Thursday, November 08, 2007

Big in Japan

So there are a bunch of pre-conceived notions Westerners have about Japan, and I've bought into many of them.

First, the Japanese tend to be anal retentive and excessive about packaging. TRUE.

I've known this all my life, but also found that even in the stripped-down world of economy airfares, it still holds true. Each item in my ANA flight lunch, from the entree, to the side dish, to the soba noodles, to the damn sugar packets for my coffee had no less than two layers of packaging around them. Here's my mom expending massive energy just to get one of the packages open. (Movie on her screen: Ratatouille. Sweeeet.)

Corollary to the anal retentive and excessive packaging law: If you can put your logo on it, do it. TRUE.

It's so nice to have a real French Chardonnay mise en bouteille for ANA. If you consider tacky "nice." Oh well, at least there's... wait for it... REAL CUTLERY! In ECONOMY CLASS!

Anyway, back to my original train of thought... another pre-conceived notion of the Japanese: They are prone to go apeshit for photos while on vacation. TRUE.

The proof? I'm only half Japanese and I had both my SLR and my point-and-shoot out... and this is just during the flight! But hey, that's how I get cool shots of god knows what going on in southern Alaska.

On to the next stereotype... The Japanese like to have a group identity, and live for things that are exceedingly cute. TRUE.

If this picture of in-seat exercises just before landing doesn't prove it, I don't know what does.

And the final stereotype: The Japanese tend to be on the small side. TRUE.

Dude. I'm a half-breed and at 5'7" I feel HUGE. I tried out the foot rest on the plane for shits and giggles. It felt like it was made for dwarves. I let my seatbelt out all the way so I can still wriggle around in semi-comfort, but the thing was nearly taut on me while maxed out. The gentleman at the end of my row never had to get up for me to go to the bathroom. He'd just pull his knees in a bit, and it was as if no one was in his seat. Then there's the ANA ground crew once we landed. In their little uniforms, they looked like a bunch of well-coiffed Oompa Loompas ready to whisk our baggage over to the carousel.

And now, here I am in a departure lounge at Tokyo Narita airport, waiting for my flight to Osaka. While my mom is absolutely loving these chairs, I feel like I'm in one of those little kid desks from a 2nd grade classroom.


  1. That b&w shot of Alaska is beautiful man! ANA has an onboard camera? That is so cool! It eliminates that guy who has an aisle seat that wants to check out the view.

    Ask your mom about this but I had heard the reason why the Japanese take so many photos (especially so with people in them) is because they feel it is rude to impose on a stranger to take a group shot. So therefore they take every permutation of the family in front of various landmarks.

    My favorite experience of this was in Cody, Wyoming. A group of about 50 Japanese tourists were prepping their cameras for what we guessed was a shot of the typical mountain landscape in the background, instead it was of the Walmart to their left. I knew it was going to be a long shoot ;)


  2. Heh.. interesting theory! I"ll totally have to ask my mom about that.

    And yeah, we were talking on the plane about how the nose cone and belly cameras on the plane completely eliminated the gawking factor - that and people opening up the windowshades when you're trying to sleep... just a slight issue on my last trip ;)

    Speaking of which, it was the last trip where I spent a good couple of hours just sitting in front of Notre Dame, snapping pictures of hordes of Japanese tourists. I swear, that was fun. Of course, now I'm probably the curiosity.