A Fan Fiction Guide to Japanese Culture

This guide is dedicated to my fellow writer and wonderful beta, Hedanicree.

Before I begin I want to state that I am not Japanese, I am an American. I have been fascinated with Japanese culture since the 1980's. I have also traveled to Japan. My brother married a Japanese woman and now lives in Japan with her. I have also taken one course in the Japanese language. So though I am certainly no expert—I do have more than the average amount of experience with Japanese culture. I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about the Japanese culture. Perhaps this guide will help a few fan fiction authors overcome some simple mistakes when they write an 'anime' type story that is centered in Japan.

If I have made any mistakes, please send me a private message or a comment and I will correct it. Thank you.

-Ai Kisugi


Last Names, Not First Names.

In college I had a roommate from China. When her friends called they would always ask for 'Hwang, Jie'. 'Jie' was her first name. I found it very odd that her extremely close friends (in fact even a few guys who wanted to date her) would refer to her in such a formal fashion. When I asked her about it she said that only family members and people who were extremely close (i.e. best friends, dating, married or lovers) would refer to someone by their first name.

In the West we are much more informal than people are in the East. I try to make it a point of referring to Japanese people (when I was in Japan) by their last names. I can refer to children by their first names, however you tend to add a –chan (little) to the end of their name (i.e. Taro-chan). Chan is an honorific used with children and women. Kun is an honorific used with boys or men. (Chan can be used with children of any gender.)

Discipline

I have found it entirely funny when I hear fan fiction authors getting upset at Shippo's (Inuyasha anime) annoying and spoiled behavior. Most authors cannot understand how Kagome can spoil Shippo like she does. But honestly, she is just following her culture. In the Japanese culture little boys (in my opinion) are spoiled brats. Their mother's and society in general treat them like little princes. The same cannot be said for little girls. Seen, but not heard is a better description for how they are treated. So little boys are given free reign and little girls are told to have good, mild manners.

Boys are always more privileged in Japanese society. For example, there is a day once a year where a 'carp' flag is hung out the front of a home for every boy that lives there. It is a way to proudly alert your neighbors that you have a boy.

I should also mention that unlike American culture, in Japan children are highly valued. So, even young women will 'coo' and delight in young children. Every single Japanese foreign exchange girl I have met seemed 'kid crazy'. They actually liked kids and wanted to have kids. Now ask the same thing of a typical American teenage girl—I am sure you will get a completely opposite reaction.

Children are Cherished

When I arrived in Japan, I had my four-year-old daughter with me. Usually when I got out to a nice restaurant with my daughter in the United States I am frequently met with unwelcoming stares. Children are treated like they are second-class citizens in the US—not so in Japan. Children are universally loved and cherished in Japan. Whenever I brought my daughter with me people we didn't know would run up to us asking to take her picture or asking to hold her. My daughter found all of the attention rather 'strange'. I do not know if it was her blonde hair that made her get all of the attention or simply because she was a child. I suspect it was a little of both.

I was amazed when we were eating at a fancy restaurant in Tokyo, that the waiters and the other clientele 'Ohhed' and 'Ahhed' over my daughter. People wanted to take pictures of her, hold her in their lap, asked what her name was… She was an instant celebrity wherever we went.

Men Are Always First

Oh, and that strange Western custom of 'ladies first'…not so in Japan! Women traditionally walk behind their husbands. A husband is always first. I remember talking to my Japanese pen pal, Tomomi. She had just seen 'Titanic' and for the life of her she could not understand why the lifeboats were filled first with women and children. She understood the children being saved, but surely the men would get a seat before a woman? Again, the cultural values are very different.

Tea not Coffee (And I never had hot chocolate there either)

I find it so funny when I read a fan fiction piece based in Japan and everyone is drinking coffee. I never had a single coffee in Japan. Though I should add that I was born in England and have become an avid tea drinker from an early age.

Coffee is a 'special' drink and yes they do have 'Starbucks' in Japan. (Though I only ordered green tea lattes.) Tea is part of their lifestyle, not coffee. You are much more likely to be given tea than coffee when you go to a Japanese house. In fact I never saw a coffee maker in a Japanese household.

