Holiday Tangent: cited in!


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Hi Blog.  As the year-end holidays approach, usually puts up topics that are more tangental and less serious.  As Japan is going through something I consider to be very serious (a return to Prewar values and political systems), this is hardly the time, but I think I’ve said so far all that one needs to say about the issues for now in previous blog posts.  So today, let’s look at a site that I have become quite a fan of:

I used to read CRACKED magazine, but always found it to be an insipid copy of MAD Magazine.  But online, it’s a place with an obnoxious, scatological tone that has thankfully graduated from its high-school smart-alecky roots.  Their articles are some of the best diversions and procrastinations I’ve had over the years (they’re quite well referenced, too).  It seems that writers from them are fans of as well.  Check out this site:


5 Innocent Gestures That Make You Look Like a Dick Overseas
By C. Coville, October 04, 2013, 864,352 views

So you’re not making as many friends as you would like in your world travels. You’ve practiced some local phrases, you’ve stopped humming “America the Beautiful” during pauses in conversations, you’ve even personally apologized about the drone that ruined Hashim’s wedding last week. But your foreign friends still don’t accept you. What’s going on? Maybe you’re doing one of these …

#5. Blowing Your Nose (in Japan)

Read the rest, including the citation, at:

Well, we can debate here the relative veracity of the claims made.  I for one never found people looking at me funny for blowing my nose, but perhaps 1) I was oblivious, or 2) it was Sapporo and there’s a higher tolerance for it, given the long, long winters.  But anyway, Holiday Tangent.  Comments?  ARUDOU Debito

10 comments on “Holiday Tangent: cited in!

  • I love me some Cracked! Yes, just like you I used to regard the print version as a boring cousin of MAD magazine, but the site is truly excellent.

    Can I just say something? I simply do not understand the ugly American stereotype. I live in a large port city that attracts a lot of foreign tourists, and I tend to get stopped and asked for directions quite a bit. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that the politest tourists are … American. If my encounters are anything to go by, they are not loud or obnoxious at all; on the contrary they are downright meek. And, believe it or not, the second best are the Chinese-speaking (not necessarily Chinese) ones, I’ve had a lot of lovely encounters with them, too.

    As for the nose blowing thing, there seems to be a lot more tolerance for it these days. If only they could stop with the disgusting snorting noises they make when they’re sucking it back in …

  • Couple of items: Times of India on current events in Japan… & relaed:
    Possible reference to TEPCO, Genden and the PM’s-O? “Broadly speaking, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is defined as “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability to recognize their [own] ineptitude.”” Source:
    And just in: Can the US outdo Japan in that other number at which it excels? Sad, but true.

    No doubt I will trip-over some more in the next few days as I catch up on my web ‘stumbling-upon’.

  • As an American, the whole nose-blowing thing in Japan kind of irritates me. I was never a fan of blowing my nose, but I do wipe it clean. I once attempted the constant sniffling that Japanese people do, but it ended up being pointless as I soon found myself in even more need of a tissue. Generally there’s no reaction to me wiping my nose in public, but I sometimes get petty complaints from elderly people nearby.

  • @DR, “Fukushima Fascism”- oh I like this. A quick and pithy comeback and catch all. I am definitely going to use it, seriously.

    Taro Yamamoto, a Japanese legislator, says the law “represents a coup d’etat” leading to “the recreation of a fascist state.” The powerful Asahi Shimbun newspaper compares it to “conspiracy” laws passed by totalitarian Japan in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, and warns it could end independent reporting on Fukushima.

    The article at the link you provided concludes with “this cancerous, nuclear regime”.
    Indeed. Nuclear Regime.

    Do they know its Christmas time at all?

  • @ 名無し (#3) I think it’s probably better to not think too hard about these cultural peculiarities, i.e. hours and hours of sniffing and snorting is okay but blowing your nose once is out of order. I had to fly back to Europe on ANA once and sat between a pack of Japanese salary men. The 12 hours were filled with constant, and I mean constant sniffing, and even more disgusting sounds from all directions. I’d take a crying baby over that any day.

  • I find my iPod generally takes care of the revolting animal noises regularly encountered on the trains, planes etc. As Markus says, probably better not to dwell too much on cultural peculiarities. One that has always mystified me is the horrible manner of making a noise when drinking coffee. I can tolerate, although would never wish to imitate or sit too close to anyone slurping noodles. However, when people feel the need to make that awful sucking noise when they drink their tea or coffee it really makes me wonder how the Japanese ever got their reputation for politeness. 🙂

  • @ Blackrat, the Japanese are formal (so as to maintain a distance) rather than polite, unless one counts polite refusal. This is an old battle tactic, or that old chestnut of erring on the side of caution and treating foreigners as guests-so long as they go home when they are supposed to, as a member of Debito’s favorite band once let drop.

