日本では当たり前(06) - 居酒屋 part 2

Difference between Japanese and Western Cultures

5. Izakaya (居酒屋) vs Public Houses (part 2)

Ordering drinks and settling bills

In public houses, it is common to buy ‘rounds’; this involves one person in the group purchasing everyone’s drink, then when everyone finishes that drink, another person buys a ‘round’. This is due to the ordering system described last week. When the premise is crowded, it can take a significant amount of time queuing and ordering. If each individual leaves the table to get a drink, there may not be many left to converse and have a social gathering.

At izakaya, the bill is settled at the end. Most of the time, it is split equally amongst members. There are exceptions: For example, if a group of university students go for a drink with professors or a group of businessmen gathers for an after-work ‘R & R’, the professor and company superior would usually pay all or a significant portion of the bill. Settling bills at the end may be disadvantageous for moderate drinkers as they may have to pay for more than they have ordered. Same could be applied to the ‘round’ system where you might feel pressurised to ‘pitch in’.

Social events in public houses

Public houses offer a wide range of social events which izakaya do not offer. Range of entertainment offered is extensive, and consumers can choose which pub to go to depending on what venue is being held.

A typical example is a pub quiz. This involves many teams made up of usually 2-5 members answering questions from a wide range of topics and subjects. Each member will have to pay an entrance fee which the majority will be given to the winning team.

Some pubs host concerts and gigs, usually for young and upcoming bands. What type of music or which group will be allowed to play depends on the owner. Many British bands have traditionally played in various pubs to become popular and get scouted by record labels.


日本では当たり前(05) - 居酒屋

Difference between Japanese and Western Cultures

4. Izakaya (居酒屋) vs Public Houses (part 1)

As I went to an ‘izakaya’ over the weekend with my fellow volleyball team comrades, I have selfishly decided to compare the differences between these two establishments this week. In reality, since every country has a unique custom when it comes to drinking, it was best to only compare Izakaya and Pubs instead of Japan versus rest of the world.

Logistical Aspects:

At izakaya, all customers are seated, and orders are taken from waiters. This is great for me because it saves queuing at the counter and prevents spillage accidents. In addition, there are wireless call buttons to order instead of shouting your lungs out. In pubs, if you can’t find seats, you are expected to stand and fight your way to the counter to order during ‘rush’ hours. Being a lanky lad, it is sometimes hard to stay diplomatic amongst other drunkards.

Both establishments are open during evening hours. However, pubs usually open from lunch hours until 11pm whereas izakaya open around 5pm and close at midnight. In the UK, late night licensing is now available (Licensing Act 2003) but not many pubs are open after 11pm.

Since July 2007, smoking has been banned in public places. As a result, pubs have become much cleaner and accessible to families and people with medical conditions such as asthmatics. However, Japan is still very relaxed about smoking (Japan was one of the last country to ban smoking inside airplanes). Although ventilation system is generally good, passive smoking effects cannot be ignored.

To be continued…


日本では当たり前(04) - コンビニ

Difference between Japanese and Western Cultures

4. Convenience Stores

Typically known as corner shops in the UK, almost every city and town in Japan has a convenience store, known as ‘KONBINI’, operating 24/7. According to Japan Franchise Association, there were 235,686 convenience stores in 2007 (http://jfa.jfa-fc.or.jp/pdf/2007.pdf). So what’s the secret to their success and what are the differences from outside Japan?

Firstly, it’s the sheer number of products available. A typical store stocks between 3500-5000 products. In addition, usually, there is a 24-hour ATM, touchpad screen to order concert tickets, pay for online goods, and bills, special cash card (which can be integrated within your mobile phone) to pay for goods without needing to flop out your wallet, and so on.

Since Japan is relatively safe compared to other countries, robbery is infrequent and alcoholics do not gather around the store to enjoy continuous ‘binging’. Thus, you can enter the store late at night (i.e. you don’t have to purchase items over a bulletproof window and a lock system for cash tending). As a crime deterrent, CCTV surveillance is in place. Unlike the US, there is no special subsidy for local police officers or shotgun behind counters (If anyone has stats on this, I would love to hear from you). Also, the store is brightly lit up so that any crime can be spotted from a mile away which brings me to the next point – what is the coolest thing about convenience stores from an animal behaviourist’s point of view.

