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Densha

Why do people always seem to think everything in Japan is different from elsewhere?

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Densha

Not even having been to Japan, that is something I have been wondering about for a long time. People tend to exaggerate things way too often, usually in an extremely positive way.

Just look at this random article about the Showa era for example:
http://en.rocketnews24.com/2015/01/07/smelly-train-tracks-expensive-imports-and-no-weekends-netizens-remember-showa-era-japan/

These things are no different from other countries:
- Train toilets emptied right onto the tracks (I don't get why the writer is so surprised, this is normal anywhere in the world and I'd be surprised if the last train that empties toilets on the tracks in the Netherlands would be retired/refitted with a new toilet around 2020, it'll probably become 2025)
- Need to fix the TV, just give it a whack (normal everywhere and these days it still works for a lot of electric appliances as well)

 

And this is just one of the many examples.

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Mudkip Orange

I don't see this as foreigners gawking at Japan but more Japanese themselves gawking at the way things used to be.

 

If anything Europe is behind the curve when it comes to shit on train tracks; the US did away with that rolling stock decades ago.

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Densha

Okay, in that sense it's not the best example I could have found, but I wanted to imply that the writers did seem to think it was different from elsewhere.

Edited by Densha

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Claude_Dreyfus

I don't see this as foreigners gawking at Japan but more Japanese themselves gawking at the way things used to be.

 

If anything Europe is behind the curve when it comes to shit on train tracks; the US did away with that rolling stock decades ago.

 

Ah, but in Britain we were masters of it. At major stations certain plants could be found growing between the tracks at intervals. These plants would bring forth fruit every now and then; tomatoes.

 

Guess which seeds are not digestible... 

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spacecadet

I know there are people here who actually live in Japan, but as someone who visits there once or twice a year, I can say that a lot of things really *are* different there. Part of what I like so much about it is that it's in some ways so familiar but in other ways so, so different. That blend of things can lead to some really surprising and amazing mashups.

 

It's obviously one of the most westernized Asian countries, as you'd expect. But it's also preserved a lot of ways of thinking and doing things that are pretty uniquely Japanese, both superficial and deep in the culture.

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Densha

I understand that it is very different from other countries, and I'm sure it is as everyone says so. I'm studying Japanese now and learn everyday about many differences as well.
What I get annoyed by though are that (particularly on the internet and books) I often read facts about Japan that are presented as something out-of-this-world, but that I just think like 'err this is just normal or at least way too exaggerated'. I read a book a while ago that was just only positive about Japan and sounded exaggerated and unrealistic because of that. Maybe it's that I personally can't stand people only looking on the good side of things, because that's not very realistic. At least that's how I think.
 

Ah, but in Britain we were masters of it. At major stations certain plants could be found growing between the tracks at intervals. These plants would bring forth fruit every now and then; tomatoes.

Guess which seeds are not digestible...

Well... in the Netherlands once in a while we have trains running into buffers (and sometimes platforms or worse) because people didn't keep to the rule of flushing outside of the station. In the end so much stuff ends up on the tracks that the wheels slip and the train can't brake. :P

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railsquid

I understand that it is very different from other countries, and I'm sure it is as everyone says so. I'm studying Japanese now and learn everyday about many differences as well.

What I get annoyed by though are that (particularly on the internet and books) I often read facts about Japan that are presented as something out-of-this-world, but that I just think like 'err this is just normal or at least way too exaggerated'. I read a book a while ago that was just only positive about Japan and sounded exaggerated and unrealistic because of that. Maybe it's that I personally can't stand people only looking on the good side of things, because that's not very realistic. At least that's how I think.

