Japanese students responded with, “There’s a drinking age law?” Also like Europe the emphasis on drinking in Japan is not to get drunk (like it is many times it is in the United States, especially during college) rather it is to have a good time. Japanese society in general is very stressful. Their work and schooling requires so much out of them so a having an alcoholic beverage is calming on the nerves and relaxes the worries that come with working in Japan.

MOS Burger VS Mc Donalds

Fast food is everywhere. In Japan a common burger franchise that is competing with McDonalds (who is integrated throughout Japan) is MOS Burger. MOS Burger, like McDonalds, is a burger place and fast food it however is not McDonalds. One of the first things you’ll notice about MOS Burger is that the way you order food is setup differently. At McDonalds most of the time you order a meal which comes with whatever burger you ordered, fries, and a drink. At MOS Burger you order your burger and then order from a few selections of sides there are no meals. So you can just buy a burger or you can buy a burger and extra stuff to come with it. Now you can do the same thing at McDonalds but the expectation is that you’ll get a meal, I don’t get that same feeling of expectation at MOS Burger. Another difference between McDonalds and MOS Burger is that I actually feel better about myself after eating at MOS Burger and after I eat McDonalds I usually don’t. MOS Burger is healthier or feels healthier but it is also a few dollars more expensive and you definitely don’t get as much product for your money than you do at McDonalds.

SUMO

SUMO!!! Sumo is one of Japan’s most well-known cultural attractions and is still a competitive sport. Sumo is a type of wrestling in which two wrestlers meet in a circle that is roughly 10 feet in diameter (this is my approximation not from any source). Each wrestler meets in the middle of the ring roughly a 2 feet away from each other and facing each other. Each time the wrestlers enter the circle they throw salt in the wring before entering, as part of many rituals associated with sumo, to purify the wring and prevent in hope of staying injury free. The goal of sumo is for each wrestler to meet when they are ready or at their peak mental confidence. If either wrestler touches any part of the ground with anything besides their feet or either competitor exits the circle first then that competitor loses. The goal of sumo is very simple but is filled with intricacies. I would say that sumo is half-sport, half-ritual.

Subway Behavior

Not being a person who rides the subway much in America I’m not sure how qualified I am to give this comparison between subway behavior but I have ridden the Japanese subway a lot. In Japan you are expected to keep your phone on silent. You’ll see signs all over the subway that say no cell phones. You’ll also see signs that say keep your MP3 player music volume down so that you don’t disturb others. The only people that I saw break these rules were members of our group that were on our study abroad. We were generally the loudest and craziest things on the subway (we weren’t that loud or crazy everyone else was just really dull). So the perfect example of a person riding a subway in Japan is a respectful, silent, and still person. Nobody will come and throw you off the train if you’re not, they’ll just silently curse your name and cast annoyed gazes in your direction.

Karaoke

What do you think of when you think of Karaoke? Well in America when someone asks me do you want to go do Karaoke I think of going to a bar or other public place and getting up on a stage in front of a lot of people I don’t know and making a fool of myself in front of what few friends came with me. Karaoke in Japan is different. When you go to a karaoke place in Japan you start arrive at an initial counter. From that counter you order your room and how much time you want to spend in that room. So in Japan Karaoke is just you, your friends, the Karaoke TV, and a waiter that occasionally shows up. There is a computer like device that you can order food, drinks, and songs from so everything is automated. Karaoke was a good time and less humiliating than a bar because you know everyone involved.

Japanese Colleges/Universities

If you were to draw a line representing the intensity of work or amount of work required by schooling in America on a graph vs a line representing the amount of work required by Japanese students throughout their schooling years they would look quite different. The American line would look like a straight and steady increase from pre-school to college. The Japanese line on the other hand would be a much sharper increase up until about the middle-end of high school and then it would sharply decrease in intensity. Once you are accepted into a college or university in japan you are set. Japanese take 10 to 15 classes per semester but they only meet once a week per class for like an hour or hour and a half per class. American’s take 3-6 but meet several times a week for each class. It is common for students to skip class and not pay attention (also quite common in America). The difference between the two is that more seriousness is present in America and the focus is on skills you develop. In Japan its more about where you went to college and less about how you preformed there, because it’s so hard to get into college’s and universities they look at potential as opposed to what you have developed or accomplished.

Japanese Pre-Collegiate Schooling

All I have to say is that I do not want to attend any schools prior to college in Japan. In the Japanese junior high school and high school there is a tremendous amount of work that is done. To prepare for applying to a college, Japanese students, depending on their ambitions, may go to school for 10 hours a day. They attend their regular high school and then an additional “cram” school where they attend from after their regular school ends (around 2 or 3) until around 6 or 7 at night. Now you may ask what do they do in their spare time? Not much. Many of these students miss out on many of the things that a normal kid in the United States experience when they’re going through school like sports, hanging out with friends, and shenanigans. All of this extra work is all in preparation of a few exams an applications that determine what colleges/universities they’ll get accepted into. Once they get into college though it’s a whole different ball game.

No Shoes

When or if you travel to Japan and hope to explore some of Japan’s historical buildings/temples (buddhist or shinto temples usually) you should probably expect there to be an instance where you’ll be required to take off your shoes. In Japanese traditional culture and modern culture shoes are to be left at the door when you enter homes. This also applies to Temples you may visit, at least 3 out of the 4 temples I visited in Japan had at least one area where you were perhaps not required but expected to remove your shoes. This is kind of nice because I spent most of my time in my shoes and wanted to get them off. It also keeps the floors very clean. Instead of wearing shoes around their house the Japanese wear slippers which whenever you visit a Japanese hotel you will be provided with a pair of slippers to walk around in. I even saw a Japanese woman wearing slippers on our flight back from Japan to go to the bathroom because she had taken her shoes off.  We take our shoes off in our homes in America but it is not expected and sometimes even discouraged.

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