Life Styles and Social Relations

Life Styles and Social Relations

A Day In The Life Of A Typical Japanese College Student

Hey, Shizuko here! Today, I’ll be telling you about my day. I’m sorry there isn’t manga-related content in this post. I’m a university student, so I’m busy on the weekdays with my studies.

Summary of My University Day (Time = 時間)

First, I live in an apartment near my university, Kansai Gaidai in Osaka because I am a commuter and it makes it much easier. It’s around 6:45 in the morning and I overslept because I am tired from yesterday’s part-time job. I work as a waitress at an izaka-ya (a Japanese-style restaurant) three times a week. I live alone in Osaka, so I have to save money to pay for living expenses. My family is back in Tokyo.

Pictured below is Japan’s number 1 izaka-ya, Tsubohachi for illustrative purposes. Of course, I only work at an ordinary izaka-ya, I can only dream of working at Tsubohachi. I’d be set for living expenses for a while if I worked there! But I thought it’d be a good chance to show a success of an izaka-ya.

(WAttention, 2013)

(WAttention, 2013)

I’ve got 30 less minutes than usual to get ready, so I’ve gotta hurry. I skip breakfast because it takes a while for girls to get ready for school. Insert face washing, make-up (false eye-lashes, foundation, blush, mascara, eyeliner, etc.), hair combing/styling (curling/straightening, teasing into shape, etc. Japanese hairstyles are complex). For an image, please see the ones below. And there’s also coordinating your outfit and accessories.

(Yonasu, 2013)

(Yonasu, 2013)

(Pinterest, 2013)

(Pinterest, 2013)

After I’m done getting ready, I hurry out the door. Even though, I’m in a hurry, I make sure I locked the door because recently, apartments have been broken into. I have to hurry to catch the 7:20AM train. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the station from my apartment on bike. I make it to the subway, and it’s especially crowded during this time because of rush hour from 7-9AM. I’d like to take a seat, but there are none available. So I can only stand with my backpack containing heavy textbooks. The time it takes to arrive at the university is one hour. It’s hard for me to keep standing with the weight of the books. But there are no lockers at school, so I have to bring it with me. Sometimes, when I’m likely to get a seat, I fall asleep with my head in a textbook listening to music. Finally I arrive at the bus stop with the bus to my university. Since there are so many students that go to my university, there are times when the bus fills up before I even make it inside the bus and I’m late to class. (´;Д;`)

(on Japan:, 2008)

(on Japan:, 2008)

The bus is also very crowded, it takes 5 minutes to arrive at the university. I dash to class, unluckily it’s on the 5th floor. It’s either take up the elevator or the stairs. The elevator’s too slow, the waiting time is 1 minute at the least. This makes me think that we need more escalators or elevators in our school so that we can prevent this tardiness. Fortunately, my teacher is late for class. So I make it into my classroom on time. At first I try to listen carefully and learn something, but I just remembered that there is homework from another class that is due today so I covertly get started on that instead. As the class goes on, I get more and more sleepy, I didn’t sleep enough because of my night hours working my part-time job.  I fall asleep in class. (-, – )…zzzZZZ

I finish class without the teacher finding out.

Lunch – 12:10 – 12:50 40 minutes

(Kansai Inochi, 2012)

(Kansai Inochi, 2012)

There are stores that sell food for students. Students either eat out, buy their lunch at school or bring their lunch from home. I usually bring my lunch, but I forgot it in my haste. I’m not that hungry, so I hurry to the student cafe to buy some curry bread (in Japanese=karepan) and yogurt (in Japanese=yoguruchi).There are a lot of students waiting in line, the waiting is about 3-5 minutes.

(tokyo food file, 2010)

(tokyo food file, 2010)

(Pictured above is curry bread. Please see a brief explanation of what it is here. It’s a delicious and easily made snack on the go. If you’re interested and want to make some, please see the link as well.

I eat lunch and chat with my friends in Seattle’s Best Coffee. I was sad in the morning but after hanging and talking with my friends, I’m a new woman. Or at times, I do homework during lunch. At times, I teach Japanese to exchange students and in turn they teach me about their languages. I usually prefer to do the teaching in the cafe because the atmosphere’s peaceful.