 

I've been involved with Japan for about 20 years and living here for the past 7; that doesn't make me an expert particularly, but there's definitely a lot of exaggeration stemming from superficial impressions of the place ("OMG the robot heated toilets! Shinkansen! Akihabara! Schoolgirls! Harajuku! Geisha with mobile phones! Taxis with automatic doors!") from a brief stay in the centre of Tokyo. Yet no-one stops to think why Japan has heated toilet seats (mainly because Japan is good at making consumer goods but not houses - in other countries you'd insulate the building to keep the bathroom warm... oh, and don't start me on the high-tech kerosine heaters).

 

There are also a fair number of people with a lot "invested" in Japan with either very positive or very negative views, who get a lot of attention becasue their opinions pander to the popular opinion of Japan as a weird, exotic place.

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katoftw

I don't see why it really effects anybody in particular.  Alot of nations have stereotyping from other nations across the globe.  Brits don't wash.  Aussies are all boozed up yahoo that ride kangaroos.  Americans only yell and don't listen.  Those that are somewhat educated know these stereotypes are false.  And if you are victum of this stereotyping, it will effect you 0% in your daily life.

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westfalen

You could substitute the name of any country other than Japan and the article would still make sense.  When I was a kid I used to like going to the toilet on the train and watching the ballast rushing past beneath.

 

I saw this sign in the toilet of a train in the Czech Republic, I didn't need to use my translation app to understand what it said.

post-182-0-59680500-1420691152_thumb.jpg

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miyakoji

"vlak ve stanici" sounds pretty bad, yeah :)

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cteno4

Aussies are all boozed up yahoo that ride kangaroos.

Dude, that was my total mental picture how can you say it's not true!?

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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Davo Dentetsu

Brits don't wash.  Aussies are all boozed up yahoo that ride kangaroos.

 

As a combination of the two, I say everyone is missing out on this wonderful opportunity.

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cteno4

Thanks for supporting my mental picture Dave!

 

Jeff

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Davo Dentetsu

Just for Jeff. haha

 

attachicon.gifn62968063143362924088pn3.jpg

I remember that day fondly.  That's what we call a car cruise.

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E6系

Of course fixing the TV was the same ... back then all TVs were made in Japan !!!

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cteno4

But where is his can of fosters? Probably safe in the pouch I expect. ;-p

 

Jeff

 

Ps I know the fosters made you groan like saying bud to me would...

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bikkuri bahn

Alot of the weird Japan stuff either comes from either ignorance or lack of perspective, and additionally in the case of journalists, laziness. On the issue of human waste dumped on tracks, it was Japan that first introduced tank retention toilets to railway carriages, in the Shinkansen 0 kei. Shit flying at you at 200kmh may be deadly.

Edited by bikkuri bahn
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spacecadet

What I get annoyed by though are that (particularly on the internet and books) I often read facts about Japan that are presented as something out-of-this-world, but that I just think like 'err this is just normal or at least way too exaggerated'. I read a book a while ago that was just only positive about Japan and sounded exaggerated and unrealistic because of that. Maybe it's that I personally can't stand people only looking on the good side of things, because that's not very realistic. 

 

On the other hand it's also very easy to get jaded and think that every good thing has to have some dark backstory or underpinning, or that every positive thing has to have some negative equivalent somewhere. I see people do that with Japan all the time - "oh, if you think Tokyo's clean, just go out to the countryside and look at all the grimy, crumbling buildings!" That drives me crazy.

 

Everywhere has its good and bad points. The thing is, most of the negative stuff is the same everywhere. Every country has dirty areas, areas of crime, prostitution, people who are depressed, corrupt politicians, etc. So it doesn't really make much sense to me to focus on those things as a foreigner. I understand focusing on them if you live there because you want to change them to make your own life better. But as a foreigner looking from the outside, visiting every once in a while or even staying for an extended length of time, it's both more logical and more fun to focus on the positive things that are different about Japan. You can get pretty much all the negative things about Japan at home, where you already live.

