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I'm going to be an exchange student staying in Japan this summer. Any tips?/Being an otaku in Japan
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This summer I was given the opportunity to stay in Japan as an exchange student for two weeks (A Japanese student stayed at my home earlier this year), I began taking Japanese my first year of high school and will be now entering my junior year. Basically, my Japanese skills aren't very high (I'm in the Japanese honors society, but still 2 years isn't that much). During this trip I will be staying with a different family then the Japanese student who stayed at my house, I am going on this exchange with my friend but we will each be in separate houses. During this time we will be attending the Japanese high school on the weekdays.

So when I visit Japan are there any things I should be aware of? Anything I want to be cautious when doing/anything offensive? I want to make a good impression.

How should I act in the high school around the students?

ALSO I consider myself an otaku simply based around how much I love anime/manga, though I am not a weeabo and go around obnoxiously parading about it (No one at my school except my close friends even know I like anime). Though I have heard that some people in Japan look down on otakus. So if the family I stay with ask if I like anime how should I respond? Should I be wary about buying anime merchandise around them?

Sorry for all the questions I just want to make a good impression ^.^ Any help is gratefully appreciated THANKS c:

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Posted 5/3/13 , edited 5/3/13
1. Be careful not to use 好き when referring to people unless you're in love with them. I once used it to refer to someone that I liked (to express friendship), but it actually has a connotation that you love them/have feelings for them (like for dating), which can be hilariously confusing to people.

2. Don't use a person's nickname unless you've known them for a long time and/or they say it's okay. In Japan using someone's nickname is considered an honor that's reserved only for family members and very close friends, and it's considered very rude to use their nickname otherwise. I once made one of my friends very uncomfortable by asking her nickname and then referring to her by it, not knowing it was a cultural faux pas.

3. In some places it's fairly common for people to ride their bikes on the sidewalks, and they'll ring their bell to let you know that they're coming. Keep an ear out and make room for them or else you could unwittingly cause an accident.

4. I don't remember exactly which side, but in the big cities they have lots of escalators in malls and such, and they expect you to stand on one side while people walk up on the other.

5. If you bring a backpack to certain stores (like Mandarake) they'll ask to hold your bag for you in a storage locker and give you a ticket.

6. Japanese people will go above and beyond to accommodate you and make you feel comfortable/at home. It goes a long way in easing relations if you express your gratitude frequently. If the occasion calls for it, perishable gift foods (like pastries, candies and the like) are a customary way to show your appreciation.

7. You may have already noticed in some anime, but the day starts with someone announcing that everyone stands (kiritsu) and then bow to the teacher (rei).

8. Popular transportation will be bikes, buses and trains. The bus systems can be a bit tricky to figure out at first, but once you get it it's a snap. Trains are my favorite way to get around. I've never taken a bike before, but since you're staying there for a while you might want to consider it.

9. Most Japanese people will be amused and even curious that you enjoy anime (not so much manga --- everyone reads manga in Japan, even old people). If you start bringing home dakimakura and holding virtual birthday parties for your dating sim 'girlfriend', though, that amusement may start drifting towards discomfort. It sort of depends on the kinds of anime shows you like --- if you tell your homestay family that you like Doraemon, Totoro and One Piece, they'll probably think that's neat, and it may even open them up more to you, since they probably watched those anime when they were growing up. That said, if you tell them you like Oreimo and Photo Kano... they probably won't know those shows, but if they eventually figure out what you're talking about, then they might distance themselves from you. There's sort of a difference between mainstream vs. otaku anime in Japan, and the former is more broadly accepted than the latter. I think the popular perception of otaku in Japan right now is more sympathetic than critical, so I guess that's something to keep in mind. You're still in high school though, so buying anime stuff is generally more okay than if you were in college (since traditionally most people stop watching anime after high school in Japan), so if you're buying anime pencil cases and stationary, that should be okay (though if you start buying statues of half-naked little girls, that'll probably raise some eyebrows, depending on your family of course).

10. Be careful about falling into 'foreigner' cliques. By that I mean, foreigners who go to Japan for long periods of time and find that they don't jive that well with Japanese culture sometimes flock together and wind up avoiding experimenting/exploring Japan. You can lose out on a lot of language practice and experiences if you spend too much time in those kinds of groups. It's just something to keep in mind anyways.

