More Sisters Around the World Articles
- Meet Our Sisters from JAPAN!
- Sisters from Poland
- Double, double toil and trouble
- On your mark, get set...GO! Women in the Olympics.
- SAPPHO: The Poetess of Greece
- Goddess of the Month - SOL
- Tuareg: The Blue People
- The Life of Pocahontas
- Goddess of the Month - Dou-mu
- Be Your Own Goddess - Ganga
- Sisters Around The World - Egypt
- Be your own Goddess - Bast
- Struggle for Identity - being a young woman during the times of the Renaissance
- Be Your Own Goddess - Selene
- Life in Africa as a teen of the Masai Tribe
April 2009 Blogs
Meet Our Sisters from JAPAN!
SISTERS AROUND THE WORLD, April 2009, by Karen Demers
Meet Our Sisters From
Did you guess it? The country with 5 seasons is JAPAN! Not only does Japan have five seasons, it also has a special holiday that celebrates the happiness of the child. Read on to learn more about the treasures of Japan.
But first, let me introduce the girls who answered our questions: Natsumi, Saya, Chiori and Asuka... your new sisters in Japan!
For teenage girls in Japan, ‘Red Carpet’ is a very popular entertainment television show that focuses on the lives of celebrities throughout the country. For music, one of the top bands in Japan is SMAP – a boy pop band who are the Japanese equivalent to the Jonas Brothers or Backstreet Boys and a large number of teenage girls attend their concerts. ‘KY’ is a common slang term for teenage girls in Japan. It is often used when a confusing situation presents itself. And reading? Harry Potter is a very popular book read by Japanese teenagers and adults alike. What about voting? Teenage girls are allowed to go to a casino and vote in an election at the same age that we do in Canada! But for driving, girls in Japan start two years after we do – 18! Driving classes are expensive too. But even at 300,000 yen (that is about $3000 here in Canada) most people take them anyway. The best part is that teens are allowed to drive by themselves right away – there is no graduated system like ours.
In Japan, the two holidays that are celebrated both there and here are Christmas and New Years. They do not celebrate Thanksgiving and Halloween but the two holidays that are different from ours are Golden Week and Obon Week. For more information on Obon Week check out our Sister’s Around the World article online for October 2008. Golden Week or Ogata renkyu or Ogon shukan covers the following public Japanese holidays: April 29 - Showa Day or the Emperor's Birthday, May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day, May 4 – Greenery Day or Nature Day, and May 5 – “Kodomo no Hi” or Children’s Day which celebrates children’s happiness and their personalities (...how cool is that holiday?!). Traditional foods in Japan includeTofu, Natto – sticky beans, Mochi- a form of rice cakes, and Sushi. Buddhism is the most commonly practiced religion in Japan. Most of the temples built in the country are Buddhist and many people from around the country come to them regularly to worship. Japanese is spoken almost exclusively and English is spoken in some of the larger cities but Japanese remains the dominant language. Japan is a cash based society and as a result many of the citizens rely on ATMS constantly. Teenage girls in Japan do not babysit for a job and do not begin working until they are 15. Regular weeks run from Monday to Friday and they spend their free time getting caught up on sleep, hanging out with friends, and being with family or a boyfriend. Popular places to visit within Japan include Kyoto, Okinawa, Hokkaido, and Nikko. And here is the answer to your unanswered questions: Japan has five seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Rainy Season, and Winter. Rainy Season occurs in early Fall and is characterized by the large amount of rain Japan gets. Japan as a country shows a great concern for the environment as everyone uses bicycles for transportation and complies with strict recycling regulations. Natsumi does her part by bringing a bag with her when she goes shopping to save on plastic bags.
At school, Japanese teenagers typically use a desktop computer. Laptops are available for renting but are not popular. The average house has one or two computers. Cell phones and iPods are very popular and almost all teenagers have one. Natsumi spends “about an hour and a half on the internet each day.”.Facebook and Myspace are not very popular in Japan but “mixi” is a very popular website that offers a similar social-networking experience. Instant messaging programs are not so popular in Japan because calling someone or texting them on their cell phone is much easier. For teen girls, arcade games are more popular than online video games and dancing or musical games are very popular. Saya likes “Dobutsu-no-mori” which is a role playing game. Chiori and Asuka like to play games on wii and playstation.
