Japan Explained- FAQs and SAQs Part Five

Why are the Japanese so into “kawaii” (cute)?

As long as it is socially acceptable, there is no reason why having a picture of a kitten should not make you feel warm inside. Being around cute stuff makes you feel good. And anything that makes you feel good can be addictive. It should also be noted that “kawaii” is also used by some people with such a wide range of meanings it could even be translated just as ‘good’ rather than ‘cute’.

Why do the Japanese sometimes answer yes/no questions in English with the answer ‘maybe’?

One reason could be being asked a question that is not standard in Japanese. For example, “genki desu ka” is often given as the translation of “how are you” but is in fact very rarely asked, perhaps because it could be seen as intrusive. Another is that there are many ways of being vague in Japanese but they are not taught ways to be vague in English. For example, “so desu ne” (That’s so) and “so desu ka” (Is that so) can be given many fine shades of meaning including doubt by changes in intonation etc. These are probably the phrases in their head when they say ‘maybe’.

Why do Japanese streets have no names?

All Japanese communities, including parts of cities, have always been like little villages where everyone knows everyone else and so there is no need to have street names or even house numbers in order. This was even more so in Tokugawa times, when blocks of Tokyo streets would be surrounded by walls and watch towers dividing them from other parts of the city.

Thanks to Laurent for the top two questions. Keep them comng, everyone.

This series of posts also sprouted their own blog- Japan Explained. Give it a click and give it a go!

This entry was posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training, Teaching older students, TEFL, TESOL. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Japan Explained- FAQs and SAQs Part Five

  1. Laurent says:

    Ha ha, thanks for those. The no street names is another thing I can’t get my head around – especially when you supply the cab driver with the address in kanji complete with numbers and everything and he still doens’t know where you wanna go. I’m kinda wondering if the whole sat nav business in this country might be some sort of massive scam – whenever a cab i’ve been in has used it, it’s never seemingly worked properly, or it’s taken a long time to work. I always thought it was as simple as inputing the ‘address’ (or lack of) and waiting for the machine to work its magic. meh. On the plus side the lack of street names provides for a nice challenge when it comes to reading maps. I’m never trying to understand it again though after getting totally lost once.

    I was also told that the maybe thing could be down to their use of ‘chotto’ in answering questions in Japanese to which they don’t want to give a direct no answer. I keep forgetting about the directness thing, which does explain a lot of things. I need to be more culturally aware innit?

    nice one

  2. Alex Case says:

    I think the “kaa nabi” systems are like putting an address into Google earth, don’t go as far as house number. And as the houses are numbered in the order they are built rather than the order they are in the street, that would be the most difficult part!

    Not convinced about the “chotto” explanation, as students usually manage to express that very well with two fingers when that is what they want to say.

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