Cultural Observations on Japan (so far)

This post is by Rachel Dorfman-Tandlich, a student in the Higher Ed Administration Program

Our trip to Japan has been amazing so far, and we’re all thoroughly enjoying getting to experience Japanese culture.   Here are a few of my observations (so far):

1. Japanese hotels are full-service operations

Everywhere we’ve gone so far Japanese people have been incredibly welcoming and hospitable.  This is even more true of our hotels.  Today when we arrived at our hotel in Kyoto we were greeted at the bus by a concierge, and then ushered into the hotel lobby to meet with two other concierges, one of whom gave us an incredibly detailed explanation of how to open the locks on our hotel room doors (see photo below).

lock demonstration

Explaining the key entry system

Each of the hotels has been equipped with all the amenities you would expect to see in the US (shampoos, etc) plus a few more you wouldn’t expect – for example, check out these slippers and jammies that come in each room:

japanese pjs

Japanese jammies supplied by our hotel in Kyoto

2. Japanese people take their toilets very seriously

Toilets in Japan are a high-tech endeavor.  First, the seat is sensitive to weight and the bowl fills with extra water when you sit down.  The toilets include buttons for a front AND back bidet, and also a button to make a fake flushing noise for the timid tinkler who doesn’t like to be heard. Some toilets also include options to heat the seat so you’re not plagued by a cold bum.

toilet 1

the toilet at our hotel in Tokyo

toilet 2

the command center for the toilet in the Tokyo National Museum











3. Japanese people like to know what they’re getting before they order in a restaurant

Many restaurants in Japan have wax or plastic displays outside the front door advertising exactly what the dishes they serve look like.  In addition, many restaurants have lots of pictures in their menus so guests can get an adequate visual before making their selection.

plastic food

fake food on display in front of a restaurant in Tokyo

4. A sense of humor is very important in Japan

One thing that has surprised me most about Japan is how funny everyone has been.  Humor is something that can often be difficult to translate across cultures, but so far several of the presenters we’ve heard from have kept our group in stitches.


A Kyoto University student provides a hilarious description of his former life as a second grade teacher



One thought on “Cultural Observations on Japan (so far)

  1. I am Katherine Willis’ grandmother, and I am eagerly awaiting the next post! Katherine’s uncle attended a World Scout Jamboree in Japan as a high school senior, camping on Fujiyama. I am anxious to share your blog with him, and will be eagerly awaiting those to come. Annie Smith

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s