When the Japanese drink tea, they drink it without sugar or cream. (Which was hard for me to handle since I was born in England where you have clotted cream and gobs of sugar in every cup.) My Japanese friend, Hiroko, taught me how to drink Japanese tea when I was in high school. First, they traditionally use loose-leaf tea (not tea bags). She made me some oolong tea from loose-leaf tea. Then she poured the tea into a cup without a handle. I singed my fingers when I first tried to drink out of it. She then showed me how to grip the cup by making a 'C' shape with my fingers and only touching the edges of the cup with both hands. I was also supposed to have the 'logo' on the cup facing the person I was drinking tea with. And another little nuance was that I was not supposed to pour my own tea, but to have the other person pour for me and vica versa. (I certainly do not follow this tradition when I am by myself and have no one to pour, but I follow the tradition in formal occasions when another person is present.)

Eating

There is a lot to cover with eating, but I will just go over a few basics. Unlike in America you are not supposed to eat while walking. Even if you get an ice cream cone you are supposed to sit down and eat it. Fast food is never eaten while walking.

Eating fast food also has a few differences. You do not dip your french fries in catsup in Japan. When we asked (mistakenly for catsup packets for our fries they did give us some—but looked at us curiously). Also, not a single person in McDonalds (in Japan) ate their fries with catsup. (But hey, they eat their fries with mayo in Holland—so each country has different ideas about how to eat their food). The most curious thing for me was when the meal was done and I went to the trash bins. There were three separate trash bins. I forgot what the labels for all of them were, but two were for recycling and one was for trash. I remember asking my brother do they really separate and recycle all of their trash? He told me to look around—and yes, they were! I wish that we did the same thing at all of the American fast food places.

Cash, Not Credit Cards

In Japan it is traditional to pay for everything with cash—even extremely expensive items. When my pen pal met us in Kyoto and offered to pay for an extremely nice hotel for us (as well as our meals)—she paid for everything in cash. Credit cards are used in Japan—but not very often. In fact, the entire time I was there I only saw one Japanese person use a credit card! My brother even told me a joke once that ended with 'and the American whipped out his credit card'. I remembered wondering why it was a joke. Of course an American would get out a credit card. The American was too worried that if they carried too much money that it would be stolen. However, in Japan (which is an honor bound society) they do not worry about things being stolen. So carrying large amounts of cash on them is not seen as a problem.

I was actually very torn in my story 'Future Incarnations' about whether or not to use a large sum of cash or use a credit card. I ended up using a credit card simply because the story was set in the future and I figured all money transactions would go the way of plastic eventually.

Unlucky Numbers

I always found it odd that when I bought a Japanese tea set that there were always five teacups rather than the traditional four tea cups that we have in the West. The number four is pronounced 'shi' which translates into 'death'. Can you imagine saying one, two, three, death, five, etc? So the Japanese avoid the number 4 just like we avoid the number 13 in the West.

If you ever read the beginning of 'Urusei Yatsura' you will notice Ataru running around with a racing shirt that says '4'. He was indeed one unlucky lad.

Bowing, No Handshakes

I am often amused to read fan fiction where the Japanese characters are shaking hands rather than bowing. Japan is a very 'hands off' society. (I made the mistake a few times where I touched the cashier's hand as I handed them money and sometimes they were very displeased with me.) When I was in Japan I don't think that I ever shook anyone's hands (unless I knew they were from a Western society). I quickly became accustomed to bowing and found that I thought I was getting quite good at it. (Well, at least I think I was getting good at it—they didn't stare at me quite a much by the time I acclimated myself to bowing.)

Keep in mind that in Japan touching is a very intimate matter. Whereas in the West casual touch is a given in our society and little thought is given to it. There are many episodes in Inuyasha where Kagome and Inuyasha have more than a casual 'touching' relationship. And that is generally viewed as showing that they are more than friends.

Emotions Are Out

'Emo' is out in Japan. You typically do not show your emotions in public situations. Crying in public or public displays of affection are frowned upon. This is not to say that it doesn't happen—it does—it is simply frowned upon. I severely embarrassed my pen pal by giving her a big bear hug with tears in my eyes when she was leaving. Normal for me, not for her…

Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages still happen in Japan. Though it is now only used in a few extreme circumstances. I know of two such situations. In one situation my brother was trying to date a lovely Japanese girl who was 18 years old and was in the United States to learn English. He met her at a local junior college and was quite taken by her. She was arranged to be married when she turned 20. She was from a rich family and they had decided to marry her to another rich young man. She liked my brother immensely, but she found it a family duty (and honor) to marry the man that had been arranged for her. My brother was heartbroken. (This all happened less than ten years ago.)

