Why do you have the senior-junior relationship system? – Tell me, Japanese people! Vol.19

Questions from cherry blossom viewers

Produced by Isao Tokuhashi
Edited by Jennifer A. Hoff
Mail to: info@myeyestokyo.com


Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

One of the most popular destinations for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo, which has approximately 1,500 cherry trees which bloom from late March (Shidare or Weeping Cherry), to early April (Somei or Tokyo Cherry), and into late April (Kanzan Cherry).
*Shinjuku Gyoen. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 29, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinjuku_Gyoen

*Another interview session at Shinjuku Gyoen: See this page.



Family and their friends from Norway

We’re from Oslo, the capital city of Norway, and Bergen, a city on the west coast of the country. We have four seasons like Japan and right now it’s winter there. Today it’s about 20 degree Celsius in Tokyo, which is almost equal to the summer temperatures in Norway. We have no cherry blossoms there, so we’re totally having fun with the beautiful views. We had been wanting to come here for a long time because we’d heard about this place and the words “National Garden” sounded really attractive for us.

Two of us have been staying in Tokyo since August 2017. They have been studying Architecture at the University of Tokyo for one year. We came to Japan to visit them. Actually she (one of the UoT students) suggested we come to this. We’ve also been to Kyoto and enjoyed seeing monkeys in a place called “Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama”.

And tomorrow is his (their father’s) birthday!

(MET sang “Happy Birthday to You” for him and our interviewer gave him an Origami Mt.Fuji!)

Actually, we were planning on going up the mountain, but we ended up not doing it. So he must be really happy to be receiving this gift from you!

Question: Why do you not hug in Japan?


Woman from Brazil

I’ve been in Japan since January 2017 and this is my first cherry blossom viewing. It’s really nice because I feel there are a lot of those who enjoy traditional Japanese culture. I’m Japanese-Brazilian so I’ve been familiar with Japanese food such as miso soup and gohan (ご飯, rice), but I didn’t know about Japanese custom like hatsuhinode (初日の出, seeing the new year’s first sunrise) and hanami (花見, cherry blossom viewing). I like this atmosphere.

I’m a university student who is majoring in International Business. I came to Japan from Southern Brazil with my family because of my dad’s company transfer. I didn’t want to leave there, but I got attached to this country little by little after coming here. I discovered the differences between two countries when I started my new life. Japanese people are very different from us. We’re open, while Japanese are shy. We’re relaxed, while Japanese are serious and hardworking. So it was hard for me to get to know them and to get closer to them. But now I feel comfortable after making Japanese friends, traveling with them and opening up to their culture.

Question: Why do you have the senpai/kohai (先輩/後輩, lit. “seniors/juniors”) relationship system?
*Senpai and kohai: Terms from the Japanese language describing an informal hierarchical interpersonal relationship found in organizations, associations, clubs, businesses, and schools in Japan.


Couple from Nepal

Man: I’ve been in Japan for three years and I’m working for one of the many Japanese beef bowl restaurant chains. I met her in Nepal, but I left there to learn the Japanese language.

Woman: I didn’t want him to go. I missed him after he left my country. So I followed after him a year later. Actually, I had already visited Japan once five years ago from now, so I was not a newcomer to Japan. I work at a convenience store now.

Man: I didn’t even have enough language skills to buy things or take public transport when I arrived here. But I have no problems with those things now. I’ve been learning the language since I was living in Nepal.

1. Why are Japanese people shy?
2. Why do Japanese people want to live alone?


Friends/couples/siblings from the US and Ireland

We’ve met up with each other before already in the US, Germany and Spain. We arrived in Japan yesterday and will be here for one week.

Woman from Ireland: You may be thinking we’ve been in Japan for a long time because we’re so relaxed and having fun. It’s because I’ve been here maybe 15 times. I lived in Japan for a little while. I have conducted some research at the University of Tokyo in the past. I’m a doctor.

I like Japan very much and I asked my brother and his wife if they would like to come and see Japan with me someday. So we decided a few months ago to come during the cherry blossom season because it’s the most beautiful time to come to Japan. They agreed and we made our plan to travel over. Then I told my friend that I would be going to Japan while I was having dinner with him a few weeks ago. He said that he would have nothing to do during the Easter Week, so I suggested that he come here with me too. And I also convinced my boyfriend to come to see cherry blossoms with me. I’ve made so many people come to Japan, the Japanese should hire me for their tourism industry because I’ll be able tell them (foreign citizens) how beautiful Japan is.

Our photographer gave them an instant lesson of the instrument called “Biwa (琵琶)”. *Photo on the left: Taken by Isao Tokuhashi (MET)

My apartment is filled with all kinds of things, all from Japan. I love Japanese handmade goods. I collect only really fine and special chopsticks. When people come to my house, I always offer them chopsticks from Japan along with knives and forks. Also most of my tableware, bowls and so on, are from Japan. And all the art on the walls in my clinic are also Japanese. Some are modern and some are old. I get compliments about them from my patients everyday. I have two different big photographs of maiko (舞妓) girls and my patients say, “They are so beautiful!” ”We like Japan!” “You have so much Japanese art!”.

I want to live here, but I’d need to find a Japanese man in order to do that (lol).

1. Are Japanese people annoyed by tourists to Japan?
2. What does cherry blossom viewing mean to Japanese youth?


Families from Nepal

Man A: All of us are living in Japan and have enjoyed hanami (花見, cherry blossom viewing) in Tokyo and Yokohama before.

Right now, we’re living in Kanagawa Prefecture with our families. I came here in 2009, so I’ve been living in this country for almost a decade. I speak some Japanese, but I came here to work so I didn’t learn it in university or at a language school.

She is 11 years old. She likes to eat natto even though she came to Japan just four months ago!

Man B: He likes butaniku (豚肉, pork meat).

Girl: (Answering the question from us; “Do you like Japanese anime?”) Yes. I like “Doraemon”.

Boy: I like “Ultraman”!

Girl: (Answering the question from us; “How do you like Japanese elementary school?”) Daisuki! (大好き, I really love it!)

Man A: Anyway cherry blossoms are beautiful. But sadly they will start to fall soon, I guess.

Question & opinions:
1. Why do Japanese people not like to marry?
2. I feel a lack of warmth inside of the families in Japan.
3. I like Japan and Japanese people. There are different types of flowers and animals. There is a big tower in Tokyo and I like it. I enjoy Japan. I just graduated from the fourth grade.


Thank you very much for your cooperation!

…Who wants to ask the next question?


Shinjuku Gyoen

*Interviews by Keiko Murayama
*Photos by Tomomi Tada
*Special thanks to Eikaiwa Begin


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