“Things In Japan That Would Send Americans Into A Coma”: 22 Unexpected Japanese Customs That Surprised This TikToker
While going about our daily lives, we easily get used to the world as it is. We scroll carelessly through the societal norms and customs, not once stopping to think that things somewhere are way different. Not just contrasting, but almost upside down.
But TikTok creator Ryan is giving us all a very vivid glimpse of what it is like to live in Tokyo, surrounded by cultural shocks. His TikTok series titled “Things In Japan That Would Send An American Into A Coma” sheds a light on many Japanese lifestyle quirks that have amassed him 17.3M likes in total.
Scroll down to find out what Ryan found unusual in the Japanese way of living and let us know what you think of it in the comment section!
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Children start walking to and from school and also taking the train from the age of five and six. So if you're just out walking around, and you see a kid just like, walking alone by themselves, they're fine. They're normally just walking to or from school.
First things first, trash separation. When you move, your ward gives you an entire calendar of how you're going to separate your trash. Because I have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, I have six different trash cans to separate my trash and they all go out on different days. It's actually nice because they care about what happens to their trash. It is a little stressful sometimes, but I've gotten used to it. Japan has these trash cans where you separate your trash even at restaurants. All restaurants have this and they even have a drain for your drink. So drinks, don't get into the trash bag. It's genius. I don't know why America doesn't have this. And now when I go back to America, and I just throw everything in one trash can, I feel like the most wasteful human being in the world.
Everyone still wears masks in Japan everywhere. Yes, even when walking outside, even when just walking in your neighborhood, 99% of the time, they will be wearing a mask. It hasn't even been required for over like a year now, but it's so ingrained in the culture at this point that people refuse to take them off in fear of judgment. But obviously, it's also just a concern for other people and Japan is known to be a culture where people are very considerate of thy neighbor.
Every single phone in Japan has the shutter sound when you take a picture, even if you take the picture on Snapchat or any app, and you cannot disable it. This is required by the government because they wanted to stop men from taking photos of girls without them knowing. So if you buy a phone in Japan, it has the shutter sound and you can't turn it off. So if you go to a place like a museum or something, you'll just constantly hear the shutter sound. What a lot of people do to get around this is when they travel to another country, they'll use that time to buy an iPhone or just any phone and bring it back to Japan. Like when I had to get a new iPhone, I bought it in America and had it shipped to Japan because I was not going to deal with that shutter sound.
Most train stations have a theme song. Like, I'm in Takadanobaba area a lot and they play the Astroboy theme song because Takadanobaba is Astroboy’s birthplace.
You see these all the time in Japan. When I first saw this, I was like, what is going on? But schools will take kids in these carts or just on a stroll around the neighborhood.
If the train is ever delayed in Japan, you get what's called a densha chien shoumeisho which is a certificate of lateness that the staff comes out with with a basket of them. The transportation is so good though that this like rarely ever happens. But if you're late to work or school, you have to have the certificate to prove it. I lived in New York for three years and we did not have that. If you were late it was - good luck.
If you go to the movies in Japan, and the movie ends, Japanese people just sit through the entire credits in silence. I feel like some people do this in America. But I think for the most part, people just get up and leave. But you just have to sit and wait through the credits because you'll just have to move through everyone that's sitting in waiting.
If you're a foreigner and like, conventionally attractive, it's very common to get scouted to be a hair model, especially if you're in places like Shibuya, Harajuku or Omotesando, but hairstylists will just run up to you and ask if they can cut your hair for free because they want like, models for their portfolio. And it's actually really, really common.
People in Japan will literally sleep anywhere. This is because the work culture in Japan is so bad. Some people work from 9 am all the way to 10 pm. So it's extremely common to see people sleeping on the train. Sometimes they'll even fall asleep on your shoulder, and they somehow just magically wake up at their stop.
Every single restaurant you go to, they will always give you what's called oshibori, which is just like a wet towel. Even like Starbucks gives you one. And they're so nice because sometimes a dry napkin isn't going to do it. It does waste more plastic, but honestly, I really love these towels.
In Tokyo, we have something called a Shibuya meltdown, which is when men, mostly salarymen, spend all day working so they go to Shibuya after work just to drink and they'll fall asleep anywhere in Shibuya. It's because the last train in Japan is at 12 o'clock so if you stay past that time, you have to stay until 5 am when the trains run again, so people will just fall asleep. They're literally anywhere. If you're up early enough and you go to Shibuya, you'll likely see someone just sleeping in the most random places until they wake up and go home or sometimes just go straight to work.
80% of the apartments that you look at when looking for an apartment to rent will not let you live there because you're a foreigner. A lot of the time, even if you speak Japanese, they still won't let you live there. So out of 10 of the apartments that you like, only two of them will be available for you. I would send my realtor a list of 20 apartments. And she'd be like, “Yeah, this one and this one said that you can live here.”
When you get an apartment in Japan, you have to pay something called “reikin”, which means key money. It's also called gift money. Because it's literally just a gift for your landlord for allowing to let you live there, which is equivalent to normally one month's rent, and you do not get that back. You're literally just saying thank you for letting me live here. Here is one month's rent and you can have it.
This is what our gas stations look like. I want to say it's for safety because it doesn't have the pumps on the ground here. But I'm not too sure and some of them are so high up, they attach strings to be able to pull them down. But when I saw that for the first time, I was like, huh.
A lot of stuff in Japan is still paper-based so basically all of my bills, I still have to pay at the convenience store, like I get it in the mail and I have to take it to the convenience store to pay it and it has to be in cash. I think some places allow you to switch your bills to online now, but it's all in Japanese and kind of difficult to navigate.
Everyone in Japan has reusable towels at all times. It can be used for multiple reasons, but a lot of the time it's just used to dry your hands off after washing them. And yeah, we have the hand dryer things in bathrooms, but I swear every single one in Japan has been out of service since the beginning of the pandemic. They're not reopening those.
It's tradition in Japan to get KFC on Christmas. I'm not joking, and they literally line up. December 25 is a whole different process for KFC in Japan. The reason they do this is because Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving but you can't get turkey in Japan. So they associate Americans with chicken, so it's been a tradition since I think the ‘80s to get chicken from specifically KFC on Christmas.
We do not have dryers in Japan, unless you're rich. Even when you're rich, it's like a combination washer and dryer, and it's really not that good. And also a lot of people's washers are on the balcony outside, like mine's out here and I have to hang all my clothes up and put them on this thing as well. And when it's cold outside, it sucks because drying your clothes takes so much longer than in the summer. And also, the pipe to your washer can freeze.
Just like getting an apartment, adopting a pet in Japan is also literally impossible. Even shelters where there are animals won't let you adopt. I got lucky because I found someone personally who was willing to rehome my cat that day. But yeah, if you're going to a shelter or something, good luck, because they're not going to let you adopt
Tally marks are different here. Like in America, we write them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. They don't do that here. And I don't know why I never knew that. No, because literally what is this? They write it like ichi ni san shi go and just keep adding it. I don't know why I simply did not know that other parts of the world did tallies differently.
People in Japan do not wash their hands in the bathroom and hear me out before you attack me. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone. But 95% of the time, what I see happen, they'll just go up to the sink, run it under the water for like one-second max, and then they'll just shake their hands off. Or they'll use reusable towels.