Japan is a county known for its impressive technology and respected brand names like Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Kawasaki. Slightly less celebrated is its rich history and culture which Yu Higashiosaka, a senior in Hospitality Management, is proud to share with us.
Higashiosaka realized after six years in the United States that while living in Yokohoma, Japan, she was not always very appreciative of her culture and country. “Coming to the United States has made me appreciate my country more. I now notice the good in Japan and I want to maintain and uphold that culture,” she says.
Japan’s rich history is reflected in every aspect of its culture, including the cities.Kyoto, for example, is an ancient city and the imperial capital of Japan where temples still stand as well as shrines and archaic buildings.
“If you go to Kyoto during the spring you will enjoy the beauty of Japanese history and see the blossoming cherry tree; it is a beautiful place,” Higashiosaka says.
Japanese customs are more reserved than most, and when communicating, Japanese people rely heavily on non-verbal cues to convey meaning.
“I try to tell there is a problem by not saying it. I will try to read facial expression and read meaning to every attitude,” Higashiosaka observes. “It is really hard for us to say ‘no’ or ‘yes.’ Bluntly saying ‘no,’ we believe, is offensive and may hurt people.”
The Japanese show respect by not looking into the eyes of people they are talking to. Contrary to American custom, this is not interpreted as a sign of low self-confidence.
“After spending a couple of years in America, I went back to Japan and got used to looking straight into peoples’ eyes; this made my friends very uncomfortable,” Higashiosaka laughs.
The same thing applies to giving hugs and engaging in other forms of physical affection — it isn’t done openly in Japan.
“When I went back to Japan, I was very happy to see my Mom, so I gave her a hug, [and] there was surprise written all over her face. Kissing and showing affection is not something that is expressed openly, especially among elders, but with the new generations, the media is greatly influencing and changing that mentality,” Higashiosaka notes.
Japan has many nutritious and medicinal foods, one of which is the Toshikoshi Soba noodles made from buckwheat flour which is traditionally eaten on the Japanese New Year holiday.
“It is delicious, it physically makes one feel warm inside since it is eaten hot,” Higashiosaka said.
Another one of her favorite traditional foods is called Natto, which is fermented soy beans usually eaten with white rice.
“It has good nutritional value, it has lots of vitamins, and Natto is good to help balance the female hormones,” Higashiosaka said.
The Japanese culture is also reflected in its music. Higashiosaka’s favorite band is called Mr. Children.
“I like their songs because their lyrics have meanings, their songs are indigenous to Japan and bring out the beauty of Japan,” Higashiosaka said. “Most of their songs are about love, life, troubles and trials, I would recommend their song titled, “Over” to anyone that is dealing with a breakup. Even though the words are not in English the beat and rhythm are very relaxing.”