How much do I want to read more? 5/10

The book is a good idea itself, to expose some typical traits of the Japanese culture and customs.
However, it turns out it's not that interesting, and a bit shallow.


Many Britons say that London is not Britain. Americans may say that New York is not America. However, Tokyo will always be Japan and it will always lead, wherever Japan is heading.

Geography and people

While Japan’s active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes are challenging to say the least, these unique geological features have also blessed us with natural hot spas dotted across the country.

Weather-wise, Japan presents varying faces, from harsh winters in the northernmost Hokkaido, to the seemingly everlasting summer of Okinawa in the south.

Words with no direct translation

You say itadakimasu before you start a meal, just as you might say bon appétit in French, but it is a word of thanks for what you’re about to eat. The literal translation is ‘Allow me to have this for myself’, which expresses modesty as well as gratitude. The gratitude directed not only towards the host and cook, but also the farmers, fishermen, and even natural phenomena such as sunshine and rainfall, that all contributed to the creation of the meal.

Say ‘tsumaranai mono desuga’ when you are giving a gift. Paradoxically, it means ‘This is such an uninteresting thing’. The Japanese, not wishing to make a recipient feel obliged, downplay the value of a gift. It is the show of modesty that lubricates social interactions.

The direct translation of otagaisama would be ‘As you are, I am’, or ‘As you do, I do’. If someone apologises to you for being late, you say ‘otagaisama’ to convey the sentiment of ‘not to worry, it could have easily been me who was late’.

Cool Biz and Warm Biz

In 2005, the Japanese government launched a campaign called Cool Biz to encourage people to dispense with ties and jackets in the workplace during the summer season. The purpose was to cut energy consumption by lessening the need for using air-con during the summer months.

Seven years after its initial launch, Cool Biz seems to have been firmly accepted by the Japanese people. In a way, it has hit the sweetest of sweet spots in environmental policy-making: it was something everybody could do, and everybody wanted to do. Plus, it was good for the environment.

Pesco-vegetarian Japan

The absence of meat from traditional Japanese food culture is most probably due to Buddhist influence. Although there was never a religious taboo about eating meat, Buddhist monks thought it better to refrain, believing that too much protein led to impure thoughts, which were a hindrance to their meditative spiritual lifestyle. Often, you will see a sign at the gates of temples saying ‘No garlic, other strong vegetables, meat, fish or alcohol is allowed to enter the temple gate’.

People of the mountains

Japan is 70 percent mountain

Birth, Japanese style

It is rare for a Japanese child to be born to an unmarried couple.
in 2014, only about 2.3 percent of babies were born out of wedlock in Japan. In the US, the figure was 40.2 percent, and 47.6 percent in the UK.
Only Korea surpassed Japan in this respect, with just 1.9 percent of births outside marriage.

Childbirth in Japan is a cross-generational affair. Pregnant women tend to return to their parents’ home when they are close to their due date.

New Japanese mothers and their babies tend to stay longer in hospital than their overseas counterparts. A week seems to be the usual maximum, whereas in the US, mothers are encouraged to stay only overnight after the birth.

Weddings and marriage

The average age for a bride is 31.1, while for a groom it is 33.3. Twenty years ago, they were 25.2 and 27.8 respectively.

Sadly, the same government statistics show that about 40 percent of such marriages end in divorce.


the top three causes for divorce seem to be, in reverse order, money, infidelity and irreconcilable differences.

The moral of the story is that handing over paycheques is never a substitute for love and affection.

How to live to a hundred

Nutritional balance has always been a part of our cuisine, even in the humblest of daily meals.
Ichijūissai is the word to describe the most modest of meals, referring to one soup and one vegetable dish to go with a bowl of rice.
A healthy appetite is praised as a product of hard labour, and gluttony is shunned as unseemly behaviour.


cremation is the norm in Japan, for hygiene reasons.

No sex, but perversion, please, we are Japanese

The Japanese have been a promiscuous lot since time immemorial.

The sexual freedom of the Japanese in the past may have had something to do with the absence of religious taboo. Neither Shintoism nor Buddhism sought to impose limits on people’s sexual behaviour (unless you were a strict-order Buddhist monk).

In a rigid, hierarchical society, sexual freedom was a welcome, even necessary

Almost every day, someone is arrested for groping women on a crowded train. You cannot deactivate the shutter noise from the camera in iPhones sold in Japan because there have been too many perverts using them to take ‘upskirt’ photos of unsuspecting women.