11. Japan is a very safe country. Elementary school kids ride the train systems by themselves, and it's basically safe to walk even the city streets at night. The farther south you go in Japan, though, the less socially restrained the culture gets, which might be something to keep in mind (you might see drunk old guys peeing on buildings late at night, unexpected sort of things like that).

12. Different regions in Japan have different dialects, and they may express phrases you're familiar with in distinct/unique ways (IIRC, Osakans for example can use a portmanteau of 分からない and 大変 to come up with 分か変, which is a colloquialism to say that something's difficult to understand). Tokyo Japanese is usually what foreigners learn before going to Japan, which is considered the polite version of Japanese (you'll probably want to speak politely for the most part).

13. No tattoos in the onsens/hot baths. They'll think you're yakuza, and kick you out.

14. If you're a guy, you might want to consider getting a coin purse. You'll probably wind up using/carrying more coins than paper money (you'll find lots of situations that call for 100 and 500 yen coins).' Also, I had a Bank of America Debit Card here in the US, and I was able to use it to withdraw Yen at 7/11 ATMs in Japan, at a really good conversion rate (very very convenient).

15. Akihabara is a great place to go for otaku goods, but there's also Den Den Town in Osaka if you're close enough and get the chance. Also, foreigners get a special discount for Shinkansen tickets (but I think you have to order them ahead of time, so that might be something to look into). The Shinkansen is an awesome way to travel across the country.

16. Don't stick your chopsticks straight up into your bowl of rice and leave it there. It's a practice reserved for food offerings at graves, and it's considered bad luck/maybe rude to do it.

17. You'll get along with people if you're attentive, considerate, and appreciative.

I did a homestay myself for about a month when I was in college, and traveled back a few times since, for travel and to hang out with friends. Japan is an awesome country, I hope you have fun.
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Posted 5/3/13 , edited 5/3/13
A huge amount is covered, nothing left for me to add to the above aside from: Smile!

I do however want to make a small note on one point:


kilikikero wrote:
14. If you're a guy, you might want to consider getting a coin purse. You'll probably wind up using/carrying more coins than paper money (you'll find lots of situations that call for 100 and 500 yen coins).' Also, I had a Bank of America Debit Card here in the US, and I was able to use it to withdraw Yen at 7/11 ATMs in Japan, at a really good conversion rate (very very convenient).



http://www.sevenbank.co.jp/support/info2013041901.html

As a "frequent" Japan traveler myself I loved the option of the 7 bank ATMs in the 7/11 stores.
However as of April 19 Bank cards with Maestro and Cirrus and Mastercard creditcards will no longer be accepted for cash withdrawal.

I'm not sure which system American bank cards use though, but as a European I'll be limited to do cash withdrawal in banks and post offices.
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do NOT be picky with your food. if you have a food allergy express it, or else they will think you're just being rude. also, when you're at a restaurant, do not say things like, "oh i want no onions and this and this and this on my ______" cause that just screams, "I AM SPECIAL BAH! LOWLY ASIAN MAKIN MAH FUUUUD!"

they might not say anything about it, but after you leave they're totally gonna be like, "foreigner was so picky, god!"

XD i would think this is a given, but then.. iunno.. i had some friends who would say things like that and the rest of us would palm face as the waiter/host would just shit-eat smile at them.

Also, i think it's okay to say you like anime/manga. As long as you are capable of talking about anything else and everything else, no one should think it's a problem. It's only a problem if it's the ONLY thing you wish to talk about. I think asking a lot of questions about etiquette would be a great conversation starter as culture varies from family to family. "when is a good time to (do this/that), how do i go about (this/that)."
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ALSO! perishable gifts suggestions! (mainly stuff they do not have in japan are good)

COSTCO CHOCOLATES (such as the truffles)
GIRL SCOUT COOKIES (seriously)
WHISKEY (unless you are underage)
CANDY (the large pouches you buy at the grocery store. they do have HARIBO gummies in Japan already, so stear clear from that. they also have kitkat there already. and it's MOUNTAINS upon MOUNTAINS better than ours T_T)