(Wikipedia, 2013)

(Wikipedia, 2013)

(Pictured above is my dinner! Delicious, isn’t it? \(@ ̄∇ ̄@)/)

(Please see this definition for recipes and definition of it.

It’s 9, so we leave.  I don’t have to work today, so my friend and I eat dinner at a local okonomiyaki restaurant. We chat and we lose track of time. Fortunately, I make it in time for the last train. When I get home, I log onto nixi (a Japanese social networking site popular among Japanese youth). I write a blog about today and post pictures. After playing on nixi for hours, I blacked out into sleep.


Slippers & Shoes

When entering a Japanese house, outdoor shoes are always replaced by slippers at the doorway (genkan). Slippers are provided by the host.

(Japanese Study Now!, 2011)

(Pictured above is the genkan with the house slippers and shoes you wear outside the house.)

When entering a room with tatami floor, slippers are removed as well. Tatami should only be stepped on with socks or in bare feet.

Tatami – A long-established type of Japanese floor covering, the tatami mat is primarily composed of rice straw. They resemble thick, cloth tiles that can be picked up and piled in stacks. “Tatami” is a word derived from the verb “tatamu” or to fold. In modern Japanese homes, a private room–“washitsu”–reserved for ceremonies and entertaining is usually the only space covered with tatami. To this day, it is forbidden to wear shoes while stepping on tatami.

(eHow, 2013)

(Texan in Tokyo, 2013)

(Pictured above are bathroom slippers.)
Finally, there are special toilet slippers for exclusive usage inside the washroom. The usual house slippers are left outside the door while using the washroom.

Sitting techniques

Sitting upright on the floor is common in Japan. For example, meals are traditionally held on a tatami floor around a low table. Sitting on the floor is also customary during the tea ceremony and other traditional events.

The formal way of sitting for both genders is kneeling (seiza) as shown on the picture below. People who are not used to sit in seiza style may become uncomfortable after a few minutes. Foreigners are not usually expected to be able to sit in seiza style for a long time, and an increasing number of Japanese people themselves are not able to do so either.

women only


men only

In casual situations, men usually sit cross-legged, while women with both legs to one side. The former sitting style is considered exclusively male, while the latter is considered exclusively female.

(Japan's Heart and Culture, 2010)

(Japan’s Heart and Culture, 2010)

(Pictured above is the tokonoma for clarification. It is the alcove with the wall scroll and potted flower.)

(See this link for an explanation on the tokonoma’s purpose.

Seating order

The most important guest sits on the honored seat (kamiza) which is located farthest from the entrance. If there is a tokonoma in the room, the guest should be seated in front of it. The host or least important person is supposed to sit next to the entrance (shimoza).

(Japan Guide, 2013)

Meals (Food = 料理) & Table Etiquette

The word for “meal” in Japanese is gohan (ご飯). This word actually refers to steamed rice, but rice is such an important food to the Japanese that gohan has come to mean all sorts of meals – even Western ones like spaghetti.

The most traditional Japanese meal is a serving of plain, white rice, along with a main dish (fish or meat), some kind of side dish (often cooked vegetables), soup (either miso soup or clear broth), and pickled vegetables.

Traditional Japanese breakfast pictured below! Eat your heart out! ( -_-)旦~

(chomp chow chew, 2011)

(chomp chow chew, 2011)

Meal Etiquette

Individual versus shared dishes

It is not uncommon in private households and in certain restaurants (e.g. izakaya) to share several dishes of food at the table rather than serving each person an individual dish. When eating from shared dishes, move some food from the shared plates onto your own with the opposite end of your chopsticks or with serving chopsticks that may be provided for that purpose.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

(VETEC, 2012)

(VETEC, 2012)

Before eating, Japanese people say “itadakimasu,” a polite phrase meaning “I receive this food.” This expresses thanks to whoever worked to prepare the food in the meal.

How To Eat Etiquette

Many people eat by taking a bite of the main or side dish, then eating a little rice, and then having a sip of soup straight from the bowl (soup isn’t usually eaten with a spoon). A little rice is saved until the end of the meal, when it is eaten with the pickled vegetables.