Edited by spacecadet
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E6系

Reading the article reminded me of a few things:

 

1. I often went to school on Sunday too.  In fact, I'm sure I did 42 days straight one year.

2. Our class room had a kerosene heater right in the middle, which we would dismantle during the warmer months.  We were allowed only a modest amount of fuel.  The boys always took seats close to the heater, leaving the girls to shiver by the windows.

3. Community sporting days.

4. Community fire fighting days.

5. Riding between rice fields, with an umbrella in one hand because it was snowing and -5°C.

6. Golf, golf, golf.

7. Okashi theme parks ... some of them were just VERY strange.

8. Street vendors, calling out their wares as they pushed a trolley of hot food around the neighbourhood.

9. Children playing in the street.

10. Newspaper stands everywhere.

11. Kodak and Fuji Film kiosks at every tourist destination ... gone.

 

Those were the days ...

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marknewton

Aussies are all boozed up yahoo that ride kangaroos. Those that are somewhat educated know these stereotypes are false. 

 

Jeez, do you have to give all our secrets away? :)

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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marknewton

Shit flying at you at 200kmh may be deadly.

 

Almost as deadly as false teeth. I'm just about to start work, so I'll have to explain that comment later.

 

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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miyakoji

I'll have to explain that comment later.

 

looking forward to it :)

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Sean

I read that Rocketnews article a few days ago, but I actually didnt have that reaction.   The fact that trains emptied their toilets on the track isn't quite as interesting as the fact that that is one of the things Japanese people remember most about the old days, which I did find interesting.  There actually is a big difference between Japan and most other countries in that regard if you think about it.  Due to the close proximity of houses and other buildings to railroad tracks here, the fact that trains emptied toilets directly onto the tracks would have been something people had to deal with the effects of (smell) on a daily basis.  In North America at least railway tracks are usually fairly set back from housing *and there are nowhere near as many passenger trains to begin with) so most people probably never even noticed, but in Japan it was actually so noticable that decades later people are  rating it as one of the biggest bad things they remember about the Showa period.

 

As to the rest....I`ve lived in Japan for over 11 years now so I`ve kind of forgotten about how different Japan is from my home country (Canada), everything here just seems like everyday life to me now (the good and the bad).  It gets a bit weird when I`m with another Canadian  who is visiting on holiday and they try talking to me about strange things they see.  I usually respond with fake enthusiasim "Oh yeah, that is strange isn't it?" but inside I am always thinking to myself "Why do they think that is strange, isn't that totally normal?" I can no longer see Japan the way other Canadians see it, which creates odd social situations like that for me from time to time.

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cteno4

Sean,

 

Great observations! Out overall picture of the way things were are very colored by a combination few strong personal and communal memories. I'm sure living next to or just being around a smelly track would be something that would mark an era for many in this situation!

 

It's so true that our subconscious adapts to our environment with time. The subconscious mind is the giant parallel processor filtering all the raw sensory data flooding in and abstracting and compressing it for the slower, serial, concious brain to deal with. What I'm always calling the mind's eye is actually the subconscious' expected picture of the current world based on previous experience. This helps it reduce the crunching necessary and helps with predictive forecasting of events and such. When in a new environment everything seems strange to us then as the mind's eye has no data for that and that strange newness is passed onto the concious mind and it focuses on it more as we will probably need to change our normal behavior to deal with it. But with time as you build up experiences in the new environment it starts to fall into that "normal" pile and is no longer strange and thus the the concious mind no longer perceives it as really strange, but normal as it has standard sets of reactions now built up to exist with that environment.

 

This is the same thing that goes on with our perception of our models. You strive to use things in the scene to trigger the normal mind's eye things so it will quickly accept the model as something close to what has previously been experienced in the real world and it will actually fill in the details and round off the edges for you in the presentation to the concious mind. Conversely if there are bits that seem strange to the mind's eye it will flash into new environment mode and thus look at things in more detail and thus can notice more that it's not real and the perception passed to the concious mind is colored not this is not real, not what we want!

 

Cheers,

 

Jeff

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