58) Names


We have two names, "Sei" (family name) and "Na" (first name). (The members of the Imperial House-hold only have first names.) We write our family name first and our personal or first name last. However, when we write our name using romaji ( Roman letters), we write our personal name first.

59) When a woman marries

A woman takes her husband's family name when she marries.

60) How we address people

Adults call each other by their family name, even when they are on intimate terms. Students call their teachers "Sensei" (teacher). In public people normally call teachers, professors, doctors and even members of the city assembly or Parliament, "Sensei".

61) Addressing a letter or card

We write our address according to the following: Prefecture, city, house number and name. We carry personal name cards with us, and the order in which things are written on these is virtually the same. We usually write our name and address on the back of a letter.

62) Succession within a family

People think that it is very important to maintain the family line and name. Thus when a family has no son, they often adopt one in order to preserve the family name. It is common for such people to marry their daughter to their adopted son.

63) The attitude to family prosperity

It is thought that the "Ie" which includes the meaning of home, house and family, will, while seeing good and bad times, completely change within three generations. Some families are proud of the nobility of their family line.

64) Friends and partners

The relationship between close friends is often likened to the relationship between father and son, or between brothers. "Patona" (partner) often signifies a relationship of sympathetic cooperation.

65) Organizations and names

The names of organizations or occupations are often personified, in which case the respectful term "san" is added. We often call people by the title of their occupation. When we are talking to a third person about someone who belongs to the same organization to us, even though he may be older, we don't add "san" to his name.

66) Talking about one's wife

Old men often call their wives "Gusai" (foolish wife), or speak about them in a very humble way. When a married couple praise each other in front of a third person, it is a way of expressing their affection. When they do this, people around them feel sweet and say "Gochisosama" (Good taste), as if they ate a delicious dish.

A couple who have children call each other "O-kasan" (mother ) and "O-tosan" (father), and in front of a third person, they will sometimes say "Uchi no papa" and "Uchi no mama".

67) Traditional clothes

You can often see Japanese woman wearing Kimono for some particular occasion, but Japanese men are seldom seen wearing Kimono in public. However, some men wear Japanese clothes for comfort within their home.

68) Male aesthetics

Men usually wear "Suteteko" (long underpants) or tights over their briefs. In some traditional festivals, men appear wearing "Fundoshi" (a type of loin cloth).

69) Preparing for a concentrated endeavor

We often wear "Hachimaki"(head band) when we want to achieve the mental attitude and courage which will need to succeed in our efforts to gain something within our profession or organization. For example, union men wear Hachimaki when they are on strike. Sometimes we call out something loudly in unison, or give three cheers of "Banzai".

70) Dressing up

We don't usually bother getting dressed up to go to the theater, although women sometimes wear Kimono. We seldom wear formal or evening dress.

71) According to the season

Both men and women often use a "Sensu" (fan) in summer, and "Kairo" (pocket heater) in winter. We have a particular day of changing clothes in offices or schools.

72) Shoes and slippers

We don't wear shoes in the house. We wear slippers in the passage and in Western-style rooms. We change into a different pair of slippers before going to the toilet, and don't wear slippers at all in Japanese-style rooms.

73) Toilet

We use rolls of soft paper in the toilet. We have two styles of toilet, Western-style and Japanese-style.

74) Cleanliness of the body

We attach much importance to cleansing the body and take baths regularly. We usually take a bath in the evening.

Many people use very hot water. We cleanse or purify our mouth and hands in the grounds of temples and shrines.

75) How one takes a bath

After running the water for the bath, we don't change it. We wash our body outside the tub, so that we don't dirty the water, for the people who use the bath after us. Some sing in the bath.

76) Family sociology

A father takes a bath at first and the rest of the family do so in a regular order, but this order will be changed according to a case.

77) Public baths

There are "Sento"s (public baths) in cities, but the number of these is gradually decreasing. People went to the public bath houses not only to cleanse themselves and to relax, but also to talk to their neighbors. Even now, you can see people washing each other's backs. When we use hot water, we sit down so as not to splash other people.

78) Trips to hot spring resorts and school excursions

Many hotels and Ryokans still have public baths. Many Japanese like going to a hot spring resort with a friend or as part of a tour. It is believed that hot spring has a miraculous effect on the spiritual as well as physical health. In most schools, it is the students who are in their graduate year that usually go on an excursion.

79) Community life

In cities it is common for people to wait, meet and talk in coffee shops or hotel lobbies. People in the country talk with their friends, or sit and work on "Engawa" (verandah).

80) Clothes which one wears within the privacy of his home, hotels, etc.

We wear "Yukata" (a cotton bath robe) at hot spring resorts. Even at hotels in cities, we are given Yukata to wear instead of night clothes. Some people leave their rooms wearing Yukata or pajamas. On a hot day, some men walk around only with Suteteko.