How to Hold Chopsticks

1. Positioning and holding the Japanese chopsticks: Stick (A) is held by using the thumb to press the stick against the hand and ring finger as shown. Stick (B) is held by using the index and middle fingers to press the stick against the thumb as shown. To catch and hold food, move the index and middle fingers up and down. Please give it a try.
2. Taking up chopsticks Starting with the meal Using the thumb, the forefinger and the third finger of the right (left for the lefty) hand, take up the Chopsticks. Then support by the left (right) hand as in the figure (2), and re-position the Chopsticks by the right (left) hand as in the figure (3) and (4).
3. (Figures of 3) Putting down Japanese chopsticks Finishing with the meal Just follow the reverse directions of taking up the Chopsticks as shown in the figures whenever you take short rest during taking meal.When finishing a meal, people say “Gochiso Sama Deshita” or “It was a wonderful treat”.
4. (Figure of 4) Holding the bowl and the chopsticks at the same time: Take up the bowl first in one hand by resting the bottom of the bowl on the four fingers and placing the thumb on the rim Next, take up the chopsticks by the other hand.
5. (Figure of 5) When you finish the meal Place the chopsticks on the chopstick rest. If there is no chopstick rest, place the chopsticks half-way into the envelope, or tie the chopstick envelope into a knot and place them on the knot as shown in the figure. This is an elegant way of keeping the table clean, and politely signals your waiter that you are finished.How to tie the chopstick envelope into a knot: (1) Fold the end of the envelope as shown. (2) Make a cross or a triangle as shown by folding the other side of the envelope making it a little longer than the other side. (3) Put the other end of the envelope into the loop of the envelope and fold it as pictured. (4) You’re done!
6. (Figure of 6) How to Put Soy Sauce and Add more Wasabi When you put soy sauce on Sushi, put it on the fish side of the Sushi, not dip the rice of Sushi into soy sauce. Note: You could use your hand to take Sushi, but please clean up your hands. Usually Wasabi is already put between the fish and the rice of Sushi by Sushi Chef, but if you want more Wasabi, put it on the fish of Sushi.

(Chopsticks Etiquette, 2013)

How to Hold the Dishes When Eating

rice bowl
1. Rice bowl

Hold the rice bowl in your hand to eat from it.

soup bowl
2. Soup bowl

Hold the soup bowl just like the rice bowl, and sip the soup directly from it.

other dishes
3. Other dishes

Flat plates used to hold meat or fish are not usually lifted from the table. Grab a good-sized bite of food from the plate with the chopsticks and then eat it.

After Eating Etiquette

gochiso sama deshita

After eating, people once again express their thanks for the meal by saying “gochiso sama deshita,” which literally means “it was quite a feast.”

(Kids Web Japan, 2013)

Some Table Rules

  • Blowing your nose in public, and especially at the table, is considered bad manners.
  • It is considered good manners to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
  • Talking about toilet related and similarly unappetizing topics during or before a meal is not appreciated by most people.
  • It is considered bad manner to burp.
  • After eating, try to move all your dishes back to the same position they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lids on dishes and putting your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or back into their paper slip.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

  • Never point your chopsticks.
  • Do not pierce your food with chopsticks.
  • Place bones on the side of your plate.
  • Try a little bit of everything. It is acceptable to ask what something is and even to make a face if you do not like the taste.
  • Don’t be surprised if your Japanese colleagues slurp their noodles and soup.
  •  Mixing other food with rice is usually not done. You eat a bit of one and then a bit of the other, but they should never be mixed together as you do in many Western countries.
  • If you do not want anything more to drink, do not finish what is in your glass. An empty glass is an invitation for someone to serve you more.
  • If you leave a small amount of rice in your bowl, you will be given more. To signify that you do not want more rice, finish every grain in your bowl.
  • It is acceptable to leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.
  • Conversation at the table is generally subdued. The Japanese like to savour their food.

