I ran across an article 10 Japanese Customs You Must Know Before a Trip to Japan. I found the article too late to catch the wave of comments, but I had to add one anyway. Here it is; anyone agree or disagree with its take?
I'm a 20-year+ resident of Japan, so read with interest. I was glad to see the comment, "One false assumption among many Japanese that’s slowly being dispelled by time is the 'uniqueness' of Japan" - I'm always glad to see honest portrayals instead of exoticism.
So I was disappointed by some of the other content. "Japanese society is focused on the group. Western cultures are focused on the individual." Come on, you can't get much more one-sided and stereotyping than that. That old chestnut needs a serious reality check, which I'll try to do on my site soon.
"Bowing is nothing less than an art form" is similar exoticism.
I have to disagree that talking on a cell phone on a train is not a "huge no-no"; it's not considered good manners anywhere on the globe that I'm aware of, but it's something you'll see the natives of Japan do every day.
Similarly, the point about being stared at everywhere as a foreigner is oversimplified. In many places, yes; in Tokyo, no. I'm tall and white, and few people look twice at me here. Most expect me to speak Japanese, as well, and show no surprise when I do.
And so on. The title doesn't quite fit the article. I would certainly suggest that people brush up on chopstick usage before going to the Far East. Same with practical stuff like tipping and shoe etiquette - great stuff. But bowing? Masks for colds? Some vague generalities about "conformity"? I'd call those things you simply don't need to worry about.
Still, some good info buried in there. Additional comments:
@Scott: "Also, as mentioned above, clean VERY thoroughly BEFORE entering the onsen. Shampoo and soap are always provided in these places."
I wish more natives would follow that rule. There's no shortage of Japanese guys who'll walk in to the bathhouse, toss a single, quick dipper-ful of water onto the back, and then hop into the tub, barely even wet let alone clean. Eww.
@Deserae: "don’t kiss in public! I have never seen any Japanese do this and I probably never will"
What country village are you in? Come to a big city; the youngsters certainly do go at it here. Why wouldn't they? You can't stop love!
And that's my take. I learned of the page in passing from a major tech prodcast; I see that it received lots of Diggs, and lots of comments too. Most of these are along the lines of "Wow, great info, I learned so much!"
Sigh. There's no way to fight the exaggeration and exoticism that thrive in "culturology"; just like drugs, you can't stop what people eagerly want. Oh well, maybe I can help at least a few souls. Remember, kids: when it comes to placing overblown cultural simplifications over fact, Just Say No. : )