81) Massage

Sometimes when we are at a hot spring resort hotel, we have a massage. The masseurs, many of whom are blind, entertain their customers with local gossip while they are massaging them.

82) Servants

Few families employ servants.

83) Where one sleeps?

In most houses, we sleep on "Futon"(mattresses) which we spread on "Tatami"(the straw mats used to cover Japanese floors). A husband and wife sleep in the same room.

84) What one uses the rooms in his house for

It is thought that each room has specific purpose, but in fact we often use the same room for many different things. One room sometimes serves as a dining room, living room and bed room.

85) Room temperature

In winter we like to warm ourselves by putting our feet in a "Kotatsu" (fireplace with a coverlet). In this way we warm ourselves rather than the room. Nowadays many houses have air conditioning.

86) Lighting in houses


Rooms usually have a light hanging from the ceiling or set into the ceiling. Fluorescent lights are commonly used instead of incandescent lamps.

87) Building materials

Plain wood is a very popular building material, but in fact synthetic materials have come to be widely used.

88) Sunlight

We attach much importance to allowing sunshine to enter our homes. On fine days, we hang the washing out to dry in the sun. Disputes about the right to sunlight sometimes occur.

89) Houses or flats

We Japanese people really want to own our own homes, so we prefer a house in the suburbs to a flat in the city, even if it means we will have to travel a long way to reach the city.

90) Houses and gardens

We feel a strong attachment to land and soil, and always try to have a garden even if it is small. We have walls or fences around our house and garden.

91) If one gets a child

When a couple become parents, it is common for them to let the baby sleep with them. If the parents are talking and the baby begins to cry, the mother looks after him right away, instead of continuing to talk to her husband.

92) Keys

We hardly ever use keys. A servant would be insulted if his or her employer locked furniture such as cupboards and wardrobes.

93) Privacy

Most rooms are divided by "Shoji" or "Fusuma" (paper-covered sliding door). Few rooms can be kept locked in traditional houses.

94) Renting a house

When we rent a house, we must pay a sum of money as a thank you to the owner, a premium and a deposit, as well as the monthly rent. However, the deposit is returned when we cancel the contract. The rental period is usually clearly stated in the contract.

95) Ordering and delivery

The owners of "Sushi-ya" (a shop which sells raw fish with rice) and "Soba-ya" (a shop selling Japanese noodles) deliver to order. Liquor shop owners and laundrymen make regular rounds of their local customers.

96) Department store delivery

Department stores deliver goods as their customers desire. If a customer lives within the city, the articles are sent free of charge within a few days. Tipping is not required.

97) Gift-giving

We send gifts at the "Bon" festival in August and at the end of year. We either take the gifts to our friends by ourselves, or have them sent by a department store.

98) Company expense accounts

A company's entertainment budget is normally quite profitable from a taxation point of view. Many workers take advantage of their expense accounts to enjoy luxuries such as playing golf, and eating and drinking in good restaurants.

99) Taboos

Four, being homonymous with death, is a taboo number. We have no particular gesture to insult a person.

100) Symbols of long life

These are the crane and the tortoise.

101) The significance of various colors

Violet represents nobility, red represents happiness and black does funeral. All these colors are often used in combination with white. Mailboxes are painted red, but in addition we have blue mailboxes which only for special delivery within a city.

102) The color of the sun and that of a rainbow

It is thought that a rainbow is comprised exactly of seven colors, these being red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Children sometimes make the sun red when they paint a picture.

103) Hot and cold water; younger brothers and older brothers

We distinguish "Mizu"(cold water) from "Yu"(hot water). When we boil Mizu, it becomes Yu, which is then used for drinking and for bathing. We also distinguish "Ani" (elder brother) from "Ototo" (younger brother). The combination of these two characters becomes "Kyodai" (brothers).

104) The moon

We traditionally regard what appears to be spots on the moon as a rabbit pounding steamed rice into a rice cake.

106) Criticizing others

We don't usually criticizing people face to face, because if we do so, we may end up quarrelling. Therefore we tend to avoid direct criticisms. When we criticize or blame others, it is common to begin by saying "I don't like to have to say this, but...".

107) Position of the eyes during a conversation

We don't look directly at the eyes of the other person during a conversation. (Instead, we try to imagine what he is thinking.) We cast our eyes down especially when we are talking to a superior or an elder person. When we are listening attentively to what someone is saying, we sometimes shut our eyes.

108) "Excuse me."

When we make a mistake or bother other people, we apologize at once, saying "Sumimasen." (Excuse me; I'm sorry.) If we don't say this, we may offend the other person.

109) Responsibility and one's ego

In making a mistake, we tend to take the responsibility for our own lack of virtue which we feel is behind the event, rather than for the event itself.