Other stuff they definitely do not have there:
http://www.fbcusa.com/general-store-and-deli/snacks-and-dessert.html
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CosmicEternity wrote:

This summer I was given the opportunity to stay in Japan as an exchange student for two weeks (A Japanese student stayed at my home earlier this year), I began taking Japanese my first year of high school and will be now entering my junior year. Basically, my Japanese skills aren't very high (I'm in the Japanese honors society, but still 2 years isn't that much). During this trip I will be staying with a different family then the Japanese student who stayed at my house, I am going on this exchange with my friend but we will each be in separate houses. During this time we will be attending the Japanese high school on the weekdays.

So when I visit Japan are there any things I should be aware of? Anything I want to be cautious when doing/anything offensive? I want to make a good impression.

How should I act in the high school around the students?

ALSO I consider myself an otaku simply based around how much I love anime/manga, though I am not a weeabo and go around obnoxiously parading about it (No one at my school except my close friends even know I like anime). Though I have heard that some people in Japan look down on otakus. So if the family I stay with ask if I like anime how should I respond? Should I be wary about buying anime merchandise around them?

Sorry for all the questions I just want to make a good impression ^.^ Any help is gratefully appreciated THANKS c:



Be mindful of what time you should be home. Some families have a thing with eating together for dinner--but they are all right with you going out with friends every now and again. Also, try to clean up after yourself. Futon, etc. Saying "itadakimasu" before you eat and "gochisousamadeshita" when finished is also good.

Don't be surprised if other students fall asleep in class. That's accepted, unfortunately. It's annoying for us teachers, but they're allowed to do it in most schools. I guess I should just say I haven't seen a school gotten on kids cases about sleeping during class. Also, I believe there is a time every day where the students (and sometimes faculty) help out and clean around the school. You should help out during this time.

If you want to make a good impression, I would recommend always using teinei Japanese (e.g. -masu/desu form). I know that when you make friends you tend to slip into casual Japanese, but it really is better, in the long run, you keep up the polite Japanese. I speak from experience. I am paying for that now.

Don't stick your chopsticks straight up in your food. Open your chopsticks vertically, not horizontally, if they are stuck together. When pointing to yourself, point to your nose. When beckoning someone with a hand gesture, make sure your palm is face down and act as though your pulling water towards you by bending your hand at the wrist (this is harder to explain than I thought haha). Take your shoes off when you enter a house (you might need a change of shoes at school too) and when at home or at someone's house, when you line up your shoes it's always nice (and EXTREMELY WELCOMED) to tidy up/line up anybody elses shoes that may not be straight.

Most likely your classmates will ask you if you like anime/manga. If they show the same amount of enthusiasm you do about it, then I say join in. I wouldn't flood them with it if they aren't interested, though. I'm sure they won't mind hearing about it once or twice, but if it's all you talk about they might avoid you. Don't worry about buying merchandise around them. But don't go throwing "otaku" around. It's not a very positive word in Japan from what I have seen. They joke about the word and what not, but it has a negative connotation to it.

I currently live in Japan. I am an English teacher.

P.S. Don't be surprised if other students seem... distant. Students around your age, at least where I am from, seem really disconnected and silent. From what I gather, they're usually constantly busy with studying or juku, so it's hard for me to get them to speak (as a teacher).

If you have any questions, message me!
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shotanime wrote:

XD i would think this is a given, but then.. iunno.. i had some friends who would say things like that and the rest of us would palm face as the waiter/host would just shit-eat smile at them.
"


You mean when your friends would order food at a restaurant and then ask for things not to be in their food (if it was originally supposed to be made with it in their food)? That's strange because, for example, I have a friend who hates negi (those little tiny green onions). She's Japanese and no matter what it is, she always asks for them not to add it.

It's not a bad thing not to request something in your food at a restaurant. Waiters don't get annoyed by it. They are more concerned about the price. Usually if you omit something they seem to think the customer believes the price should change accordingly (like it should be cheaper). In that situation you just say you don't mind the price staying the same, you just don't want X in your food.