(Kwintessential, 2013)

(If you ever decide to go out drinking in Japan, follow these rules!(

How to eat…

… Rice:Hold the rice bowl in one hand and the chopsticks in the other. Lift the bowl towards your mouth while eating. Do not pour soya sauce over white, cooked rice.
… Sushi:Pour some soya sauce into the small dish provided. It is considered bad manners to waste soya sauce, so try not to pour more sauce than you will use.You do not need to add wasabi into the soya sauce, because the sushi pieces may already contain it, or may be eaten plain. However, if you choose to add wasabi, use only a small amount so as not to offend the sushi chef. If you do not like wasabi, you can request that none is added into your sushi.In general, you are supposed to eat a sushi piece in one bite. Attempts to separate a piece into two generally end in the destruction of the beautifully prepared sushi. Hands or chopsticks can be used to eat sushi.In case of nigiri-zushi, dip the piece into the soya sauce upside-down so that the fish enters the sauce. A few kinds of nigiri-zushi, for example, marinated pieces, should not be dipped into soya sauce.In case of gunkan-zushi, pour a small amount of soya sauce over the sushi piece rather than dipping it into the sauce.
… Sashimi:Pour some soya sauce into the small dish provided. Put some wasabi on the sashimi piece, but be careful not to use too much as this will overpower the taste of the fish. Dip the sashimi pieces into the soya sauce. Some types of sashimi are enjoyed with ground ginger rather than wasabi.
… Miso Soup:Drink the soup out of the bowl as if it were a cup, and fish out the solid food pieces with your chopsticks.
… Noodles:Using your chopsticks lead the noodles into your mouth. You may want to try to copy the slurping sound of people around you if you are dining in a noodle shop. Rather than being bad manners as Westerners are often taught, slurping noodles is considered evidence of enjoying the meal.In case of noodle soups, be careful of splashing the noodles back into the liquid. If a ceramic spoon is provided, use it to drink the soup, otherwise, lift the bowl to your mouth as if it were a cup.
… Kare Raisu:
(and other dishes in which the rice is mixed with a sauce)
Kare Raisu (Japanese style curry rice) and other rice dishes, in which the rice is mixed with a sauce (for example, some domburi dishes) may become difficult to eat with chopsticks. Large spoons are often provided for these dishes.
… Big pieces of food:
(e.g. prawn tempura, tofu)
Separate into bite sized pieces with your chopsticks (this takes some exercise), or just bite off a piece and put the rest back onto your plate.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

(If you’re going to be eating out, then please mind this eating out etiquette.

Business Etiquette – If you want to know how to do business in Japan, I’d suggest going to these websites. They will tell you how to behave and how to dress.


In Japan the main purpose of taking a bath, besides cleaning your body, is relaxation at the end of the day.

The typical Japanese bathroom consists of two rooms, an entrance room where you undress and which is equipped with a sink, and the actual bathroom which is equipped with a shower and a deep bath tub. The toilet is almost always located in an entirely separate room.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

When bathing Japanese style, you are supposed to first rinse your body outside the bath tub with a washbowl. Afterwards, you enter the tub, which is used for soaking only.

After soaking, leave the tub and clean your body with soap. Make sure that no soap gets into the bathing water. Once you finished cleaning and have rinsed all the soap off your body, enter the bath tub once more for a final soaking.

After leaving the tub, the water is usually left for the next member of the house. It is to keep the bath water clean for all members of the house that washing and rinsing is done outside of the actual bathtub.

Modern bath tubs can be programmed to be automatically filled with water of a given temperature at a given time, or to heat up the water to a preferred temperature.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

Basic Greeting – Bowing

In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. A bow ranges from a small nod of the head to a long, 90 degree bend at the waist. It is also common to bow to express thanks, to apologize, to make a request or to ask someone a favor.

(The FlipKey Blog, 2012)

(The FlipKey Blog, 2012)

When bowing to someone of higher social status, a deeper, longer bow indicates respect. Conversely, a small head nod is casual and informal. However, most Japanese do not expect foreigners to know proper bowing rules and so a nod of the head is usually sufficient. Please take a look at the diagram above on the different types of bows.

(Shitoryu, 2013)

(Shitoryu, 2013)

If the greeting takes place on tatami floor, people get on their knees in order to bow. Please take a look at the diagram above on how to bow on your knees.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

How to Address Someone


  • The Japanese are very conscious of age and status.
  • Everyone has a distinct place in the hierarchy, be it the family unit, the extended family, a social or a business situation.
  • At school children learn to address other students as senior to them (‘senpai’) or junior to them (‘kohai’).
  • The oldest person in a group is always revered and honoured. In a social situation, they will be served first and their drinks will be poured for them.

