"10 Reasons Why Japan is So Weird!"
"Why did you want to go to Japan? It's so weird there."
"Look at what weird thing Japan has!"
When people talk about Japan, it's usually about how weird it is. "They have robots everywhere! Their clothing are so outrageous and out there!" Even when talking about my study abroad, people were confused on why I would want to go here since it's so weird.
I've come to the conclusion that Japan is not weird.
The things you hear about that make Japan weird belong to an extreme niche of people. One of the prime examples of weirdness is that there is a vending machine that gives out female underwear. I have yet to see a vending machine that even has food in it, let alone underwear. I'm more than sure that this vending machine is an outlier. I also know that Japanese people find this weird as well. So how can we claim an entire culture 'weird' based on something that natives even consider weird?
It's not just the actual weird stuff that gets called weird. During my stay here, I often hear people describe something different as weird. Heck, even I catch myself saying it. It's the little things, like bagging your own groceries or having to give money on a plate instead of in their hand. If Japan isn't weird, than what is it?
It's a different culture. They like different things. They experience things different than us. If we come at it from an American view, of course it's going to be strange to us. But I'm not here to look through the eyes of an American. Yes, my American view will come through, that's inevitable, but I can at least try and understand from a Japanese perspective. The reason why you place money in a plate first is so that the money doesn't get dirty. They even run coins through a washer in the cash register sometimes. This isn't weird. Instead it showcases the cleanliness that's so important to the Japanese people.
By keeping in this perspective, it ends up damaging your experience. You actively keep your self from growing.You have to realize that everyone can see the same object, and interpret it differently. That doesn't mean it's weird. Instead, it showcases their backgrounds. By exploring their backgrounds, you gain a much firmer and better understanding of them. The same can be same for cultures. By exploring it, instead of limiting yourself because it's weird, let's you understand better.
Unfortunately, this mindset of weird in a way is harming Japan. People outside of the country view them as the things that even they view as weird. Like everyone wants underwear from a vending machine. So for foreigners, the Japanese are these weird people. Why visit if they are so weird? They are missing the deep and complex culture that's here in favor for touristy (like robot fighting) and exaggerated experiences, because that's "Japan".
Japan is a fantastic country. It has it's quirks, just like any country, but it's certainly not this weird out of space place the internet likes to make it out to be. Like any country, it's just different. But different can become familiarity, like how it's become for me. So if we keep that in mind, we can all gain and learn more from each other, and gain a better appreciation for each other.