These are the answers to this quiz.
#1 Rice planter (Japanese: 田植機/taueki)
#2 Decorative chain-drainpipe (Japanese: 鎖樋/kusaritoi)
#3 Wooden clappers for fire-prevention patrols (Japanese: 拍子木/hyoushigi).
Members of local block associations go on regular patrols in their neighborhoods and shout warnings to people to be careful of fires. They use these clappers to attract people’s attention and then shout “Hi no youjin (Be careful of fires).”
#4 Double eyelid tape (Japanese: 二重テープ/futae te-pu).
Japanese women use this tape to give themselves Western-looking eyelids.
#5 Sleeping-mat beater (Japanese: 布団たたき/futon tataki)
After putting their futons out to dry in the afternoon, many people beat them to get rid of the dust. However, most sleeping-mat makers are now recommending that people not do this. The reason is that it damages the fibers of the futon, disturbs the neighbors, and does not actually remove dust and mites. The dust that comes out of a futon if you beat it hard is actually broken bits of fiber from the beating. The recommended way to remove dust is by vacuuming or just wiping your hand after you hang it out. Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s article on futons (in Japanese).
This YouTube video is of hundreds of apartment residents beating their futons to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
#6 Ear cleaner (Japanese: 耳かき/mimikaki)
Japanese people seem to love getting their ears cleaned, and a man with his head on his wife’s lap getting the wax taken out is a famous image of domestic bliss. There are even ear cleaning services where men can go to get their ears cleaned by young women.
#7 Sukebe isu (Japanese: スケベ椅子/sukebe isu)
These chairs are used in soaplands. The man sits on them, and the soapgirl washes his body. The groove in the chair allows her to “access all areas.”
By the way, while I was searching for sukebe isu videos, I found this hilarious home shopping parody:
Surprisingly, you can order one from Amazon.co.jp.
#8 Tea whisk (Japanese: 茶筅/chasen)
These are used for stirring Japanese tea.
#9 Grave marker (卒塔婆/sotoba)
Buddhists are often given a new name called a kaimyou when they die. The name is written on the sotoba.
By the way, while looking for an image of a sotoba, I found this interesting high-tech sotoba printer:
#10 Winter tree wraps (Japanese: こも巻き/komomaki)
Some trees are wrapped in winter to prevent insects from laying their eggs in them. The insects lay their eggs in the straw wrappings, which are taken off in the spring and burned.
To give themselves Western-looking eyelids?
Now way! How arrogant you are!
It has nothing to do with Western!
Hmm. Well, it’s not arrogance. I remember being pretty shocked when several Japanese people told me that women do this to look more Western because I thought it was strange to want to make your eyes look more Western.
This CNN report says “Eyelid surgery dates back to the 1950s, after the Korean War, when women wanted to look more Caucasian to impress American GIs,” and this Time Magazine article says “The culturally loaded issue today is the number of Asians looking to remake themselves to look more Caucasian. It’s a charge many deny, although few would argue that under the relentless bombardment of Hollywood, satellite TV, and Madison Avenue, Asia’s aesthetic ideal has changed drastically.”
The only source I could find denying the Westernization idea was this one, but even this article presents both sides. In one place, it says, “Since non-Asians are typically born with double eyelids, this procedure has been construed as “Westernization,” implying that Asians desire a more Caucasian appearance. But many in the Asian American community argue that the point isn’t to look Western, but to look more like other Asians, many of whom have double eyelids naturally.” Well, I would argue that the “other Asians” that they want to look like are actresses and models, who almost certainly are influenced by Western beauty standards.
Also, just from common sense, since narrow eyes without folds were popular up until the end of the Edo period, it would seem like quite a coincidence that Japanese people suddenly started making their eyes bigger when they came into contact with the West.
Yes it is arrogant, ignorant and racist. In fact I find the whole the whole concept of “quirky Japan” grossly insulting. What gives you the right to come to someone else’s country and look down your nose at them for being “quirky” just because their culture doesn’t fit your own narrow viewpoint? You are a racist fool.