When I go to McDonalds (rarely) or Moss Burger (rarely) or any other place. I always ask for no mayo or mustard on my food. I don't care if it bothers them. I don't like it and, guess what: I'm paying for it. :D

As for host families: in my experience they usually ask what foods you don't like. Usually that's on any paperwork you submit. If there are allergies, you write it down. If there are foods you hate, you write it down. Whenever my school has done exchange students we have always asked them to write any food allergies they have and any foods they just really dislike.

You shouldn't be picky and you should be open to trying new foods if you haven't had them before. But if something isn't appealing, don't be afraid to politely decline.

With that in mind, I suggest you learn about amaimo, tororo and natto. Those things I cannot eat without trying not to throw up. I can't do slimy foods, or foods that become more slimy as you chew.
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yeah dude, sorry that sounds picky to me. asking to hold a condiment doesn't sound so bad, and although they will ALWAYS politely do things for you and accept your refusal of things they offer, it doesn't mean deep down they're not thinking it.

if you're vegan, i've heard of vegans picking vegan only restaurants and/or bringing their own food to add to a get together at a house, or just plain letting the host know beforehand.

iunno, i personally have no food aversions whatsoever. and i know my husband does (he is japanese) but he will not, ever, refuse anything if offered by a friend/host. he will complain about it later to me privately, but rejecting a home cooked meal (especially at ma and pa restaurants) is kind of a no-no. (like i said, this does not refer to allergies or food sensitivities).

i never understood the feeling myself until i started cooking full time like i do now (i cook all japanese food at home). and one time we had a guest and he picked out all of the onions. and all of the vegetables. which was 80% of our meal. which left him hungry. and left me feeling like a bad hostess. only then did i finally understand why it was truly rude.

anyway i'm sure your friend is a total sweetheart, prolly a nice person. but she isn't dumb, she is prolly aware that what she is asking can be taken the wrong way by some people. doesn't mean they won't do it. they will always do it and if you're fine with that then there is no problem i guess. i just think it's wise to mention it to the people who have no idea that is can be seen as rude.

(one of the biggest reasons it is seen as rude cause it's coming from an asian country where they had experienced a food shortage, famine, etc. there is a saying they tell little kids (which we teach our daughter as well, cause she is super picky and we're trying to fix that), it's "suki kirai wa ikenai yo" which means, "it's not right to be picky." it's also a cultural thing in my family growing up (my parents are from a third world asian country) and i had seen kids starve on the streets before in their country. it's much MORE than just being picky with food for some people, which is why i feel it's crucial to point this out.)

(btw i lived in japan for three years. even after relocating outside of japan, i have been married to my husband for 5 years. we speak japanese at home, watch japanese television, kid goes to a japanese only school here, food as i mentioned earlier, etc etc etc)
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Posted 5/3/13

CosmicEternity wrote:

This summer I was given the opportunity to stay in Japan as an exchange student for two weeks (A Japanese student stayed at my home earlier this year), I began taking Japanese my first year of high school and will be now entering my junior year. Basically, my Japanese skills aren't very high (I'm in the Japanese honors society, but still 2 years isn't that much). During this trip I will be staying with a different family then the Japanese student who stayed at my house, I am going on this exchange with my friend but we will each be in separate houses. During this time we will be attending the Japanese high school on the weekdays.

So when I visit Japan are there any things I should be aware of? Anything I want to be cautious when doing/anything offensive? I want to make a good impression.

How should I act in the high school around the students?

ALSO I consider myself an otaku simply based around how much I love anime/manga, though I am not a weeabo and go around obnoxiously parading about it (No one at my school except my close friends even know I like anime). Though I have heard that some people in Japan look down on otakus. So if the family I stay with ask if I like anime how should I respond? Should I be wary about buying anime merchandise around them?

Sorry for all the questions I just want to make a good impression ^.^ Any help is gratefully appreciated THANKS c:



Also, I found this really good video about home etiquette!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qN62JzL-f0k
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I have never been there before. But I think you should be your self and just have as much fun learning about the culture. It will be an awesome trip for you And congrats! Thats an achievment!
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Thank you so much for all your amazing tips everybody!! :3
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Use the language when you're there, you'll improve a LOT.

