Top 10 answers to questions about Japan

Japan is a country that fascinates both by the diversity of its landscapes, its emblematic culture, its cuisine or the many clichés about its inhabitants. For us French people it represents a big gap, as we showed you with the differences between France and Japan. So it’s a little time to clarify some questions we ask ourselves about this beautiful country of the rising sun because finally apart from the experts, the enthusiasts and the people who have already been there we still have some questions about this land distant.

1. Why is it called the Land of the Rising Sun?

Alright, so let’s start with that. In Japanese, the name of the country is “Nippon” or “Nihon”, which simply means “country/land where the sun rises”. Historically it is believed to come from a letter written 1500 years ago by a Prince, Shotoku, who had sent a message to China, referring to Japan as “the land where the sun rises” and to China as ” the country where the sun sets”, which is quite normal since Japan is east of China.

2. Are there really that many islands in Japan?

If we often speak of Japan as an archipelago (which means that it is therefore composed of several islands), we do not really realize its extent, so are there that many islands? -down ? Well yes, completely. If the number of inhabited islands is 421, which is already a nice score, the archipelago has a total of 6,852 islands. And despite that, we hear them much less than the Bretons.

3. Are people really as respectful as they say?

If there is one thing that comes up quite often about the Japanese, it is that they are respectful and extremely polite. Well for the most part it’s true, they respect others and the rules to make life easier in society. That being said, it also happens on certain occasions that this is not the case, because they are still normal people anyway. What makes the difference is above all that as Westerners, going to Japan can be remarkable on this point because we are big idiots, but in fact the Japanese are not irreproachable either. Much more respectful than us, of course, but don’t push grandma into the nettles. After Japan remains the best country in the world, it is quite true.

4. Do the Yakuza still exist?

The famous Japanese mafia which has already inspired many cinematographic works, literature or video games does exist and is still active. In 2019, there were more than 28,000 “official” members, and I might as well tell you right away, the Yakuza are not tender, you don’t want to get confused with them. Trafficking in drugs, arms, racketeering, clandestine betting, pimping, murders… Anyway, it’s a mafia, don’t think it’s the good guys.

5. Does manga work that well over there?

Well obviously it’s THE best-known cultural product in Japan, so it’s not for nothing that it’s a big thing there. It is above all on the diversity of content that is offered that manga shines in Japan: there is literally something for everyone, for all ages, for all imaginable centers of interest, which deal with all possible subjects. … So yes, it’s a big thing that works a lot.

6. Seppuku still practiced?

This practice, also called “harakiri”, which consists of killing oneself by sticking a sword in one’s stomach or having one’s head cut off, was widely used in Japan in the past. It corresponded to the liberation of the soul and was a highly respected act. However nowadays it is not really relevant anymore because the practice was officially abandoned by Japan in 1868, so it goes back a bit. However the writer Yukio Mishima had practiced it in 1970 and we explained everything to you in the most messed up coups in history, so there are still a few cases where it continues to exist.

7. Is it true that homosexuality is still very taboo?

Historically Japan has had several periods that treated homosexuality differently, oscillating between repressive periods (1970s with the communist left) and more tolerant. Nowadays the condition of homosexual people is not always ideal, many people never being able to assume their homosexuality in public and certain students being victims of homophobic attacks. If the condition of homosexual people seems to be improving, then it should not be idealized either.

8. Are tattoos really frowned upon?

Being tattooed in Japan can potentially shut you out of certain places. The main cause that emerges is that in Japan, tattooed people are often those who belong to the crime scene, such as the Yakuzas mentioned above. However, in recent years there has been a little more tolerance in the cities and this is no longer always (or everywhere) relevant. Possible to have a few sidelong glances from some people but overall it’s moving in the right direction on this point and it’s not as exaggerated as before, especially since historically, Irezumi is a form of traditional Japanese tattooing that is important.

9. Is it really difficult to converse in English in Japan?

In a word, yes. Even in large cities, dialogue can quickly become complicated for tourists or expatriates and you have to try to make yourself understood by other means because the Japanese population continues to have trouble getting to grips with English. Some companies still try to force their employees to learn the language of English Molière (Shakespeare, I think, to be checked), but you still risk having a hard time trying to make yourself understood, and I don’t speak not even try to converse in French.

10. Do they know that there are still a lot of French people who make the “Japanese or bad” joke?

Yes, they know, and over there this joke can get you a hefty fine. In France it should also earn you a big slap in the face but obviously things are progressing thanks to a government prevention campaign and we should quickly get rid of this dirty joke once and for all.

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