Japan is strange, but not for the reasons you might think.

For many, when thinking about what kind of country Japan is, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that it’s not normal or that it may even be one of the craziest places on earth. After all, with all of its fetish shops, wacky cosplayers, and bizarre festivals, how could it be anything but weird? Surprisingly, however, it really isn’t — at least not in the way you might be thinking. Yeah, it has a bunch of really strange things, but what country doesn’t? Take for example the United States, like Japan it has its fair share of odd TV shows and commercials over the years, be it well-known shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim or lesser-known and slightly creepy things like this ad for Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania . When it comes to traditions we’re not much better either. Take for example the President’s yearly pardon of a turkey on Thanksgiving day or the fact that every year, we leave it to a rodent (a groundhog, to be exact) to tell us how much longer winter is going to last.
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It’s not just the US, either. Whether you’re from Denmark or India, we see these things all the time on social media, meme sites, and even on our way to work or school. For some reason, though, we tend to dismiss these things as an occasional oddity, rather than focusing on them and ignoring the normalcy that is far more common. This isn’t to say that there isn’t anything overtly strange that exists here, in Japan, however. There are numerous — maybe even countless — cultural norms and customs which are completely foreign to westerners, and for those who aren’t used to them, they can be more than just confusing, but frustrating as well. Take for example the idea of tatemae; put simply, it is just the idea that one should put on a public face and avoid expressing beliefs or doing things which others may disagree with, in order to maintain harmonious, positive environment. The problem is, however, that for many Japanese people, it can be difficult to balance tatemae and the expression of one’s honne (true feelings). As a result, even when eating at a restaurant, some people may even reiterate, time-and-time again, just how delicious the food is — even if it is only average at best. In actuality, although it isn’t necessarily tatemae, more than a few Japanese people that I have met during my time here overly praise and complement everyone and everything, regardless of whether or not it is actually needed.
As a foreigner, especially one with a higher level of proficiency in Japanese, this will likely become apparent, relatively quickly. You will likely find that even being able to read simple kanji or able to say something like “konnichi wa (good afternoon),” you’ll be met with things like gasps, clapping, and a bunch of people mentioning how amazing you are and how skillful you are with Japanese — although, it’s quite difficult to believe that they are genuinely impressed and makes it difficult to tell when they truly are. Herein lies one of the biggest oddities of Japanese society: the popular misconception that foreigners simply cannot speak Japanese and that Japan is so unique that foreigners (especially westerners) cannot do or understand things in the same way they do. In fact, it isn’t rare to be asked, “Can you eat raw fish?” or have someone exclaim, “Wow! You can eat with chopsticks?!” while dining with them (as a non-Asian foreigner, that is). These questions and statements are so bizarre that it’s difficult to imagine hearing foreigners gasping and shouting out, “No way! You can use a fork?!” or asking, “Can you eat cheeseburgers?” to their Japanese friends.
Nonetheless, this rather odd way of thinking will likely change as more foreigners come to Japan and become proficient with Japanese. As for its other peculiarities, there are literally hundreds of ways in which Japan is strange. Please, feel free to share your stories and let us know how what your experiences are and what you think is strange or not about Japan!
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Chain Stores employees have gone crazy in Japan

Good afternoon! As I write this article, a thunderstorm has just started not so long ago here in Tokyo. Hopefully it will end quickly so I can go home without getting extremely wet!

However, this is not today’s topic. This time I would like to tell you about a recent “trend”? that has taken many fast food restaurants and convenience store by surprise and owing apologies to their customers; clerks have started to take pictures of themselves in inappropriate poses or situations inside the store, in most cases even still wearing their uniforms. What’s going on? Here’s the timeline.

1. The first freezer incident

Last July, a picture of a store clerk resting carelessly INSIDE a freezer in a Lawson store went viral all over the Japanese internet, before gaining popularity worldwide as well. Of course the picture caused plenty of negative reactions, with many people stating they would never buy ice cream in Lawson from that moment on. Of course, Lawson investigated where the incident happened and decided to close the store since the guy in the pic happened to be the franchise owner’s son. This happened in Kochi prefecture.

Trapped? I don't think so...

Trapped? I don’t think so…

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/lawson-store-closed-after-employee-puts-photo-of-himself-in-freezer-on-facebook

2. The second freezer incident

Days after the incident in Kochi, a copycat appeared and published his pics as well. The style was exactly the same: Just laying down on top of the ice cream.

Source: http://hamusoku.com/archives/7976703.html

3. The freezing trend goes global

And as the freezer cases became known worldwide, some people in neighbor countries started imitating them. Well, it has been a scorching hot summer, so this is understandable, right?

Source: http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/08/20/its-an-epidemic-worldwide-freezer-diving/

4. The Burger King buns incident

Does it make a very comfortable cushion?

Does it make a very comfortable cushion?

Then, not so long ago a new case was reported in Burger King! An employee took a picture of himself on top of a big plastic bag full of buns. Many internet users seemed to care more about what that suspicious substance in the basket next to him was, though. Burger King stated that the buns in that bag were about to be disposed of, so customers never ate them. Some news reported that he was not fired, whereas other sources say he was fired right away.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/burger-king-japan-buns_n_3714602.html

5. Taco Bell incident outside of Japan

About the same time of the Lawson incident, a Taco Bell worker took a pic of himself licking many taco shells for an internal contest. He didn’t submit the picture, but a friend of his uploaded it to Facebook and eventually it spread all over the web. Gotta be careful about the pictures your friends upload!

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/taco-bell-licked-taco-shells-served/story?id=19328741

6. The recent Pizza Hut dough incident

And finally, last Monday another person decided to make a contribution to the trend, by wearing a mask made of dough. But of course he didn’t do it home, he used Pizza Hut dough and had the pic taken while still wearing his uniform!

You'd better do it home next time

You’d better do it home next time

Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/20/national/pizza-hut-incensed-by-workers-dough-faced-twitter-stunt/#.UhR9a9KmFWI

So, although I believe this is just a series of silly, immature jokes that won’t last for too long, many people in Japan are wondering, what’s going on among the Japanese youth?? Are they just bored? Are they looking for opportunities to be fired?

Eduardo H.