The only other case I know of arranged marriages is when a man or woman in Japan reaches their 30's and are not married. It's not considered acceptable to not be married (especially if you are a woman). So if you reach an age where you have not found a suitable partner a matchmaker is hired to help with the process. At no point is anyone forced into a marriage. They do get to meet and approve the person before the marriage. This is quite modern. Just a few generations back the mother-in-law would approve the new bride with little or no consent from the bridegroom (or the future bride).

Honor means everything

I remember reading a Greek tragedy when I was a child where the Greek God vowed on his honor to keep a promise. Well, the promise ending up killing his son (and he knew that if he fulfilled his promise that was what would happen). However, instead of reneging on the promise—he went ahead with the harebrained scheme and let his son die. I remember being so angry and frustrated when I read it. Why would anyone put honor above someone's life?

Well, it is done all of the time in Japan. Honor means everything. It is a means to an end. You are nothing without your honor.

This concept alone is hard for a foreigner to understand. But let me tell you a few stories. When I dropped the equivalent to $20 by mistake in Japan someone ran after me trying to get the money back to me. That would have never happened in the US. Thievery is also different. In the US we view it as the fault of the person if they were stolen from and say, they left their car door unlocked. For us, the person was stupid to leave their car unlocked and got what was coming to them. In Japan it is dishonorable to steal—so it is he fault of the person without honor (the thief) not the person who was stolen from.

The last story is very bizarre for us Americans. Every year students in Japan apply to college and have to go through rigorous entrance exams. (It is actually harder to get into college than it is to graduate.) And every year when the entrance exam results are posted there is a mass wave of suicides of the students who could not get into college. The students felt like they dishonored their family by failing. And by a weird twist of fate, committing suicide (seppeku) is considered a valid form of 'saving face' in Japan.

I also mentioned previously that a woman my brother was in love with went ahead with an arranged marriage because it would dishonor her family if she did not. Honor is everything.

Christmas is a Lovers Holiday

Another little item that amuses me when I read fan fiction centered in Japan is when a Western writer has the Japanese celebrating a very American Christmas. Yes, the Japanese do celebrate Christmas, but not the same way we do and certainly without the religious overtones. So what is Christmas like in Japan? Well, I have a story to tell you about my brother celebrating Christmas over there and the social faux pas that he unknowingly committed.

When we grew up my parents would invite friends over for a Christmas party. We would bring potluck items, drink, eat and sing Christmas songs by the piano. I think my brother was planning something very similar to that for his first year in Japan. When the first woman he invited showed up she was very happy and was flirting with my brother. Then the next guest arrived (another woman). My brother was surprised to see them both eye each other in dismay and 'egad' jealously. Then the third person showed up and they finally figured out that it was a party. The first two girls who showed up (still to this very day) will not talk to my brother.

What did my brother do wrong? Well, Christmas Eve is considered a lover's holiday in Japan. I know, you are wondering how a Christian holiday about the birth of Jesus Christ could end up being the Japanese version of Valentine's Day—but this is what happened… At the end of WWII American GI's gave their Japanese girlfriends gifts for Christmas. The Japanese girlfriends didn't understand the significance of the holiday and thought it was a lover's holiday where the men bought gifts for their women in hopes of some intimate time together. I actually got an e-mail from a Japanese foreign exchange student once who asked me, "Is it true that Christmas is considered a family holiday in America?" I had to answer her and tell her, yes and then I also went into the religious aspects of it. That blew her away!

New Year's is the biggest holiday of the year for the Japanese. Christmas is a minor holiday. On New Year's you spend time ringing in the New Year. You usually go to a temple and ring the bell 108 times. Each time the bell is rung is for a worldly sin. (Take that you 'Seven Deadly Sins'! In Japan there are 108 of them!)

There is No Prom in High School

Japanese High Schools do not have proms where kids go to dance. Instead they have a 'School Festival' where teams work together in groups to create something for the festival. The kids might organize a play, create a restaurant or any other idea that is worked on as a team.

I am always amazed when I read Inuyasha fan ficts and there are 'proms' in them. That is OK if the fan fict is based in America, however I just laugh when I read about the dance being in Japan. The Japanese do everything in groups. I would think a prom would stress out the average Japanese high school student.