They'll prob like that you are interested in their culture (anime/manga) somewhat counts. At least the people i was around were. Perhaps you might want to be a BIT wary in front of your host family, but with the students it should be fine.

Also, ..you probably shouldn't refuse anything. - unless you're clearly being scammed.

Some maid cafes double as ...brothels. Be careful what 'gifts' you buy.

Bring lots of money, it's pretty difficult to not spend there.

I don't eat friedfoods, but i'm told that the chicken/kfc is lightyears better than ones in the US, so perhaps you should try that.

Go to an onsen, if you can't, try a public bath. It's actually a very nice experience.

that's all i c an think of for now.
Have fun

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Posted 5/6/13 , edited 5/6/13

berries-382 wrote:
I don't eat friedfoods, but i'm told that the chicken/kfc is lightyears better than ones in the US, so perhaps you should try that.


While I do agree that the overall quality of fast foods in Japan are a lot better I tend to avoid the big international chains as much as possible unless they have something that is only available there.
And even then, only once to try it out.

In most cities for every McD, KFC and BK there are litterally tons of other local, usually better and healthier, fast food options.

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berries-382 wrote:

Also, ..you probably shouldn't refuse anything. - unless you're clearly being scammed.


I wouldn't say you can't or shouldn't refuse anything. If it's a gift, you should accept it. You'd be surprised how many things people attempt to give you while you're out walking around. If you're talking about while out and about, you don't have to and shouldn't feel obligated to accept the tiny tissues people try to hand out to people down the shopping arcade. You also don't need to accept any of the coupons or brochures they attempt to give to you if you don't want to. You won't wrong anybody or show yourself to be a horrible foreigner if you decline them--Japanese people won't even make eye contact and will outright ignore the people.

If you aren't hungry, don't feel obligated to eat if you go to someone's house. If you don't mind eating, eat. Japanese people totally understand the idea of not eating when you aren't hungry and eating when you are. Just tell them that you aren't hungry.


Some maid cafes double as ...brothels. Be careful what 'gifts' you buy.


Lucky for him you aren't supposed to be allowed into a maid cafe unless you are "of age". Of course, there are always ways around that if they don't card you. I'm sure there are some maid cafes that he would be allowed in, but shady stuff like that? It'd be 18+. I've seen many maid cafes in Akiba that stated you needed to be 18+ to enter.

But I live in a city of 700,000 and there isn't one maid cafe here. There is a maid themed hostess club, which is probably the "brothel" you were speaking about.


I don't eat friedfoods, but i'm told that the chicken/kfc is lightyears better than ones in the US, so perhaps you should try that.


KFC is horrible in comparison to the KFC in America. The chicken is drier than any fast food chicken I've ever eaten. The skin on the fried chicken is just... no way to explain it. It isn't good. I have gone a few times to a few different KFC locations here out of desperation and I've always been very let down. Avoid KFC.
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Posted 5/6/13 , edited 5/6/13

Kerensa wrote:

Some maid cafes double as ...brothels. Be careful what 'gifts' you buy.


Lucky for him you aren't supposed to be allowed into a maid cafe unless you are "of age". Of course, there are always ways around that if they don't card you. I'm sure there are some maid cafes that he would be allowed in, but shady stuff like that? It'd be 18+. I've seen many maid cafes in Akiba that stated you needed to be 18+ to enter.

But I live in a city of 700,000 and there isn't one maid cafe here. There is a maid themed hostess club, which is probably the "brothel" you were speaking about.


As a foreigner you shouldn't worry about getting involved with those places unless you're looking for that in particular.
Most hostess clubs won't go that far either.

The places that do are usually inaccessible for foreigners unless specifically invited by the owner as prostitution is illegal in Japan.
Yes it does happen, I've walked into "the wrong neighbourhood" in a couple of cities.
Those neighbourhoods are heavily run by Yakuza, and those don't want any involvement with foreigners at all.
If you happen to be stranded in such a zone and a friendly Japanese person isn't asking you in (usually perfect) English if you happen to be lost, the surrounding atmosphere in such neighbourhoods will tell you to move along fast enough.
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