Differences in Japan Part 2

After writing the original Differences in Japan post I started to notice a million other differences that I forgot to mention! This leads me to believe that the  many differences in Japan will continue to be chronicled in a series of posts moving forward. So here we go!


From what I can tell, Pachinko  is just like slot machines. I have never played, but I did attempt to go into a Pachinko parlor once – one of my friends had never gambled and so we decided to go in so she could try it out. We lasted 5 minutes. The room was all lit up like a typical casino you would find in Las Vegas, but it was incredibly smokey, and terribly loud. I have never experienced anything as loud as the noise in a Pachinko parlor. It was horrible. It made me wish I couldn’t hear. We looked around, tried to use one machine, found out the minimum required amount to spend was 1,000 yen (10 Japanese dollars – you could bid less than 1,000 yen, but you were required to insert a 1,000 yen bill to begin) and so we left. This extremely loud and smokey experience was enough to make me never want to return.

(My actual experience below)

Pachinko parlors are everywhere – in fact, in most small towns they are located right by the train station so they are one of the first things I tend to notice. Not all of them are open 24 hours, but they tend to open early so sometimes you’ll see people gambling in the middle of the day. Some are incorporated into all-in-one game centers and one floor will be Pachinko, one floor will be pool, one floor will be karaoke, etc. Some are small little places with just Pachinko. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that they are all really loud and they are all really smokey. Which leads me to….


A lot of people smoke here – and when I say a lot, I mean, a WHOLE LOT. Most restaurants and bars allow smoking indoors, and many other types of recreational places will allow it as well. It can be a problem if you detest smoking and you go into a restaurant because sometimes the smoking section will be open to the nonsmoking section, making the entire area smokey. Some places have an enclosed area for smokers, but that only seems to be in newer establishments.

Vending machines sell cigarettes on the streets. I was surprised to see this since I hadn’t seen a cigarette vending machine since the 90s. Marlboro is a big brand here and I have seen many cigarette shops that are Marlboro brand shops.


While smoking is not taboo, smoking while walking is. People are prohibited from smoking and walking down the street. There are usually designated smoking areas on streets which will have an ashtray readily available for butts. At first I was really surprised that they would attempt to regulate smoking outside on streets, but the longer I’ve been here the more it makes sense – Japan is so densely populated that if people walked and smoked someone could easily get burned – and no polite Japanese person would want that to happen!


Much like smoking, heavy drinking is accepted in Japan as well. On many nights when I get off work at 9 pm if I run to the store to get something I can expect to see an extremely drunk salaryman  in his work suit completely wasted. If I’m really lucky, he may be passed out on a street corner, or ride his bike into a curb (True story! Two guys on one bike rode into a curb while trying to speak broken English to me!) On the weekend in Sannomiya, Kobe’s city center, people gather in a concrete park and drink – the later it gets the sloppier people get and I’ve seen people vomit here on more than one occasion (you’re welcome for me sharing that).

Alcohol is sold in vending machines and pretty much everywhere that food or other drinks are sold. There are no laws (that I know of) concerning drinking in public, so people will buy their beer or chuhai and walk around drinking them.

Women’s Clothing/Fashion/Style

Women in Japan have some of the most interesting fashion styles I’ve ever seen. They are not afraid to mix prints, leggings are their best friend, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in flats. I only see old women without make-up (never a teenager or younger woman), many women wear false eyelashes, everyone braids their hair in intricate patterns, and hair scrunchies never went out of style. Sometimes I am in awe of what Japanese women wear and sometimes I think they must have gotten dressed in the dark! Women here do not show cleavage, at all, but instead will wear shorts that resemble hot pants. Broken English is frequently splattered across the front and back of clothing and I’ve seen plenty of American flag prints on pants and shirts.

130209-1991 - Japanese street fashion in Harajuku, Tokyo130113-0761 - Japanese street fashion in Harajuku, Tokyo 121104-4398 - Japanese street fashion in Shibuya, Tokyo121103-1784 - Japanese street fashion in Shibuya, Tokyo

picture credit here

Work wear is a completely different story. Everyone wears the standard blue/black/grey suit with very little deviation. No open toed shoes (even though you don’t wear them inside), pantyhose at all times, collared shirts, little or no jewelry. Everyone looks the same.

I was once told that people in Japan have unique fashion styles outside of the work place because they are expected to conform at work and so the only time they can express themselves fashionably is on the weekend, so when they can, they go all out!

Japan is also famous for its Harajuku styles, which depending on where you are in the country, you might catch a glimpse. I have seen people in Japanese street style fashion in Osaka and Kobe, although it isn’t nearly as prevalent as it was in Tokyo. I am sure that at some point I will write about these amazing (and wacky) Harajuku street styles!

121104-6472 - Japanese street fashion in Sangenjaya, Tokyo 130127-3813: Japanese street fashion in Harajuku, Tokyo. 130127-3949: Japanese street fashion in Harajuku, Tokyo. 130210-2233 - Japanese street fashion in Harajuku, Tokyo

picture credit here

Crossing the Street/Jay Walking

Very few people jay walk in Japan – this isn’t something you’d truly notice unless you visited Japan. When I first started exploring Japan in Okayama, where my company’s Honbu is, I was amazed at how patient people were at street corners. A street could be completely bare and people will still wait until the flashing walk sign tells them they can cross before they will move. At night when it’s not as busy more people will run across the empty streets, but not during the day! I darted across the street tonight and felt like such a rebel! (I’m sure the Japanese people around me just shook their heads.)


More to come very soon!


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