But as someone who lives in Australia and has never actually travelled to Japan (it’s first on my bucket list!), I often wonder if what I’m watching is similar to real life or if there are some aspects that have been exaggerated.
To help answer all my questions, I reached out to my friend Emi, who works in the BuzzFeed Japan office. Here’s everything that I learned about Japanese culture!
Whether the characters are in school or walking down a road, there always seems to be plenty of vending machines around in anime. Is it like this in Japan?
On the topic of food, I’ve noticed several eating customs, like sitting at low dining tables and saying “itadakimasu” before and after a meal. Are these more reserved for formal occasions or is this common to see in everyday life?
Does Japan have a huge drinking culture? Australia does and I’ve seen it in anime, but I’ve wondered if it’s the same IRL.
Do Japanese people actually say common anime phrases like “baka”, “boke”, “ara ara” and “daijoubu”?
I’ve noticed that there are rules and special honorifics used when addressing upperclassmen in school — and that you can get in trouble if you don’t follow them. Is that something you’ve experienced?
Sometimes one character might poke fun at another because they have a regional accent when speaking. Are there different Japanese accents or dialects depending on where you grew up?
Do Japanese people actually use kotatsu (a Japanese heated table)? They look so comfy and perfect for winter.
Moving on to school life, I need to ask about uniforms! Are they similar throughout Japan or do certain schools like to add their own twist, in terms of colour and style?
And are you actually allowed to customise your uniform — or is that just an anime thing and the rules are strict IRL? (Ditto for coloured hair and piercings — are they permitted?)
What are school lunches like? Do most students bring bentos from home (and if so, what sort of food would they have?) or is there a cafeteria to buy lunch from?
Speaking of lunch, in anime they’re always eating or hanging out on the school rooftop. Fact or fiction?
What’s the deal with high school clubs? They seem important and there are always so many options to choose from.
And as part of being in a club, would students ever get to go on special training outings to the beach, a hotel or some sort of holiday? That seems too good to be true.
In anime, school councils always have a lot of power and basically run things. That seems exaggerated — so what are they like IRL?
There’s a big emphasis on going to cram school and getting good grades. Based on that, my understanding is that a student’s day might consist of school, club activities, cram school and then getting home late at night. Is that the reality?
Are Japanese students expected to clean classrooms and help out with other chores at school?
How are foreign students treated in Japan and do you have many of them? That’s such a common storyline I see used in anime.
I love watching school festivals as they always seem so lively! There’s food, fireworks and characters might even dress up in special clothes. Is that similar to what they’re like IRL?
And lastly, how popular is anime in Japan?
Thanks so much for answering my questions about anime and Japanese culture, Emi!
TV and Movies
Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.