It looks as if you’re assuming that I don’t like the things I write about. The reason I go to unusual festivals and places is because I’m interested in them. In fact, I started this blog to inform people about little-visited places in Japan that I think are interesting. Since I’ve become busy lately and don’t have time to go out and visit places, the focus has shifted a bit to unusual elements of Japanese culture, but I write about them because I’m interested in them. If I lived in the US, I’d probably have a site about interesting and unusual things in America, and I don’t think anyone would call it racist. Also, the word “quirky” does not necessarily have negative connotations. Describing a film, book, or character as “quirky” can have a very good meaning if you like that kind of thing.
Finally, this is the definition of the word “racist”:
A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
I don’t think you will find any evidence in my blog to support your claim that I am racist.
A lot of Japanese already have double eyelids.
Does straightening hair make Western people want to become more “Asian”?
Western culture doesn’t tend to emulate Asian culture the way that Asian culture tends to emulate Western culture, so I don’t really feel that the hair straightening thing is a valid comparison.
I never knew the author of this blog was so racist. Unfollowing.
Where’s the racism? Quoting Time and CNN? Stating the fact that Asians have often emulated Western culture?
I don’t understand why it’s arrogant to state the obvious. It’s human nature to emulate whatever that is successful, and Western society has been considered more successful. How long this continues to be I have no idea. But let’s be fair, QJ is just stating the facts here.
(I am Asian by the way, in case someone wishes to accuse me too of being arrogant. But of course you are welcome to label me a lackey)
What a cool and interesting post! I feel proud that I knew what a few were but I definitely learned something. I was especially impressed by the rice planter and the cool sotoba printer ^_^
Hey, that was a great post, thanks. I wondered what the komomaki was in aid of for a while!
I don’t know what all these strange people’s issue is – why do they think double eyelids, dyed hair and coloured contacts are for? Obviously fashion is influenced by foreign cultures. Not everyone follows these fashions but a lot of young Japanese people do.
I’m really kind of shocked at how stupid people are being–I have lived in Japan for years and everything you’re stating is a true fact. Being half Japanese, I don’t find any of this racist at all. People need to lighten up.
Hilarious! Perfect chair! It sounds overpriced.
Haha, awesome! Japan keeps surprising me with their funny innovations.
Very interesting!! Love the bit about the tree wraps.
It’s totally about looking more “Western” and you know it. Why the fuck else would someone tape their eyelids? (or worse, get plastic surgery which a huge percentage of Japanese women do). Get off your faux high horse. You just want to cry “racism” to hide your own.
I dont think its racism to point out whats odd, quirky or unusual in a culture or a part of the world. I bet many Japanese people don’t know about all of these things that were brought up, and some may even think that they are weird or quirky.
Besides, quirky is a word used to describe something odd or different, it doesn’t have a inherent position. Just as Criticism isn’t inherently something bad or good, it just shows that a topic or thought have gotten a lot of attention, good OR bad.
I love japan for its fantastic culture, ideas and history! I love the fact that Japanese people go out of their way to be polite and all the interesting advancements they have done in different areas to suite their culture and ideals. You can find tons of technical appliances in japan that you just cant in the western world, just because they have found a use for them and it fits their needs and limitations (Portable wireless servers, heated toilet seats that makes sounds to mask your own, miniature cars and trucks to fit their crowded living conditions in bigger cities, heating pads to keep the morning coffee hot, automatic maki makers… the list can be made unbearably long.)
So, just because something is thought of as quirky by outside people (which something always will, no matter age or cultural fascination) doesn’t mean that the outside people thinks anything less of the quirky aspect of a totally different civilisation! Besides, all cultures and nations have some quirky aspect to it! Sweden has their Lutfisk, Germany their lederhosen, The states their unwavering patriotism and the Philippines, their balut (not only the philippines thou)!
I love japan and i would love to move there! Even with the fact that i would be looked down upon for being a foreigner (albeit secretively) ! They are a very proud people and i respect them immensely for it! Its one of the reasons to why i love Japan.
This last bit is only what i think and know, not in context with the rest of the text.