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Japanese culture and being a Hafu

Hafu is a funny word. It literally means half (half Japanese and half something else) but the way Japanese people say Half is Hafu. They don't even use the proper Japanese word. The term Hafu has become romanticised. To Japanese people, Hafu have become some weird cool cultural icon. You know how Japanese love to cutify and romanticise everything? If not, more will be revealed later. But Hafu is one of those. 

This article was written by Ed Whalley, founder of Kansai Local.


Hafu

My mum is Japanese, born and raised in Yoshino (if you haven't been there, click here, its a beautiful region you should visit), and dad is an Englishman. Much of my childhood was spent growing up in Japan with my grandparents in Yoshino. Long summers spent insect hunting and fishing, firework festivals, eating loads and playing in the mountains were standard.

My brother, dad and I

My brother, dad and I

My mum, brother and I

My mum, brother and I

My dear grandparents

My dear grandparents

Japanese culture 

A lot of people ask what it is like living in Japan, and indeed a lot of people romanticise and fantasize about it, especially after holidaying there. Being really honest here, there are things worth considering. Japan is still a very traditional and old fashioned culture. Cash is still the preferred method of payment, people still believe in extreme politeness to clients and people who are older than you or who you don't know, and for such a technically advanced country, they still use old computers in offices and stuff seems pretty old. Work culture is also probably the worst in the world. Suicide rates are high in Japan because of the huge pressure that families and society place on young kids in school and university, and then eventually in their work-life that sometimes it becomes too much. There is a word called Karoshi, which means working to death… literally. I used to work in two Japanese companies when I was younger and we were all expected to do lots of overtime despite not getting overtime pay, and we had to leave after the boss left. And this was the London office of these Japanese companies, and indeed I was still seen as an English employee. The Japanese employees got it way worse. I cant imagine how bad it is in Japan. The government is taking steps to tackle overworking and high suicide rates. A commonplace for overworked salarymen and women to take their own lives are train stations. They jump in front of trains, which causes huge delays. The families of those who committed suicide must pay the government around 100,000 dollars. This is another method to prevent people from committing suicide.

A regular sight - sleeping salarymen in random places

A regular sight - sleeping salarymen in random places

Kimono culture is beautiful. These old Japanese ladies wearing Kimonos on the trains

Kimono culture is beautiful. These old Japanese ladies wearing Kimonos on the trains

Another thing which I am not keen on in Japanese society is the role of women in society. Women are still kind of considered second to men. It’s a very male first and quite a misogynistic society. The pay gap is still there, and there aren't that many women in power, although this is changing quite fast which is great.

Weird, random and cool Japanese cultural stuff. 

Slurping while eating

While not quite bad as the Chinese, who outright eat with their mouths open making as much noise as possible, which can offend a lot of people, it is considered fine to slurp noodles and ramen. It’s a way to show you're enjoying the food… so slurp away!!!

Yaeba

In the west, straight clean teeth are considered and desirable, however in Japan, sometimes the opposite is true. Yaeba is a term used for very pronounced canine teeth and generally wonky teeth. It is considered a thing of beauty and youthfulness. The Japanese love all things ‘Kawaii’ (cute) and Yaeba is considered Kawaii. 

Yaeba

Yaeba

Tipping 

Yeah don't tip, it's considered disrespectful. Whether you're in a restaurant or taxi, just don't tip. They will be confused and wait for you to take your change.

Anime and Kawaii culture 

Japan loves Kawaii. Kawaii is life in Japan. They cutify everything, every prefecture in Japan has a cute animal or weird creature mascot, food is often made cute, women make their voices high and squeaky to sounds cute and indeed if you watch anime and Japanese manga, this is also very apparent there. Be warned, resist the cuteness! 

 

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