Things that changed in Japan

October 26, 2013 Juju Kurihara Culture, Lifestyle, Society Tags: 2 Comments

It´s been 12 years since I stopped living in Japan and every time I go home, the change is quite noticeable.

Once I went to a small franchise coffeeshop and ordered a hot chocolate. The guy who attended me said "huh?" then "We don´t have a hot chocolate" in a very plain voice. First I didn´t understand what he said because I ordered it as I was seeing a picture above his head. I asked him politely, "You don´t have a hot chocolate… " "No, we don´t" he answered me before finishing my question. I continued, "Then what is in the photo?" The guy without even looking at the photo said, "That is cocoa". 

Wow. What I understood was he knew what I was meaning to but since I didn´t say it correctly, he didn´t take my order. Maybe people call it cocoa instead of hot chocolate in Japan. I didn´t and don´t remember but in any cases, I understand that they are more or less the same thing. Perhaps in the States they call it Cocoa? 

These things happen to me. One day the manager was called in a Starbucks in Roppongi to explain to me how to order a cuppccino correctly. It was quite embarrassing, specially she was talking to me in English and I was responding in Japanese. 



metro platform

Anyway, Japan is changing in both a good way and a bad way. 


This time I´ve noticed there are gates like this at many metro stations. Unfortunate for train manias not being able to take photos of trains coming in to the platform anymore. But considering the high rate of suicide, I guess this is the best option for the metro companies to prevent the accidents.




Other thing was couples on the streets. More couples are holding hands or hugging each other when they walk. 

10 years ago, it was still not so good things to do and a couple could get told off by harassing sexually the public. Kissing on the street? Forget about it.

Still now, I didn´t see any people kissing on the street but definitely people were more relaxed about couple doing icha icha (いちゃいちゃ /showing affection).

Sometimes I see Japanese mature couples who come overseas for a holiday and they are holding hands, a little embarrassed specially the men but in a way they look happy. Of course, they are not in Japan and no one complains or tells them off just being a couple. Perhaps for elder couples it´s more difficult to change but I think it´s good that younger couples show a little more affection to each other in public. Although Spanish people may have a different opinion about this theme. For Japanese, Spain is a country of passion, kissing is a normal thing on the street, that´s what we think. But in Spain, some couples are so excited and can´t stop, go farther. One of the first phrase people taught me in Spanish was "Look for a hotel!!" because people are tired of seeing those heated couple in public. What a different. Comparing to this, Japanese couples try to wrap the arms around their partners waist is just so innocent, isn´t it?

This is just a beginning. Japan is changing.        


  1. Maude 9 years Reply

    I recall just before leaving Japan speaking to a cab driver in Japanese and he just shut down, embarassed and replied in broken English. By then, my Japanese was really good, people would think I was Japanese on the phone, so it was a question of image – the poor man was taken out of his context when I blabbered on!

    I can see how you must have felt soooo embarassed at Starbucks! I live in Switzerland and let me tell you, making any order at Starbucks is painful. I feel like a snob and haven’t a clue what’s coming in that cup.

    By the way, cocoa might sound closer to the “real thing” – it’s also slightly more upscale/elegant than “hot chocolate” I guess. In terms of pronunciation, a Japanized cocoa is closer to the original sound that chocolate, isn’it it? All in all, very interesting, thanks.

    • juju.kurihara 9 years

      Thank you for the comment, Maude.

      I´ve just seen in Youtube a similar situation to yours. A Japanese girl got frozen as soon as she saw a foreign girl approaching to her. Although this girl spoke almost native Japanese, the Japanese girl struggled herself by trying to answer in English. I guess both her and the driver had a temporal brain shut down caused by a complex towards English. Now I´m Germany and I get the same when suddenly someone talks to me in German. My brain get confused and strange language comes out of my mouth.

      Starbucks is a stressful place for me. I wish I could order naturally but now I´m happy to go to my local coffee shop. 

      In Japan, they call it kokoa. But back them I was living in England and was so custom to say hot chocolate. True, first I moved there, hot chocolate sounded a little strange but after a while, it became normal to me. 

      Anyway,Happy New Year to you. I´m glad you enjoy the article and hope we can show you more interesting parts of Japan in 2014.

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