Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Orientation Day 3

Today was the best day of orientation we've had. Some Japanese nationals who work with Fleet and Family Services came in to do an international relations workshop. We learned a LOT about Japan.

Japanese Religion

Japan has two major religions: Shinto and Buddhism.

  • Shinto is the native religion of Japan. Its origin is as old as the country itself. It is centered on nature worship. Shintoism says that everything - the earth, the sky, even a rock - has a spirit. All shrines in Japan are affiliated with Shintoism. The shrines are the houses of the gods. Ever seen one of those big, red "gates" in Japan? Those are "torii," or gates that separate real life from a sacred area. If you look through torii, you will always find a shrine nearby.
  • Buddhism originated in India and centers on worship of The Buddha. All the temples you see in Japan are affiliated with Buddhism. Although there was some fighting when Buddhism was first introduced hundreds of years ago, these two religions exist harmoniously in Japan. For instance, Japanese weddings are held in front of Shinto shrines and funerals are held at Buddhist temples.
Japanese History

  • Japan's first civilization dates back to 10,000 B.C. and there are lots of historical periods within its history. The current period is called the Heisei period and it began in 1989. Since the early 1900's, when Japan's emperor dies, that is the end of that historical period. And, they use these to mark the date. We would say today is August 8th, 2012, but the Japanese would say it is August 8th, Heisei 24 (or, 24 years since the beginning of the Heisei period).
  • Japan has an Emperor and royal family. The current Emperor is 78 years old. The royal family is a national symbol of Japan because it is believed that the family are direct descendants of the Gods who created Japan (Shinto gods). The family currently lives in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the Palace is open to visitors. Interestingly, the family has no role in politics. Japan is run by the Prime Minister and other branches of government.
Japanese Language

  • Usually, the longer a phrase in Japanese, the more sincere and/or polite it is. It's kind of like saying, "Morning!" to your friend, and "Good Morning" to your boss.
  • When introducing yourself, you introduce yourself by giving your last name to be more formal or polite.
  • The Japanese have 3 different sets of characters (similar to what we would think of as an alphabet). These are Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Kanji was originally imported from China and each character has its own meaning (think of something like a peace symbol). Hiragana is for Japanese words and each character is phonetic and does not have its own individual meaning. Katakana is for foreign words (like, many American words that have been introduced into Japan) and is also just a set of phonetic characters. This is why it is very hard to learn how to read and write Japanese. You have a LOT to learn!
  • Japanese pronunciation is relatively simple with 5 vowels: A (ah), I (ee), U (oo), E (eh), and O (oh).
Japanese Culture:

  • One of the most important aspects of Japanese culture is BOWING. Bowing is a way of showing respect to another person. Japanese people know that Americans are not always comfortable bowing, so they bow and then often extend a hand for a hand-shake. Be careful, however, because sometimes the Japanese aren't familiar with hand-shakes and they don't t know when to let go! :) If you're going to do a bow right, there are some things to remember: First, NEVER, EVER, have eye contact when you bow. Look down. Second, when returning a bow, it is polite to give a bow as low as the one you received. And, when greeting the elderly, bow a little lower than usual.
  • Business Card exchanges are a big deal in Japan. When you meet someone, they will bow and then they will hold out their business cards with both hands and ask you to take it. You cannot reject a business card (or bend it) because it is seen as a rejection of that person. Do not write on the card. Do not put the card in your back pocket then sit on it. Do not put it away while you are talking to them. And, you must carry your business cards in a card-carrying case separate from your wallet.
  • Gifts: Generally, gifts are not opened in the presence of the gift-giver because it may make them feel uncomfortable. What's funny, however, is that some Japanese will tell you it's okay to do it "American-style" which basically means that you can be impatient and go ahead. It is also very bad manners to throw away the wrapping paper in front of the gift-giver because, usually, they have spent a lot of time wrapping the gift well. The Japanese also give return gifts. If you give your neighbor a gift, your neighbor will then give you a return gift. We were told that sometimes, this turns into a never-ending cycle until someone finally decides to stop giving. Ha.
Japanese Public Transportation

  • Ever seen a "pusher"?
  • The Japanese public transportation system has a great reputation for being punctual, clean, and well-organized. However, rush hour on the trains is 100x worse than anything we're used to in the US. "Pushers" are paid to literally push people into the train so the doors will close. We were told that if we are traveling with small children, it would be quite dangerous to take them on a train during rush hour. Someone in our orientation also asked how one would get off at their stop if they were trapped in the middle of so many people. Apparently, the Japanese are so accommodating that everyone would make their best effort to get off the train and let someone off - even if they knew they would have to be pushed inside again to get back on the train.
Japanese Table Manners

  • There is ABSOLUTELY NO TIPPING in Japan. Woohoo! The Japanese believe that whatever price is set is the price that the service or item is worth. There is no need to tip extra. We were told that if we were to leave money on the table at a restaurant, the waiter/waitress would run after us to return the money.
  • In Japan, it's considered good manners to slurp your noodles or soup loudly. It shows that you really like it!
  • Japan is a dipping country. DO NOT pour your soy sauce (or any sauce) over your rice or noodles. Just take your rice or noodles and DIP it in the sauce.
  • When you break apart those disposable chopsticks at a restaurant, hold them horizontally and below the table.
Things NOT TO DO in Japan

  • Do not talk loudly in crowded areas
  • Do not call loudly or wave to people from a distance
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke in public places
  • Do not smoke while you walk (you can be fined for this)
  • Do not use cellular phones on public transportation. "Vibrate" in Japan is called, "manner mode."
  • Do not show tattoos. Tattoos used to symbolize the Japanese mafia, though this is beginning to change as more young Japanese get tattoos as fashion statements.
Japanese Sports and Martial Arts
  • Sumo wrestling is considered Japan's national sport and is 2,000 years old
  • Baseball is Japan's #1 sport in terms of spectators and participants
  • Japan is home to the martial arts: Karate, Judo and Kendo (Kendo dates back to the Samurai)
We also talked a lot about how to use the Japanese train systems, Japanese holidays (there are too many to talk about here), and Japanese money. We needed to know about the train systems and money because tomorrow, we are taking a field trip to Kamakura - one of the oldest and most historical cities in Japan. We will be seeing Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and the Great Buddha (a huuuuuge Buddha statue that used to be covered in gold). I am soooo excited! It will be my first real venture off-base without riding in a car the whole time. I'm going to take lots of pictures and should have a good post coming up... if I have the energy to write it when we get home.

1 comment:

  1. Your organization and note taking skills are shining through, Mrs. Brooks :-) Thank you for sharing!!