    I often wondered if quite a few people strove to become fluent in English just so as to say “no” eloquently. Or just to pass on instructions and information- ironically a complaint often also heard from teachers in Communist China.

    Thus the book “The Japan can said No” by you know who was in fact nothing original- it was descriptive of the culture, despite Ishihara thinking he was being prescriptive (because he is out of touch).

    Tokyo was onne of the most negative and disappointing places I have lived in since the 90s, with absolutely no compromise, flexibility, or thinking outside the box in a huge variety of social, business, and neighborhood situations.

    And have an entrepreneurial business idea for that vacant classroom/space/club with no customers? Forgettaboutit, the owner will then think you are desperate to do it and grossly overcharge you.

    Tokyo in particular is Weberian Rationalization or Ritzer’s Macdonaldization taken to extremes, an (admittedly convenient) “life that holds no surprises” in which consumers “move from one controlled experience to another”.

    Systems follow formal scripts, politeness requires a personal choice.

    And convenience store clerks wait for that 1 yen you are short of. More than jobs are worth I suppose. But in Australia or the Netherlands, or Italy, no one cares about pennies. Its petty.

  • Incidentally, not long after writing comment #6, I was in a quiet bar where two Japanese, a customer and one of the bar staff, blew their noses on tissues within seconds of each other.

    @ Baudrillard, I entirely agree. My comment was somewhat tongue in cheek, of course, and what you say does make a lot of sense. I have always regarded the Japanese as being overly formal rather than especially polite. It is all in the perception of what is considered rude or polite. I see it as one judging the other to be behaving in a childish manner. The persistent sniffing, noisy eating, cutting across people on sidewalks, etc are all considered decidedly crude and immature behaviour in most Western countries. Likewise, the Japanese perhaps find some NJ quirks, talking noisily on trains, asserting our opinions, being too tactile, etc as adults behaving like badly-raised brats.

  • @ Blackrat,the level of formality in Japan is in itself rude. Or ridiculous. Or self-defeating. Though, as per Debito’s recent thread, you have to leave Japan and come back in after a break to really feel it.

    It is not fair. You the NJ are expected to give out information, but feel inhibited (a kind of eyeball) to ask the same from the other party. Especially when money is involved. Hence the Japanese expression, “Warui hanashi desu ga( i.e. I am going to ask you about money…). This of course can lead to exploitation, when the NJ feels inhibited to clarify terms and conditions.

    And dare you laugh at e.g. the student who won’t answer any “personal” questions, the inquirer who wont give their name, the person who gets offended when you return their call instead of sending an email, and you will be severely chastised.

    The Japanese are a private people, and formality maintains their barriers. But at what cost?

    A recent trend in sales/business development I have been experiencing-the potential customer can call you, but expects your reply by email- a phone call is rapidly being seen or felt as too intrusive by many, hence a massive culture clash with all other Asian markets Japan does business with.

    This formality is hindering Japanese competitiveness. Asian investors move at lightning pace and if they feel inhibited to ask or call more than once a day, they just do not bother with Japan. Sad but true, I have it from CEOS of various Chinese/other corporations.

  • On the topic of table manners and lack thereof, here’s my sad story. For a short time I dated a man from N. Europe here in Japan. I guess I should’ve known our relationship was doomed from the start, because:

    1. Whenever we ate finger foods, such as fried chicken, I was horrified by the way he insisted on loudly and heartily licking his fingers one by one. Sorry, but I just found that really disgusting.

    2. One day we ate at a noodle restaurant in Osaka. Following local custom, I raised the bowl to my lips to drink the soup. The panicked look on his face had to be seen to be believed. I mean, I could practically see a speech bubble above his head saying “how am I gonna introduce her to my Mom if she does stuff like that?”

    3. He insisted on drinking his coffee with a teaspoon. Seriously, he would sip the coffee from a spoon. I thought only little kids did stuff like that.

    4. He couldn’t comprehend the social drinking customs of Japan, and thought that drinking more than one glass of beer with a meal was a sign of raging alcoholism.

    5. He took more than an hour to finish a meal, even lunch. It drove me crazy! Who has time to sit around eating and chatting all day? And why would any woman want to be with a man who did?

    Well, as I said, it was a short-lived relationship!


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