Halloween Does Not Exist in Japan

Folks. Halloween, at least the way we celebrate it in the United States is an entirely American phenomenon. Mexico does have a 'Dia De Los Muertos' (Day of the Dead) where families remember relatives who have passed on. My relatives in France celebrate 'All Hallows Eve' by bringing chrysanthemums to the gravesites of relatives. But really, there is nowhere else in the world where costumed kids can go door-to-door 'trick or treating' to get candy. There are plenty of cultures that let adult's dress up in costume for holidays, but there really isn't anything close to our American Halloween.

Adulthood

20 years of age is when a Japanese citizen reaches adult hood. Marriageable ages: A woman can get married if she is 16 or older. A man can get married if he is 18 or older. However, the couple must still get parental consent if they are under 20 years of age.

The legal drinking age is 20 years of age in Japan. However, there are many vending machines in Japan that can be accessed by anyone and have alcoholic beverages in them. So I don't think the age limit really prevents younger kids from drinking. Though I honestly saw underage drinking to be less of a problem in Japan than it is in the US. (We're just too uptight with alcohol in the US.)

Multi-Generational Households

Another facet of Japanese culture that Americans have a hard time with understanding is the multi-generational households. And this is one area where I actually have to agree with the Japanese. I think their way is better. In America when a senior citizen can no longer live on their own they move into an 'old folks' home—rather than stay with family members.

In Japan where working together as a homogenous group is encouraged, you will find three generations living together. There will be the salary earners (now both husband and wife work), the children and the grandparents. From what I saw in Japan the grandparents were in charge of daycare and in charge of the family garden. Since I had a daughter I found it strange that not a single backyard in Japan had a playset. Instead the backyard (which tended to be small by Western standards) was filled with a garden—which even had things growing in the middle of Winter. Fruits and vegetables are fairly expensive in Japan. So by growing your own crops you can cut down on your grocery bill. It also gives the grandparents something to do.

The multi-generational household also tends to make sense when you look at home prices in Japan. It is very difficult to afford a home in Japan. In fact, they actually have multi-generational mortgages in Japan. If a family wants to buy a home, they can get a 70-year mortgage, which is passed onto their children. A friend of mine, Tomomi, was in such a mortgage. Both herself and her sister helped to pay the mortgage with her parents. Because of the long-term mortgages and the price of homes in Japan--most children still live at home until they are married.

Beauty

The Japanese idea of beauty and cleanliness is quite different from us. As most of you are aware in the United States a nice tan is considered beautiful. However, in Japan it is considered best to have your skin as white as possible. If you have ever read or seen 'Peach Girl' you might remember that the girl has unusually tan skin and is always trying to put on sunscreen since she doesn't want to get any darker.

I also have a story about tans and my brother. When he was over in Japan he received lots of compliments for being 'white'. So he did his best to stay out of the sun while he was there (which wasn't very hard since he was in Northern Japan). When he finally came back to California he went rafting with some friends. Everyone gasped as he took off his top to reveal the whitest torso that they had ever seen. My brother had been away from the US for so long that he forgot that we were all astonished and frankly a little put off by the stark whiteness of his body. He looked like he had never seen a day in the sun for his entire life. For us his body color seemed sickly. He quickly earned the nickname of 'powder' and now he tries to not take off his top in the US.

The Japanese also shave differently than we do in the US. In the US women shave their armpits and legs. In Japan both men and women shave their facial hair (yes, I said women, too), arms (not just the armpits—the entire arm) and legs. A friend of mine (a blonde American) is married to a Japanese man. When she visited her mother-in-law she was accosted with a razor. The mother-in-law was trying to shave the hair off of her face. Now, keep in mind that she is a blonde—so any facial hair that she has is pretty much invisible, but that did not daunt her mother-in-law. While my brother was in Japan he shaved his face, arms (all of them) and his chest. I didn't check out his legs—but maybe he shaved them, too.

Now before you judge the Japanese too harshly, I should point out that in Europe women rarely shave their armpits or legs. (I know, I was on a high school swim team with many foreign exchange students.) I have now come to the conclusion that we are a little too fastidious with shaving in the US.

Birth Control

I hate to say it, but in Japan they are about 20 years behind Western standards as far as birth control is concerned. In Japan birth control tends to be in the form of condoms and abortions. The birth control pill took over 20 years to be approved in Japan because of safety concerns. My brother also noted wryly that it took less than a year for Viagra to be approved. Japan is a very male dominated society. Viagra was beneficial for men and was quickly approved. Birth control was not seen as beneficial to men so it took much longer.