110) Speaking out in front of one's superiors

When we are with a superior, we tend to hesitate to offer our own opinion until he speaks out.

111) Direct opposition to what someone has said

We avoid direct opposition to someone's statement. We say "I understand your opinion, but..." instead.

112) "I'll consider it"

This statement has a negative meaning in many cases.

113) "I love you"

We tend to speak indirectly or use an expression suited to the occasion, rather than to come right out and say "I love you." For example, when we propose, we might say "Issho ni kuro shite kuremasen ka" which literally translated means "Won't you please share the difficulties of life with me?" Young people, however, tend to speak more directly.

114) Persistently stating one's own opinion

People who persistently assert their own opinions are generally regarded as immature. In order to get what one really wants, it is often better to take a very mild stand rather than to insist that one is right. This is especially so in the case of a woman. If what we believe does not become the prevailing opinion, we don't bother to keep repeating it.

115) Introducing ourselves

When we introduce ourselves or someone else, we usually say not only our own name, but the name of the organization or company to which we belong.

116) Introducing a third person

If C, who is a friend of A but a stranger to B, happens to meet A who is talking to B, A doesn't usually introduce C to B. If he does introduce them they will exchange name cards.

117) A visit to the customers and an inter-office meeting

When a company meeting is held or a visit made to a customer, other people, in addition to those persons directly involved, are sometimes requested to take part as well. In such a case, it is common to see people sitting, taking notes earnestly. This "Participation" is perhaps to help familiarize the workers with what goes on behind the scenes. A common way to reach a decision, or gain approval for a plan, is to circulate a draft prepared by a senior person of whatever matter is under consideration.

We usually make an appointment before seeing someone, but occasionally we just drop in (or pretend to), saying something like "Well, I was in the area so just thought I'd pop in to see you.

118) Unpleasant situations

When we happen to be involved in an unpleasant situation, we prefer to grin and bear it, rather than speak out against it or leave the room. We stay there and try to change the atmosphere, or just resign ourselves to putting up with it. We feel that it is important to judge how delicate the condition of the atmosphere is.

119) Older people and leaders

Elders are generally respected. In a group activity, an older person is often nominated for and given the leading position. In effect, their role is to keep control.

120) Consciousness of those around us

At schools or work, we are very conscious of people around us being either our "sempai" (senior) or "Kohai"(junior), according to their age or experience.

121) Groups and individuals

We prefer acting as a group. We attach more importance to the profit of a group as a whole, rather than to the profit of an individual within the group. We plan more group than individual activities. Loyalty to a group is admired.

122) Ordering in a restaurant

When we go to a restaurant with people it is common that one will order on behalf of everyone.

123) Photographs taken to record an occasion

When we get together, we like taking photographs.

124) Pre-arrangement especially in relation to food and menus

We tend to prefer sets (e.g. Kohi setto) or set menus.

125) How one makes decision

A decision is reached by unanimous agreement. It is not common to argue in order to make an opponent change his mind. If we do not agree with the final opinion of the majority, we continue to argue, hoping to find some common ground between our opponents and ourselves.

126) "Thank you"

When we are treated kindly or given some help, we always make a point of saying thank you. Few of us, however, bother to say "thank you" to the shop assistants when we go shopping.

127) Duty or obligation

Generally speaking, when we receive a favor or kindness from someone, we feel obliged to return it in kind one day.

128) Equality and distinction

As Japanese citizens, we have a high-developed consciousness of equality. Most people (perhaps more than 90%) have a middle-class mentality. However, as people belonging to a very structured society, we have a very keen awareness of human relations within this social structure, especially in regard to which people are our superiors and which people are our inferiors.

Discrimination against Koreans living in Japan and people belonging to "Buraku" groups is becoming an issue.

129)How one regards beggars?

Generally speaking, we see all people as fellow human beings. Even when we give money to a beggar, we still regard him as a person just like us.

130) The relationship

between waiters, taxi-drivers etc., and their customers

People dining in restaurants often enjoy a chat with the people waiting on them. This is especially common in Sushi restaurants, where we talk to the "Itamae" (cook).

Some taxi drivers prefer to listen to the radio and ignore, rather than speak to their passenger. Others enjoy talking to them.

131) Relationships with servants

When a family employ a live-in maid, it is common that they will take personal care of her. Such a servant is called "O-tetsudai san."

132) Social rank and behavior

A man of high social position never feels embarrassed even if he is doing something as common as drinking at "Yatai" (a stand).

133) Money and power

A man who has power is not always rich.

134) Consideration of others

When a person steps on a stranger's foot, he seldom says, "Excuse me." However should we step on a friend's foot, we always say "Excuse me." Some people walk through between couples on the street.

135) Reserving a place

We often put a bag etc. on a seat in order to reserve for our friends.