unallersimple: (Japan Flag)
In the UK children are socialised to look behind themselves while walking through a door. This is so that if anyone is walking the same way, and is standing next to them or up a few meters away, they will hold the door open for that person. If you do not do this, people will think you are rude, will silently curse you and may even feel offended.
While this door holding is a must, you can stretch the rules a little bit. If someone is just a little too far away, or you're in a hurry or just being lazy, you can push the door open behind you without waiting and do that little "Look I'm trying to show some kindness towards you!" nod. If you are being really polite, you can even hold the door open and let all the people coming the opposide way through before walking through yourself. However if those people don't express their eternal gratitude (expecially the last few people), you will believe that they epitomise all evil.

I never realised that there were so many social rules and feelings about door holding until I went to Japan. In our Tokyo orientations I remember one guy telling us not to hold doors open for people because it's just not the culture there. I laughed at this and was like, "Whatever! No one will ever have a problem with me holding the door open for them. Phfft!"

I soon learned.

It's not that anyone is being rude at all, it's just not Japanese culture to do the "over the shoulder check" before going through a door. For someone who has done this their whole life, it was one thing I could never experience without feeling a little shocked or hurt. Time and time again if I was behind a student or staff member, the door would be left to slam shut right in my face. Even if I was right behind them!! I found it hard sometimes not to heave it open dramatically in that British display of passive aggressiveness to make the point (which Japanese people wouldn't be able to interpret anyway).
When you hold the door for Japanese people who don't know this about foreigners, they look a little alarmed, upset, confused and feel obligied to hurry though so as not to inconvenience you any longer. I was always doing this by accident, it's just so hard to stop! It made me feel like I was being rude for inconveniencing them!

So when you're in Japan be patient when you have to open all those doors other people didn't hold for you and remember it's ok not to hold the door. No really, it's ok. Just let the door close. Just keep walking and let it go.

It's funny what you miss about your culture when living abroad.
I was so excited about holding doors open for people when I got back.

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unallersimple: (hectopus)
In my first year in Japan I remember feeling puzzled by a sign in a rental store which read "Pops". I wondered why people didn't get the English checked before having anything printed. A while later though I realized that music may indeed have more than one pop. As with many Asian countries the number of foreign music imports from America and Europe is high, but barely a trickle in the other direction. It's a lot easier to find Pixie Lott in Japan than it is to find Arashi in England for example. So to distinguish between western pop music and pop music from Asia people started adding the letter of the country to the genre. Japanese pop becomes J-Pop. In Korea it's K-Pop and in China it's...oh you get the idea!

Before I came to Japan the only Japanese music artist I could name was Yoko Ono. Actually she was the only famous Japanese person I could name! Do you know any more?

I realized that even after a year of life over here, I still know very little J-Pop. To rectify that I've been renting out about 3-5 CDs at random every week. The results are really funny. Sometimes I'm listening to absolute rubbish, others I've stumbled upon something really cool. The fun part is walking around picking things off the shelves and wondering what I'll end up with. When I'm not feeling so random, I try to pick up CDs by the bands my students always talk about.

You can check out Wikipedia's pages on J-Pop and their list of J-Pop artists. From there you can search the Internet further once you have a rough idea of where to start. Good old YouTube will have clips of any bands or singers you want to see.

The bands Arashi, Exile, Ellegarden, SMAP, KAT-TUN (the name was formed by taking a letter from each of the member's names), GReeeeN and HY are ones my students always talk about. If any of their songs are played during cleaning time they run around shrieking with excitement.

Perfume and Aqua Timez get played a lot during cleaning time too, but my students don't seem to go as crazy over them.

Superfly, The B'z, Mr Children and Kobukuro are also bands that I hear a lot of.

That's as far as I've got with J-pop music really.

Have fun watching some of these:

* Yui - song "Help" - I think it's famous for being in an anime called Air. As with many songs that have some English lyrics it's interesting to hear them pronounced. E.g. "lucky girl" becomes "rucky garu" and "chance" becomes "chansu".

* Perfume, song polyrhythm - Three Japanese women sound like chipmonks that have taken too many E-numbers. Played a lot during cleaning time at my school. I actually quite like this song. Very catchy.

*Aqua Timez, song "" (niji, means rainbow) - This song is really catchy and I can't stop humming the tune. The lyrics are really positive and upbeat too.

*Superfly, song "バンクーバー" (Bankūbā, or Vancouver in English.) - Very cool and chilled out. Often listen to this on my mp3 player.

The scariest song I've found is by Aya Hirano for her high pitched squealing in "MonStar" - try watching the chorus from 1.28 and squeal along to "daiiijoubu!" Ouch! Glass broke! She's great at pouting while wearing hats though.

Well as you can see this is far from a comprehensive guide, just some of the things I've come across really. Did you like any of them? Did you ears bleed?

If you know any Japanese music, please give me some recommendations!

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unallersimple: (hectopus)
For the past few years I've been meaning to either attend or take part in the UEA International Party, an annual event in February where students from various countries perform and provide food from their own culture. British students can join in the performances too. In the past I've either been too shy to take part or not bought a ticket before they all sold out, but this year is my last, if not now... y'know?

Here's the link brief Wiki entry on the traditional Japanese dance that I'm performing with the Japanese Society: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sōran_Bushi

I particularly enjoy the rough translation of the lyrics:

When we hear the jabbering of seagulls over the high seas, we know we can’t give up our fishing lives on the ocean.
Hey master! We had a big catch today! But now it’s different to from days gone past: All the fish are ours, not yours.
I can row with an oar four and a half metres long, but I can’t make an impression towards the girl I love.
A flighty seagull excitedly twitters when it sees the spray of an ocean wave falling to my shining skin.


Rehearsals are hard work but great for improving fitness for the marathon training! I do a great impression of an OAP the next day too when I struggle to climb the stairs. Pain for the thigh muscles! It's good fun though, I'm really enjoying this.

Last year the Japan Society took a recording of the performance so check it out. :)



(In case embedding the video doesn't work, click here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAa_nombZcw )

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