From love hotels in summer to the history of fireworks, these juicy bits of information amaze even Japanese people.
Whether it’s personal chopsticks or squat toilets, Japan never ceases to amaze us with its myriad of strange customs. It may seem like a gigantic amusement park for us foreigners, but Japan also has a few things that surprise even its citizens.
Here are five little-known facts of Japanese society, sourced from Twitter users across the country and collated by Japanese site Naver Matome:
#1. Love hotels in summer see a spike in customers
・夏休み期間のラブホ 大学生→非常に増える 高校生→増えるので断るのが大変 不倫→子供が家にいるので、家で浮気が出来なくなった方が来店される。しかし子供のため家にいなくてはいけない方の不倫が減るため、あまり変わらない 社会人カップル→残念がら変わらない…休みがない…—
上野 ラブホスタッフ (@meguro_staff) July 21, 2017
A Japanese love hotel staff member claims that his establishment’s customer demographic changes when summer vacation rolls around in August, with a noticeably large increase in university students. Cheating spouses also contribute to the spike in customers, as they can’t possibly do the dirty at home without getting caught by the kids who are usually at school.
#2. Saizeriya pays well
仮名 (@kamei8180) July 23, 2017
Saizeriya is a Japanese chain of family-style Italian restaurants, serving a large selection of affordable pizzas and pastas. According to an ex-staff member who was employed at its head office, it’s also apparently one of the best companies to work for due to competitive salaries and first-rate employee welfare. Employees in their early thirties stand to receive bonuses three times a year (one of which can be a stock option), with annual salaries reportedly surpassing 10 million yen (US$90,451).
#3. The spectacular fireworks display at Sumida River paints a grim story
Fireworks are a summer staple in Japan, and one of the largest events is held at Tokyo’s Sumida River. Attracting countless spectators every year, this thunderous display of vivid colors is a joyous one. Beneath this celebration, however, lies a grim story.
In ancient Japan, such fireworks were launched during festivals to commemorate the dead. Famine and plague took many lives, and beautiful explosions in the night sky were a way to lift people’s spirits and bid farewell to the departed.
みゆうのすけ（改） (@miyuu753315) July 29, 2017
For some people, like the mother of the Twitter user above, it is a terrifying reminder of the air raids Tokyo suffered during World War II. She recalled that the fires of the razed city were so hot that people burned their hands against the bridges’ railings.
#4. Unagi tasted terrible back in the old days
Grilled unagi (freshwater eel) is a delicacy in Japan, often consumed during summer to restore vitality. The meat boasts an exquisite nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the rich and sweet soy sauce.
西 貢央 (@nishiyakumo24) July 26, 2017
According to @nishiyakumo24, however, it wasn’t so tasty back in ancient Japan, as the people had yet to fully unlock its culinary potential. The eel was chopped up and eaten with miso and Japanese peppers. Even though it was as nutritious as it is today, back then it was a slimy, putrid mess in a bowl.
#5. Kansai nomikai is an art
The Japanese nomikai (drinking party) is like a business party with colleagues, usually held at an izakaya tavern after work-hours, with alcohol to loosen everyone up. Formalities like speeches are the norm, but when folks from the Kansai region gather for a nomikai, things take a wild turn as described by one Japanese Twitter user:
塩谷 舞（大阪生まれ） (@ciotan) August 04, 2017
“When it’s a nomikai full of Kansai people, it’s more about humor dispensed at a steady pace than it is about discussing business. Everyone is laughing and jokes are quickly doled out in spades; there’s a lot of talking but nothing gets done. A lot of nomikai end up like that.
As such, if you were thinking of reporting sales contributions or exchanging opinions, you will get hurt. You should participate in the nomikai as if you were entering a volleyball competition. Follow the order of serving, receiving, tossing, and attacking for maximum laughter. Friends will jeer when the ball is dropped, and amateurs who retaliate an attack will get their butts handed back to them.”
That sounds like an incredibly fun party! So drink, make merry, don’t talk about business, offer a topic as bait and let someone else pounce on it with humor. Oh and don’t drop the ball. You have to hand it to Kansai people for making these drinking parties awesome.
There are certainly more interesting tidbits of information out there, but it’s usually passed on to others through word of mouth. Perhaps it stands to reason then, that most Japanese are unaware of the unspoken rules of eating Japanese food.