(Japan Guide, 2013)

Japanese San, Chan, Sama, Sensei, Kun


The Japanese commonly address each other by last name. Only close friends and children are usually addressed by first name. In addition, people rarely address each other just by name, but usually attach an appropriate title to the name. There is a large number of such titles depending on the gender and social position of the person you are addressing. Some of the most frequently used titles are:

  • san: (for example Sato-san)
    This is the most neutral and famous title, and can be used in most situations. Only in formal situations, san may not be polite enough.
  • sama: (for example Sato-sama)
    This is a more polite form of san, commonly used in formal situations and letters, but too polite in a casual context.
  • kun: (for example Yusuke-kun)
    This is an informal title used for boys and men that are younger than yourself.
  • chan: (for example Megumi-chan)
    This is an informal title used for young children and very close friends or family members.
  • sensei: (for example Sato-sensei)
    This is a title used for teachers, doctors and other people with a higher education and from whom you receive a service or instructions.

(Kwintessential, 2013)

Gender Roles & Class Structure – Social and Economic

  In Japan the man and the woman play two very different roles. The Japanese man is expected to perform as little twenty to thirty minutes of domestic work per day. His job is to be the bread winner for the family. The Japanese woman is expected to take care of all domestic chores as well as care for the children.

Even today Japanese customs prevail in the marital relationship. The husband and wife are expected to communicate as little as possible in Japan. Fifteen to twenty minutes a day is the usual amount of time. This situation has been described as domestic divorce. There is no conversation, communication and sexual relations between a husband and wife, but they do not divorce. The mother is responsible for all childcare and the men are expected to play with the children on weekends only. After the children are born the parental role takes precedence over the role of a couple. The wife refers to the husband as father and the husband refers to the wife as mother.

(Teacher Bien, 2013)

New type of men

Most of the men that I encounter in family therapy appear to lost confidence and do not know how to take the role of husband/father in the family. He may try to be nice to the family and become friends to his children. As a result, he cannot excise any authority, and becomes over indulgent to the children. Or on the contrary, he may believe a father must be aggressive to be respected by the children, so he becomes abusive to the kids and rejected by his children and wife.

His wife may hold the image of the traditional family that wife/mother needs to be in charge of the family, and should not ask her husband for help. In this kind of family, the husband may try to be involved in child rearing, but his wife dominates the role. As a result, husband would gradually become peripheral after all. The Father’s difficulty continues when the children grew to be adolescent. The children become rebellious and often the father’s authority. It is a very difficult job for the father to set the right amount of limit with the growing adolescence.

(Tamura, 2013)

Gender Roles in Contemporary Japan

In today’s Japan, most males are permanent employees, while women form three fourth of the part time or irregular workforce. Less than 10% of senior managerial posts are occupied by women, unlike the United States, where the corresponding figure is 43%. In 2001, a white paper by the Government publicly expressed concern on the gender discrimination situation highlighted by an index developed by United Nations called the ‘Gender empowerment measure’ that showed Japan as 41st among 70 countries that participated in the survey. It highlighted that wages of women were around two third of their male counterparts. Surveys done in subsequent years have shown the situation of Japanese women to be more or less unchanged.

In 1970s, labor economist Alis Cook and her associate Hiroko Hayashi published the summary of their interviews with members of ‘Keidanren’, the national Federation of major Japanese companies, which clearly indicated that in spite of high participation in workforce in terms of numbers, the employers considered them a secondary, less trained and inferior workers not deserving of wages equal to their male counterparts.

In recent years, the modern Japanese women, has started expressing a far greater choice in her life-style. This has lead to frequent change of jobs and delayed marriage sometimes extended far enough to retain single-hood as a way of life. As a corollary to the falling fertility rate and shrinking population, the greater independence of women in today’s Japan ironically co-exists against the backdrop of a social order that still does not seem to be ready to give them an equal independent status in spite of all the economic, legal and social developments.

(Kumar, 2013)

Cost of living

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

(Numbeo, 2013)

Please see this link for the cost of living comparing Japan and other countries.

If you’d like to find out the consumer price index of Japan and other countries, please take a look at the illustrative map found at this link.

If you want to compare other cost of living cities to each other, please go to this link.






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