Most women in Japan still do not use 'the pill'. Condoms are generally used and abortions do not have the negative connotations that they have in the West. (I'm not saying that any of this is right or wrong—that is just how it is over there.) I took a sharp deviation in my story 'Future Incarnations' when I had Kagome use a form of birth control other than a condom. I just couldn't write a story of mine without mentioning the form of birth control that I felt best suited for the situation regardless of how things really are in Japan.

Women's Rights

There is no women's lib in Japan. Women's rights in Japan are closer to how things were in the US in the 1950's. Women work, but the men are still higher up on the hierarchy (much higher) and have the majority of the executive jobs. Women are still considered mother's before they are considered workers—though this is starting to change with more women in the workforce.

Medicine

They have socialized medicine. They do not pay for going to the hospital or visiting a doctor. Most of the industrialized world has socialized medicine. America is far behind in that regard when we have families that are destitute simply from paying medical bills. That does not happen in Japan. This also means that when someone is sick in Japan they tend to go straight to a hospital rather than simply go to a well-care doctor's visit.

I have read two fan fiction stories that took place in Japan where the family was decimated after paying a large medical bills. Again, this wouldn't happen in Japan. (It can happen in America, but just because we pay for our healthcare doesn't mean the rest of the world does. Most countries have healthcare paid for by the government. My French relatives still call us barbarians for our healthcare system.)

Bleach

I'll always remember the day when a Japanese foreign exchange student who was living with our family bleached his hair. He had bought a traditional bleaching hairdye from the local grocery store. What happened when he used it? Well, his normally black hair turned a bright carrot color. Just like the main character in 'Bleach'. I don't know if anyone else understands the title, but that is why the main character has such bright orange hair. He was using 'bleach'.

Homogeneous society

They have a saying in Japan, "The nail that sticks out gets pounded in". I think when you have a culture where everyone has black hair and brown eyes that you simply feel like you 'belong'. I am very proud of my American 'melting pot' society where I can run into hundreds of different ethnicities just by walking across town. But that does not happen in Japan.

Japanese society is all about the group and working within a group. The individual's rights are often sacrificed in Japanese society—yet at the same time they work better together in groups than we do in the US. America had the exact opposite extreme where we push individual rights to the detriment of teaching our society to work together for the common good. I think that both Japan and America really need to find some sort of happy medium somewhere in the middle.

Bathrooms and Bathing

The bathroom and even bathing are completely different in Japan. How different? Well, when I asked a Japanese foreign exchange student about what was surprising or hard to get used to in America she said the bathrooms.

First of all, the toilet is a separate 'water closet' in Japan. The toilet is considered dirty, whereas the bathtub/shower are for cleaning yourself. So they consider it a complete dichotomy to have something dirty and clean next to each other. I will accede that the Japanese do have a point.

Now first, the toilet... You would think that a toilet would not be much different in Japan. But I have traveled the world and I had never seen an electronic toilet until Japan. Yes, I said electronic! The toilet is plugged into the wall and it has the most interesting diagrams on it. What does the toilet do? Well, there is a heated toilet seat feature. If you're wondering why anyone would need a heated toilet seat, keep in mind that in Japan they DO NOT have central heating. Each house tends to have only one (some lucky houses will have more than one) gas heater that is kept in a central room, like the living/eating room.

When I visited Japan near Nagano in March it was snowing and my brother's apartment was freezing. I hate to admit it, but the cold was much more bearable with a toilet seat warmer.

However, that is not the only thing it can do. The toilets also have a 'water spray' feature. So if you don't want to dirty your hands with toilet paper—well, you get the idea I hope…

Now onto bathing... As I mentioned previously, bathing is done in a separate room from the toilet. The bathing room usually has a tiled floor with a drain, a sink and a large, deep bathtub for soaking.

As you enter the bathroom you are to scrub your body clean BEFORE entering the bathtub. You wash yourself on the tiled floor where you sit on a small stool. You scrub yourself down and then wash off with a flexible showerhead. The bathtub is for relaxing, something akin to our 'spas' in America. Since the bathtub water is usually left in for a week, multiple family members will be using the water—so you need to enter it with clean skin.

