Through my various trips to Japan, I'm now aware of most of the things which catch out the unwary foreigner. Things like the stealth public holiday, where you go into work and wonder why you're the only person there. But this is my first New Year in Japan, and it's completely got me.
Friday was a very joyful day. In the morning, I was doing a visit to a local primary school as part of their "world festival" - the school had rounded up a few likely foreigners, and we had to give a short presentation on our home countries and then a thirty-minute activity. I got the kids doing the London Bridge nursery rhyme and game, and while it was a bit slow to start, they got there in the end.
One of the things that happens when foreigners live for a country in a while is that they come across things that they don't understand. They then make a guess at interpreting what they see. Then, unless they're corrected, they continue to believe this guess and it eventually becomes received wisdom. When you've got a community of such foreigners, such as a mission field, the received wisdom can be passed down the generations. And all the time it can be completely and utterly wrong.
So, my local police have put it upon themselves to form an anti-foreigner brigade. I wish I was joking. They've announced the formation of a "æ¥æ¥å¤å½äººå¯¾çæ¯æ´ãã¼ã " - which translates as "Japanese-resident foreigner countermeasures support team".
I said I'd write about banks. The banking system here is interesting - in some ways it's quite advanced, and in many, many others it's way behind the UK banks. Which is saying something.
So this week is O-Bon, the Buddhist festival of the dead. And so last night I went over to the main Shinto shrine (yes, you work that one out…) to see their "ten thousand lantern festival".
So everyone knows about the drinks vending machines all over the place in Japan. And a lot of people know about the beer vending machines. And some people know about the pornography vending machines. Some may even have guessed that there'd be, say, battery vending machines on the streets. And ice cream.
Look at some photos instead.
I was randomly flicking through the Proceedings of the Japan Academy - you know, the way people do - and found an article called "Adult Guardian System and Protection of the Elderly." It quotes a recent senryuu poem by someone called "Kano" as a suggestion to the aging population problem:
Would you eat in a place with this name?