Japanese Culture: Every First-timer Must Know”

First Things You Must Know Before Visiting Japan

This is for people who want to learn Japanese to study, work, or live in Japan. Now without further ado, let’s start discussing the different things that you should know.

  • Dialects –  There are many different dialects in Japan. They are often grouped into two major types:
  1. The Tokyo type or the Standard Japanese is spoken in the northern region and anywhere in Japan. It is a primary language taught in school and is used on national television. Tokyo dialect may differ in speed, tone of voice, and conjugation of some words. Foreigners learn standard Japanese, or Hyo-Jun go.
  2. The Kyoto Osaka type or the Osaka-ben is spoken in the southern region and is particularly special where the phrases and words are used within it. It is only used in the Western part of Japan and it also has a special meaning to it.
  • Writing Symbols – Japan has 3 writing symbols and they are hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
  1. Hiragana is used for Japanese oriented words and are curvy round types
  2. Katakana is used for foreign loan words and represents the syllable sound.
  3. Kanji are Chinese characters adopted into the Japanese writing system. It represents symbols and has its own meaning. When you combine the 2 characters it corresponds to a word.

All country characters can be written in hiragana, for example, flower and nose can both be written in hiragana the same way, but if we use kanji Hana and Hana look very different from each other, some basic kanji characters are pictograms of their literal, meaning, for example, there are 2,000 kanji characters commonly used in Japan,

  • Pronunciation – is quite easy because, for us Filipinos, we have a similar syllable system. However, some people in other countries, they find Japanese pronunciation quite difficult. Each hiragana and katakana characters have a unique pronunciation. Each syllable is given a full beat, meaning all syllables are pronounced in the same length.
  • Politeness – there are 3, the plain form or casual form, the simple polite form, and the advanced polite form. Japanese people adjust their language to show proper respect, depending on their relationship to the person they’re speaking with, in other words, you use a certain form of speech depending on your position, this position is determined by a variety of factors, including job, age, or even experience.
  1. Plain or casual form of Speech is used casually or informally in between friends, colleagues, officemates of the same rank as you.
  2. Polite form – The person in the lower position is expected to use this form of speech. Strangers may also speak to each other in the polite form or the advanced form.
  3. The honorific and the humble language. Humble language is used to talk about oneself or one’s own group of people, like your company or your family, on the other hand, the honorific language, is used when describing the person you’re talking to and his group with much respect.

Let’s say, for instance, the suffix San. San literally means Mister or Miss, and you shouldn’t add it after your name. You must add it when you meet someone for the first time, someone with a higher authority than you, introducing 2 people to each other, and it is also used to address other people as well.

  • Body language and Gestures are an essential part of communication. Some gestures are used to show politeness while some should be avoided because they are considered rude. When referring to yourself, you use your index finger to point to your nose. Never, ever point it to other people. You will be considered rude. What you must do is when referring to another person, the polite way of pointing is by using an open hand with the palm facing up and direct it to the person you are referring to.
  • Japanese are not used to making eye contact.  It is considered rude and is a sign of aggression when you make direct eye contact with the Japanese for a long time.
  • Putting your hands in your pocket and folding your arms are both considered rude. Japanese usually put their hands on their side when talking to people while walking or just standing.
  • Bowing is considered the Japanese equivalent of a handshake. They are not used to shaking hands or hugging each other. The levels of bowing depend on the amount of politeness you want to show. Typically the deeper and longer you bow the greater respect you show.
  1. The 15-degree bow is a casual bow used to greet someone, sometimes even strangers.
  2. A 30-degree bow is more formal and the most common bow in business settings.
  3. A 45-degree bow is used to express deep gratitude to apologize or to be very polite.

So these are some of the things that you need to know whether you will work, live, or study in Japan especially if you are a first-timer and they are all very necessary to show respect.

Leave a Reply