I also need to point out that bathing with members of your family or with members of your same sex is completely acceptable and is not thought of as perverted. I was so exasperated when I read comments about an episode where Inuyasha bathes in the bathtub with the little boy, Souta. Americans saw it as perverted—but the Japanese would view it as completely normal. People of the same sex often bathe nude together in Japan. I swear they do everything together in groups, even bathing.

I highly recommend reading or watching 'Ranma 1/2' in order to see how Japanese bathing works.

Tattoos

I always find it funny when I read a fan fiction piece where the regular teenage Japanese characters have tattoos. Here in America it is now considered everyday and almost 'normal' to have a tattoo. However, that is not the case in Japan. Tattoos are generally only worn by the Yakuza or the Japanese mafia. Having a bold tattoo on your body usually symbolizes that you are part of a Yakuza clan. (The idea of having a regular clean cut teenager like Kagome of the Inuyasha series with a tattoo is simply mind boggling for me.)

Don't believe me? Here's a take of what happened to my brother and his best friend, Arren when they were at a public bath in Japan.

Yes, the Japanese do everything together—they even bathe in groups. Men and women usually use separate bathing facilities. My brother and our family friend, Arren, had decided to indulge in a wonderful Japanese pastime known as the public baths. However, I don't think my brother thought it all the way through. You see, Arren has a large tiger tattoo that covers a third of his back. The claws appear to be ripping through his skin. All in all, I found it to be very interesting and Arren liked the idea that it allowed him to take off his shirt in front of the ladies whenever they asked to see 'his tattoo'.

Well, there was my brother and Arren (with a very obvious tattoo on his back) in a Japanese bathhouse. My brother said that when Arren showed up the room suddenly got very quiet. Of course, they thought it was because they were gaijin (foreigners). Then when the chatter started up again a middle aged man attempted to talk to Arren. Of course, Arren can't speak any Japanese, so my brother (who is fluent) took it upon himself to do the talking for Arren. The middle-aged man offered his young daughter to Arren. (No, I am not joking! He thought Arren was Yakuza and that a marriage to a high-ranking Yakuza would help his families' standing.) Now my brother is pretty mischievous, so he didn't tell Arren at anytime during the conversation as to what was actually going on. He just mentioned that Arren needed to meet someone. After they were done with the baths, the middle-aged man introduced Arren to the girl he was supposed to marry. Arren was nice and had no idea as to what was going on. Apparently, the girl was nervous and sat silently while her father arranged the details of her nuptials with the oblivious Arren. My brother, all the while, was trying to keep a straight face.

They parted on amicable terms and that is when my brother slapped Arren on the back and let him know that the card he had just received was from his future father-in-law. Neither Arren nor my brother tried to contact the Japanese family that had tried to set up a wedding between the foreign Yakauza member and their daughter. And to this day Arren still wants to kill my brother for that stunt.

My brother and Arren went on to tell me that whenever a Japanese person saw his tattoo, that they would be a little shocked. The only other time it happened was when they were giving and receiving massages (which the Japanese can handle in a non-hentai way). My friend, Tomomi, was so shocked to see a tattoo in Arren. She knew that Arren was a clean-cut boy from the US without any ties to organized crime, but it still took a while for her to get used to it.

If you would like to read about tattoos in Japanese manga then I suggest that you pick up 'Crying Freeman'. The main character has a tattoo on his entire body that symbolizes his ties to the Yakuza.

Sleeping Arrangements

I mentioned before that the Japanese do everything in groups. They have been trained to do so since they were newborns. What do I mean? Well, family members sleep together (and I mean in a non-perverted way). Now keep in mind that there is no such thing as central heating in Japan. Frankly, the only way to stay warm at night (especially during the Winter) is to snuggle next to someone.

Every time we stayed at a home in Japan my entire family was given only one futon--which we were all expected to share. It was never thought of as perverted and was considered completely normal.

I find it so funny when I read about fan fiction authors who are aghast at the idea of Kagome (Inuyasha series) sleeping with little Shippo. Kagome is just letting the child share in her sleeping space and warmth as any gracious Japanese person would do for another family member. It is suggested by this arrangement that she considered Shippo to be her family.

I asked one of my male Japanese friends about this and this is what I was told. When a baby is born, the baby will sleep between the husband and wife. (Look at the final manga for Inuyasha to see Miroku and Sango sleeping with their children in their futon.)

When the second baby is born the first child will sleep with another family member. You might recall on the section on multi-generational households I mentioned that the grandparents live with their children.

