The Little Things

28 Aug

In America we have a saying: “The best thing since sliced bread.” It’s a bit old fashioned now, and anyone who still uses it is either in their wise years or being irreverent, despite that factory sliced bread still isn’t 100 years old. But it’s a statement for how mundane sliced bread is to us.

But in other parts of the world, sliced bread might still be novel. Or more likely, the native society might not even get the point of it being sliced. Or even like bread that much. That seems to be the case in Japan. Bread really doesn’t constitute many typical meals, so far as I’ve experienced. A restaurant might offer something like a tonkatsu sandwich, but to have bread at home, for even a quick toast or grilled cheese, isn’t very common.

I know this because the above bread that I bought is sliced ridiculously thick. The whole loaf only came with six slices. They’re easily an inch and a half thick. At the time I figured I could divide each slice and make two or three slices, but the only knife I have right now is an incredibly dull butter knife. So my “sandwiches” thus far are a whole slice of that bread with peanut butter on top.

This is an example of the “little things” that surprise you. When you plan on visiting a foreign country like Japan, you do expect a lot of difference. Things like how society is structured, how people act, how traffic and transit works, how to greet and show respect. You get those things down because you know they’re important. But you soon realize there are so many other little things; things that make you stop and wonder “Why do they do things that way? The way I did it at home was so much better!”

Here is another example. I showed you some yen before, but I didn’t have any coinage then. In America we really don’t care for change. For the most part we make purchases with cards. When we do actually use cash, we tend to just toss the change somewhere to forget about it. You could buy a five cent candy, break a dollar, and you’d toss all that change in your car’s cup holder or something, despite being most of the dollar. Americans hate carrying change.

In Japan, pretty much everything is purchased with cash. You get an ATM card when you open a bank account, but you can’t pay for things with it at stores – you use it to get cash to then pay for stuff. Anyway, the above picture has the six Japanese coin increments (from left to right): 1 yen (ichien), 5 yen (goen), 10 yen (juuen), 50 yen (gojuuen), 100 yen (hyakuen) and 500 yen (gohyakuen).

My initial instinct is to toss these things aside, they’re annoying change. But you really can’t afford to stash away 100 and 500 yen coins; that’d be like stuffing $1 and $5 bills between the couch cushions. Furthermore coins are useful to have for riding the bus and trains, since breaking a 1000 yen bill all the time is pretty inconvenient.

Still, I don’t have a good means of carrying that change around. And when I do break bills and bigger coins, the 10 yen coin is the most common one you get back. So why is it so big!? As you can see I already have a ton of 10 yen coins. Do all Japanese people carry around a coin purse somewhere? I don’t know how they carry all this change. And moreover, I can’t see how Japanese could look at the way America uses money and say “Boy, that sure is a lot more convenient.”

Anyway, I’m kind of back logged on topics right now. I made a video giving a small tour of my apartment and the complex, but I can’t upload it until I get my own internet line; otherwise it will take 10 hours or something to upload. I also had an amazing trip to Osaka… that will be a fun one to post about. Until then!


3 Responses to “The Little Things”

  1. Nz17 August 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    That was a very good read indeed. The only thing more I could really ask for is… more stories! More!!

    Eagerly awaiting your next entry,

  2. Puffball August 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    Just get a coin purse or something. That’s what they’re made for, and it’ll probably fit in your back pocket. I know nobody uses them in the States anymore, and I don’t see them being made unless crafted by hand or handed down, but since Japan prefers to use cash and coinage it would make sense they’d still make coin purses.

  3. Matt (whom you met at the udon shop) August 29, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    Many mens wallets in Japan have a coin pocket attached to the inside. That’s the way to go.

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