Last week, I talked about the west's view of Japan being weird and strange but this week, I want to talk about what I find weird about Japan. Firstly, let us start with the one thing that you will find anywhere in Japan... MASCOTS!
They know as Yurukyara and they mean business! For example, richest mascot in Japan is a rosy-cheeked brown bear called Kumamon who is designated as the official mascot of Kumamoto. Time for a "capped" fun fact, Kumamon is said to said to be worth about a billion dollars to the local economy!!!
I will admit I do find them cool as well as weird. With Kumamon's fame growing, more and more mascots were introduced. To show this, you just must look at Osaka's prefecture alone and you will find over 40 different mascots. These mascots are not just making money, they have ended up promoting the education of their audience about communities, companies, products, key topics, etc.
This part is not about Japanese social media platforms like Line, this is about how the Japanese use social media. The one thing, I have noticed about Japanese tourists is they love taking pictures to the point where they are basically documenting their lives. In terms of open source intelligence (OSINT) which is a passive type of recon where data is collected from only publicly available sources, Japanese social media is a gold trove of goodies. To look at this in a deeper context, on my brother's personal Instagram account, he documents every day of any trip aboard but he doesn't post any photos of his face (or mine) and therefore it makes it easier for him to hide himself even though the account is public. But then when you look at Japanese version of this, you start to notice giveaway bonuses. Faces, names, locations, pets, favourite shops, etc. All these things are valuable in the world of recon and ultimately improve the chance of someone guessing a password. This is the reason why you don't use your pet's name for passwords and why security questions like what's your mum's maiden name are not strong anymore because everything you need to access someone's account can be just on their social media if not somewhere else on the internet. I am going to spill a small point from an upcoming talk that I am doing about Japan which there is a lack of keeping sensitive data safe in Japan, but why is that the case? Well it is the mentality of "why would hackers hack us as we have nothing of value", but anyone who knows anything about the way hackers work knows hackers do not care who you are. I also think this issue of not keeping their operation security (OpSec) secure is due to their isolated island nation mentality which branches from the fact that the Japanese were isolated from the world for a good chunk of their history and they weren't invaded often.
Now this is one of those moments where I say I will be doing a post about OSINT in Japan in the future, but I seriously will write a post about it as OSINT is one of the things that I do quite regularly and is a passion of mine alongside threat intelligence. So, look out for it! To cap this off, I want to recommended some people who are amazing in terms of OSINT and overall!: 1. The Many Hats Club (@TheManyHatsClub), 2. Stuart (@cybersecstu), 3. CyberViking (@TheCyberViking), 4. Scott McGready (@ScottMcGready), 5. general OSINT community like OSINTCurio.us!
Great! I am going to talk about Japanese food at last, you might think but I am going to talk about French, Italian, Korean cuisine instead. One of the wonders of being a Japanese chef is that no matter what cuisine or dish, they decide to learn and practices, they will master it. One of the things that caught my eye when I first landed in Tokyo was how varied the restaurants are in Tokyo. And I do not mean your bog-standard place, you would find in London or somewhere. And this is one of the reasons why I do not eat Japanese food outside of Japan. To give an example of the Japanese doing another country's cuisine well, is when I had loco moco last year. Loco moco is a popular Hawaiian dish, traditionally consisting of white rice, topped with a hamburger, a fried egg, and brown gravy. The first time, I had one was in Japan at a Hawaiian cafe.
Now during that same trip to Japan, I later visited Hawaii for two weeks and had loco moco two more times. And I prefer the one I had in Japan. Truth to be told, loco moco is designed to be quick and easy as originally it was a replacement for sandwiches. This is not the only example of this, but I cannot really compare cuisines like French cuisine in France vs Japan because it has been awhile since I have been to countries like France. But I can compare how restaurants in the UK do these cuisine vs how restaurants in Japan do them and all I can say is Japan has won every cuisine battle yet.
To finish this segment off: I am going to recommend an anime/manga called Oishinbo, which takes a close look at the tastes, smells and experiences of a variety of Japanese cuisine, including ramen, gyoza, sake, fish and beyond.
Japanese like shopping. That is not weird, everyone shops. Well I am not talking about your normal girls’ weekend in London shopping, I am talking about a national hobby of a whole country! The Japanese love gift shopping. And it is understandable when you look at the gift market that Japan has. Everywhere I go, there is always somewhere to buy gifts and these gifts can be quite good quality compared to what you would expect if you went gift shopping in Bournemouth or Blackpool. But there is a reason for why there is so many places to get gifts because there are multiple situations where giving gifts are common like bringing back gifts for your colleagues after a business trip. Funny enough, I plan to follow that custom as I plan to bring back gifts for friends in the infosec community that might be at London's BSides conference when I do my talk.
B-Side Label stickers:
While we are talking about gifts, why don't we talk about one of the popular things to see in gifts shops around Japan? Stickers, not any stickers! These stickers are from a company called B-Side Label which is a company that promotes Japanese artists to express themselves through their individual pop art styles.
The odd thing is this company seems to have hit a gold mine, their stickers are everywhere, and it is rare to see any stickers from another company. An example of how popular they are, is when I was in Yokohama's China town, and the main gift store had a whole wall just for these stickers.
I have seen them in airports, convenience stores, museums, zoos, aquariums, theme parks, etc.
Another popular thing is Sega worlds. But what is a Sega world? Well it is the Japanese version of an arcade, which most of the places are run by the Sega Corporation. Yes, the Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher runs arcades all over the country! They got claw machines, those coin slide things, racing games, etc.
When someone says about an arcade to someone from the UK, they probably think about the ones you find at a seaside like in Bournemouth, and to be honest, they aren't the nicest of places to be at but somehow Japan turned arcades on its head and made them places where you can spend hours and hours and hours at! They are normally equipped with vending machines nearby the game, regularly cleaned by staff who are always happy to reset the cuddly toy in the claw machine you are using (this has happened to me so many times), restrooms and even more.
Well if there was an issue with writing this week's blog, it was the fact that most of the things that I think people might find weird and wonderful about Japan while visiting, are now normal to me. But I wanted to write this blog because most of the topics that I covered in this post, I cannot do a single post about them straight away, they needed a steppingstone like cuisine in Japan. And that leads me on to next week's post, I did a poll on twitter about what my next topic should be and by the looks of it: Japanese food: first taste is winning. But if you have not voted, it is still up for about a day before it ends so it could change.
If the winner is Japanese food: first taste, then it will be the start of the Japanese food series which was inspired by a friend of mine by the name of Bee, who said I should do a food adventures blog so what's better than a blog? A series of blogs where I will be taking you on the journey that I took with Japanese food! The start of the series will be looking at what started the journey! It will include the Japanese food I ate before I even knew that I was going to Japan to the tastes that I experienced during my first ever trip.
In terms of the other topics, they will be done over the next few weeks as well and if people liked the idea of doing polls to decide topics of blogs then I am more than happy to do it again!
And finally, a really big thank you! Arigatou gozaimasu to everyone who is reading these blogs that I am writing. They may seem a bit slow but they will start to pick up pace and will start to become really juicy with details and stories. So keep your eye out for the future posts.