Posted by: pdot78 | September 15, 2008

Canada vs. Japan: Whats the Difference?

Hey everyone,

Sorry I haven’t written in a little bit, it’s been pretty hectic over here. Whatever bug I got when I climbed Mt. Fuji had continued to get worse and about two and a half weeks ago evolved into some weird thing that stopped my ability to breathe. After about a week of that I was forced by basically everyone I know to go to the hospital. Japanese hospitals are identical to ours so I am bummed to tell you that there is nothing exciting to talk about there. Anyways, I got put on 15 pills a day for a while and now that those have run out I cough a little less but still gasp for air constantly so I will probably have to go back. I think the humidity in Japan has triggered some sort of asthma but anyways, no big deal. Back to the stories!

I think it’s about time to make a post examining the differences I have noticed between Japan and Western society so here we go…….

Japan vs. Canada: What’s the difference?

Firstly, I will probably have to answer the question of how I am not dead in a ditch yet as it seems to be a common question. It’s quite simple…..they don’t have ditches in Japan!!! They do however have these long deep strips of drain alongside the roads (usually covered up by bits of concrete) that I drove my bike into one night while thinking about how dangerous putting something like that on the side of the road was. Anyways, I think the question was how do I survive in a country where nothings in English?

Smile and nod my friends.

I mostly just pay attention to what everyone else is doing. If you do it wrong just smile, nod and say thank you a lot. Works like a charm. I would say that 95% of things in Japan are very similar to Canada. The main adjustments are the way they go about doing things and the language barrier. Aside from that I just run around having a fun time not understanding what anyone is saying to me. O and being illiterate is kind of fun too.

Ok, onto the cultural stuff…….


Charlie Brown has a monopoly on Cereal here. I have no idea how this happened but its true. There are maybe 5 different kinds of cereal in Japan and 3 of them are Charlie Browns. Peppermint Patty even has her own cereal, its just crazy, I mean nobody even liked her! My mind is blown! Aside from the lack of cereal, Food is pretty much the same. Mustard, ketchup, jam and peanut butter were extremely hard to find but I have confirmed that they do exist in this country so I am happy. Most of the food I ate the first month was me guessing and hoping that it didn’t taste bad. I would say about half my guesses were good. I don’t want to talk about the rest……they made the list.

Aside from that, food is the same more or less. Different packaging, same stuff.


Everyone here rides bikes everywhere (myself included). There are bike paths on almost every single road and you can park your bike almost everywhere. There are also almost no differences in the styles of bikes offered in Japan. Keeping with the theme of unison, all of the bikes offered are the exact same (or a very slight variation of what I am going to call “the Japanese bike”). The Japanese bike comes in a choice of burgundy, silver or occasionally dark blue, has one speed, a basket in the front, a kickstand that lifts the entire backside of the bike off the ground and a key that locks the back breaks allowing you to just leave your bike anywhere( this part is actually really awesome!). There are enormous parking lots just for bikes here and their usually full. The better part are these walkways that are almost completely blocked off by bikes making it near impossible to get through. During my first month here I was following Randy on our way to the Sumo thing and we were going pretty fast when all of a sudden we were in one of these bike labyrinths continuing our pace and I bumped one of the bikes with my back pedal. Well needless to say we continued biking as fast as possible as it started a domino effect on the bikes there. I later saw some guy do the same thing at the grocery store which made me feel better (and have a little chuckle).

O and the subway is convenient. Lots of people use that too.


Ironic is the word that comes to mind. The Japanese society is inherently conservative……to a point. We can start with physical appearance. The women dress very nicely and the men wear suits…..unless they’re wearing their catholic school girl outfits that are so revealing they wouldn’t even count as Halloween costumes back home.
The men are even better as they range from the typical business suits to this 80’s rockstar-wish I were Bon Jovi look. It generally consists of tight jeans, bandanas, ripped something on them and the hugest hair I have ever seen. Mostly everyone has themselves covered from the sun as a tan is frowned upon here. Dark skin symbolizes working in the fields all day and therefore the popular look is to be as pale as possible.

Moving onto the culture itself. The Japanese are a quiet reserved group…..unless they work in advertising. This part is crazy. Someone who would be too shy to say hello to you outside of work could very well be the same person screaming at you the next day to get your ice cream, internet, or clothes from their store! The television adds are awesome as they are just someone screaming at the camera while random things happen on the screen and then eventually a product is mentioned. The business mentality is also interesting to me. Because it is expected that all Japanese work extremely hard, when they go out for drinks during the week with co-workers, it is perfectly acceptable and in most cases anticipated that they get so drunk they cannot speak. I see them absolutely everywhere. Packs of the drunkest men in suits I have ever seen. A lot of older men too. During the festival all of the drunk people had pulled their shirts just above their belly and were walking around being drunk and peeing everywhere, which there are also not laws prohibiting. Now I know this isn’t anything new but here is the catch. These guys just sleep wherever they want. The Japanese seem to sleep everywhere! Because you can buy alcohol in vending machines and apparently there aren’t laws against loitering, you can get rip roaring drunk and just sleep on any bench, street corner, alleyway, or piece of solid ground you can grab onto and not get hit by traffic.

Another funny thing I noticed about the Japanese is that the women make this low guttural noise when they are surprised by something. It’s pretty awesome! Whenever you say something it’s almost always followed by a “Guhhh?”. I asked my coworkers about it but they have been doing it for so long that they don’t even understand what I mean when I ask them.

I think the last thing I want to add is that everyone here seems to be in a hurry. I don’t know why but people are running everywhere here as if their life depends on it. Maybe something to do with bus or train schedules. Who knows.

Lastly and most importantly,

Rest in Peace Grammy.

I am really going to miss you.



  1. Once again, sorry about your grandma

    BTW you need to go around the city and take pictures… i created mental pictures of all of this but i wanna see how off i am

  2. Hahaha i know what you mean jazz, im tryinh to figure out what everything looks like i.e the vending machines for alcohol. or the people sleeping randomly on the streets haha

    Paul how u feeling now anyways? any better yet?
    and have you gone back to the hospital yet? just want to make sure your still alive thats all..

    P.s. Sorry about Grammy… Im sure she misses you too

  3. I haven’t gone back to the hospital yet but I do seem to be getting slightly better. I’ll take some pictures for town things soon, they just bore me so I don’t bother with them, haha.

  4. I agree. Pics of Niigata are definitely warranted! What is boring to you, may be really cool to us.

  5. Love your sign off dediction to Mom!
    P.S. She is really proud of you.

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