Saturday, February 13, 2010

Really Random Cultural Notes

So I'm back and healthy and ready to blog! I have been putting together a blog book recently, sorta like a coffee table book through the Blurb website. It's a mix of all my blog entries from my first year in Japan and pictures that I've added from the many trips that I took and from school and other local adventures. It's gotten me thinking about some of the things I'd like to share on my blog during my last 6 months. It's actually under the 6 month mark for me now, an exciting and scary realization. So anyway, in my last six months I'd like to try to hit on a few trivial things about Japanese culture and life that most people at home know nothing about as well as just showing what my everyday life is like.

So to start off with that goal, I thought I'd share this video from YouTube with you guys. In fall and winter in Japan, trucks drive around selling hot baked sweet potatoes. They drive around in neighborhoods and songs blare from their loud speakers. Of course they don't all have the same song or tune, but this is one of the main tunes that plays around my neighborhood. This isn't my video or even from my neighborhood, but it's essentially the same. There is also another one that has a really upbeat, cartoony song that I couldn't find a video of. I'll try to remember some night when it's driving around to record it on my camera and post it. It's pretty much a nightly thing and I mostly tune it out now. I've never bought potatoes from the truck, but maybe that should be on my "things to do before leaving Japan" list. Here's the video:

A second thing I was going to write about sort of falls under several categories. First of all, being cute is the be all end all of most everything in Japan. I've befriended a small group of girls in my English club and talk to them all the time. They kept calling me "kawaii" which means cute, and one day they said something before it that sounded like "mucho." It turns out that isn't what they said, but it prompted me to teach them that "mucho" means very in Spanish, so now every time I see them they break into giggles and say "mucho kawaii" and I respond by calling them crazy which they think is hilarious and I think are quite proud of.

So anyway, all things cute are acceptable no matter what your age or gender. Boys enjoy themselves a cutesy cartoon character cell phone charm and some even walk around with pink duffel sports bags, which to me is a bit contradictory. With this obsession of cute, Japan is plastered in cartoon characters. I haven't completely bought into this trend (if that's what you want to call it, I have a feeling it's one that's been around for a long time and is here to stay as well) except for the Minnie Mouse coffee tumbler that I bought at Tokyo Disneyland. I've since kicked myself for buying that thing, because I don't drink coffee enough here and when I go back to the states I am not going to carry around a Minnie Mouse coffee tumbler...people will think I'm nuts! I also inherited this cup holder that I really only kept because of it's practicality as my car has no cup holders. It does however prompt every Japanese person who gets into my car to promptly ask "You like Stitch?!" with hopeful eyes. Sometimes I just tell them "yes" as to not let them down.

It serves its purpose as long as the drink isn't too heavy...and as you can see also holds my garbage bag! It's even been known to hold an entire bottle of wine (see picture here on Kelly's Flickr). Don't worry, we weren't drinking it and driving, just using it as a holder until we got home! Also note that souvenir Mt. Fuji air freshener I bought at a touristy shop near Sengan Shrine in Fujinomiya. Along with the stitch theme, quite appropriately, my friend Kelly took a picture of this car we saw once at our local CoCo's family restaurant. You'll have to click the link above to check it out. It's not uncommon to see car windows full of stuffed animals or rear windows covered in stickers.

Alright, I guess that's all for today's random Japanese culture lesson. Hope you enjoyed these random tidbits about Japan!