In school the girls take Japanese, Math, Biology, Social Studies, Music, Physical Education and English. Does any of this sound familiar to you?! What is different is that in Japan there is an after school program called 'Juku'. Natsumi attends Juku and describes it as “an after school study program that covers any subjects the student wants to improve on.” Juku schools offer help with academics, music, sports and are sometimes labeled as 'charm schools'. Over the last few years, participation at these after school programs has increased and students say they like the extra help and enjoy making new friends! Most of these programs are completely separate entities from the schools and therefore it is the individual's choice to attend. There are no specific clubs for girls at Natsumi’s school but there is a nature related club that plants flowers throughout the school property. Girls can join the dance club, basketball team (or the basketball club if they just want to have fun) and the football (soccer) team if they like sports. Girls can also join the orchestra if they like music. Chiori and Asuka told me that “A popular extracurricular activity (at their school for girls) is table tennis, which is very trendy in Japan.” While at school, the girls (and boys), have to wear a school uniform. At Saya’s school, her uniform consists of a blue skirt, white socks, a white dress shirt and a blue jacket. For most girls it takes about an hour and a half to get ready for school. The school year runs from April until the next March with a winter break occurring for about 2 weeks around New Year's and the spring break occurring during the month of March. After high school, most students enter university in Japan. University is sometimes funded by the government but more often then not, it is paid for by the student's family.
Japanese girls begin dating around the age of 14. Girls around this age are not allowed to be alone with a boy under any circumstance. A typical date can include getting food, going to the park, the shopping mall and/or a trip to the print club for some fun pictures. Boys like to play video games at the arcade or at home, and participate in different sports such as soccer, basketball, and baseball.
In Japan, eating dinner as a family is an important daily tradition. All of the girls made a point to mention this fact. Also, much like Canadian families, the typical pet in the home is a dog. Saya said, “I don’t have any pets myself, but would love to have a dog, particularly a toy poodle.” Natsumi mentioned that cats are sometimes pets in Japan but are not as popular as they are here in Canada. A house in Japan typically has sliding doors made out of wood and paper, and the majority of homes have tatami mats. Tatami mats are a type of floor covering used in Japan. While the materials used to make these mats have changed over time, they are generally made with traditional straw and afterwards, woven tight with rice straw to increase comfort. The edges are closed with hemmed cloth. Tatami mats come in one size and shape – a rectangle. When pieced together, tatami mats are just like tiles in some of our houses here in Canada – but bigger and made with different material! Also, similar to us here in Canada, girls in Japan have chores! Girls are expected to help prepare dinner, set the table, and help clean the rest of the home. In Japan the average age to get married is sometime in their late 20s to early 30s. Natsumi said, “This is usually because they have a lot of school to complete.”
As mentioned earlier, girls who like sports have the chance to play and keep in shape. However, no matter what, all girls get some exercise everyday in gym class at school. Girls also ride bicycles a lot as it is their main form of transportation. Girls must shave their legs and arms because in Japan plaid skirts are very popular making their legs exposed. Most girls get up at 7 in the morning, and go to bed around 11 or midnight. A typical lunch would include noodles, rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, and chicken. Often lunch is bought at school. The most common form of junk food is chocolate for teenage girls and they eat about one chocolate bar every few days.
Being a Girl
Natsumi described “the typical body image of a Japanese woman to be short and thin, with dark, curly hair, revealing clothing, small breasts, small lips and a small waist.” Girls start wearing makeup around the age of 15. They start with eye liner, eye shadow, lipstick, and blush. The trendy outfit for teenagers is their school uniform which consists of a dark blue jacket, a brown sweater, a white dress shirt, a plaid or solid blue skirt, long dark black socks, and dark shoes. Life challenges largely involve pressure to do well in school. Common goals involve getting good grades so they can eventually get into a good university when they finish high school, along with getting married and having their own family. Magazines are quite popular in Japan. Natsumi said that “one of the most popular is Seventeen! It is about celebrities, gossip, clothing, girls, and being a teenager.” Saya loves to read fashion magazines. ‘Pichi Lemon’ is her favorite.
Natsumi says “Japan would love to have as many forests as Canada. They are awesome!”
I would like to extend a special thank you to Natsumi, Saya, Chiori and Asuka, our new Japanese teen sisters for taking the time to answer our questions and share their lives with us. I would also like to thank my good friend Paul Skinner who is currently teaching in Japan and helped us to connect with our sister’s around the world!