Lights used in convenience stores do not attract insects at night. This is because these ‘special’ lights do not emit ultra-violet (UV) wavelengths. Many insects are sensitive to UV wavelengths as many flower petals are UV reflecting and also play a part in choosing partners. For more information, go to this website (http://www.bio.bris.ac.uk/research/vision/4d.htm).

Apart from noise pollution in the vicinity, there are mainly two concerns regarding this type of store. One is their intrusive data collection scheme: When you are at the cashier register, the cashier must enter gender and age group of the buyer before starting to read the bar code. You may notice new staff in training staring at you for no apparent reason, trying to work out your age group (not gender hopefully!).

The other problem is the loss of traditional small shops in residential communities. Less than 20 years ago, each community had a small shop to buy tobacco, buy ‘sweeties’ after school, and send parcels which is often run by an elderly. It provided a place for local news and gossip for adults, and an important developmental tool to learn how to manage your savings, or allowance, for children. For me, it was and still is a part of what makes a tight-knit community.


日本では当たり前(03) - 自動販売機

Difference between Japanese and Western Cultures

3. Technology of Vending machines

Vending machine is everywhere in Japan. In fact, according to Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association, there are more than 5.7 million machines in Japan of which about half of them sell beverages (JVMMA, 2007). You could buy almost anything from a vending machine including vegetables, eggs, and even crapes.

However, Japan is not the only country to sell ‘unique’ items: In Atlanta Airport, USA, iPods and related products can be purchased through a vending machine. At one point, it was selling around $55,000 a month!

Recently, Japanese vending machines have made some technological advances. On railway platforms, electronic railway passes such as Suica (similar to Oyster cards in London) can be used instead of cash. In addition, there are ID cards called TASPO which must be used to buy any cigarettes through vending machines (compulsory since July, 2008). TASPO can be charged with credits to make future purchases quicker. In addition, there are vending machines with facial recognition which determines the age of the buyer through analysis of bone structure and facial parts. Unfortunately, there has been several instances where the machine could not distinguish between a real face and a photo. The manufacturer is attempting to fix this fatal flaw as soon as possible

Other interesting add-on’s:

- LAN cables or mobile phone to give real-time feedback on the stock, breakdowns, and attempted break-in’s

- CCTV to prevent crime nearby (the machine has been vandalised continuously since the installation)

- Some vending machine provide free drinks in times of emergency and when drinking water become scarce


イベント案内(No.6) Open School Day 3/22(Sun)


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Kids' Lesson 1

Kids' Lesson 2

Kids' Lesson 3



Kids' Lesson 1

Kids' Lesson 2

Kids' Lesson 3




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日本では当たり前(02) - 牛乳パック

Difference between Japanese and Western Cultures

2. Milk Cartons:

In the US, it is common to see milk cartons sold in gallons and quarts (i.e.US Imperial Units). They are sold in plastic containers thus the terminology of ‘carton’ not being truly accurate. Habitual consumption of cereals and cornflakes as well as clever marketing campaign (got milk?) promotes a higher demand relative to other countries.

In the UK, its imperial system is similar to that of the US, but the volume differs. Milk cartons are also usually sold in a plastic container with pints being the usual measurement.

Japan is one of the few who still abides to selling milk in a ‘proper’ carton. With recycling schemes for cartons being a common practice, even houses can be built out of this recycled material.


日本では当たり前(01) - エアコン

Difference between Japanese and Western Cultures
1. Heating:

In Japan, there are mainly two ways to heat a house; one is by using kerosene heater and the other by using air conditioner. As far as I am aware, kerosene heaters are very unique. After purchasing the heater, you must buy the fuel from a gas station (or petrol station). Most heaters require electricity for spark plugs and timers. The biggest danger using this type of heater is carbon monoxide poisoning. Recent models now provide an hourly warning system to warn the user about ventilation.

Air-conditioners are also unique in a sense that one is there for each room unlike many American homes which has a ventilation system to allow every part of the room to be heated (or cooled) according to their preferred temperature. As eco-friendliness is now a ‘hot’ topic, it may be more eco-friendly to have one air conditioner per room so that other rooms not being used is left alone. However, purchasing air conditioner for each room in the house can be costly and CO2 produced to make each machine can add up to a significant amount.
In many European countries, it can use a completely different heating mechanism using central-heating with water. Using pipes, water heated by a boiler is distributed to multiple rooms, and each room can have several radiators (wall-mounted panels through which the heated water passes in order to release heat into rooms). In the UK where I spent almost half of my life, this type of heating was the most common.


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