Once the second child is born the first kid will sleep in the bed of his/her grandparents or other relatives (cousins/uncles/aunts). I remember asking a male Japanese friend, if he ever ended up sleeping alone and when did it start? I thought that surely by the time he was 4-5 years of age that he would sleep in his own room. No, that was not the case. He looked at me rather sheepishly and let me know that it was not until puberty that he slept alone. He tried to tell me, without telling me—that he needed some alone time to masturbate and he could no longer do so with Grandma sleeping next to him.

So if his tale is any indication, it is not until pre-teen or teenage years that a child will sleep apart from family members. I should also mention that some households do not even have this luxury and that the entire household sleeps together in the same room for most of their lives.

Public Transportation, Not Cars or Planes

I just read a story where Inuyasha flies in an airplane from Kyoto to Tokyo. It is vaguely possible, but a normal person in Japan would have taken the Shinkansen (bullet train) that takes only 30 minutes. Normally the distance would be a 2-hour drive and the flight would take even longer. When I was in Japan I traveled over 500 miles in 4 hours with a 30-minute train switch in Tokyo. That is how fast and efficient their magnetic-rail bullet trains are. They reach speeds in excess of 300 km/hr.

When I was meeting with Japanese friends in Japan I only drove in someone else's car two times. Otherwise I used the bullet train, local trains, local buses and cabs. People do drive in Japan (especially if they do not live in a big city).

In fact, if you were to buy a car in Tokyo, you first have to prove that you have a parking space for it before they will let you buy a car. In cities like Tokyo—you don't drive if you can help it. I mean how many of you would willingly want to drive in New York City? I wouldn't. Parking is a b**** to find, if not expensive and the traffic? Egad! Take the subway, that's what the locals do.

I find it so funny when I read fan fiction authors talking about teenagers driving around Tokyo. How could a teenager afford to drive around Tokyo (unless it was a motorcycle)? How would they pay for parking? And why drive when the subway and trains are faster and cheaper?

Vacation and Work

The Japanese typically only have one week off of work a year. Everytime my Japanese friend visits me she only has one week to visit. I keep on telling her that if you took the time to fly out from Japan to stay in California that you should stay at least two weeks! She always tells me that it cannot happen. She was lucky to get one week off of work. She also works 6 days a week. She comes into work on Saturday and usually works a half day.

I remember looking at a chart that compared countries to how many hours they put in per week. Japan was at the top with about 50 hours/per week. The United States came in second. (Italy came in last.)

Whenever I have a Japanese student visit me they can only come out during August for one month. (The Japanese student has only one month off for Summer vacation, unlike the typical 2 1/2 to 3 months that we have in the United States.) I have asked them repeatedly to come to California at any other month than August. (California temperatures in the central valley get to be between 35-45 degrees C (90-115 degrees F) during the day.) However, that is the only time they can get off of school and have time to visit.

Sex and Pornography

Sex is a touchy subject. I would say that in Japan they are both above and below us in terms of their 'sexual' culture. I see them as being more advanced in that they have no concept of 'original sin'. Sex is sex. It is not bad and there is nothing to be ashamed of. However, they do not talk about sex as readily in public as we do in the West. It is not something that you generally talk about. It is considered a private matter.

However, when it comes to pornography they are (depending on your opinion) behind us or in front of us. Pubic hair cannot be shown in pornography. I have read many manga where entire portions of a man or woman's genitals are simply missing. It is also considered illegal to bring pornographic material into Japan. I remember hearing from a friend of mine who was trading videos with a Japanese pen pal. She wanted anime and he wanted 'real' porno from America. Apparently our porn industry is well-known.

Homosexuality

I find the Japanese view of homosexuality strangely refreshing. In Japan being gay really isn't considered an issue. Anyone who has watched the unedited 'Sailor Moon' can attest to that. There are anime television shows in Japan where gay stars are prominent members of the cast.

I have been asked why do the Japanese have such an accepting view of homosexuality. I suppose that I need to answer, 'Why does the Western world have a problem with it?' I find it rather funny that most people from the West know of homosexuality prejudices, but don't understand their roots. The book Leviticus (in the Bible or the Pentateuch) admonishes any sexual behavior that includes sodomy. That is the root of our cultural aversion to homosexuality.

Now keep in mind that there is no such objection in either the Buddhist or Shinto religions. It simply follows that since their own religion has no problem with it, that their culture would follow suit.