Culture Shock #100: Japanese Men and Their Wallets, Manbags

I am going to be doing some posts about my experience as a Kenyan in Japan. I’ll count down from 100 but in no particular order. Of course I expected Japan to be different, so when people asked me if I experienced culture shock, I’d say no, but on further reflection there are so many things that have me asking, Japan, what the hell? That would never happen in Kenya! (and vice versa!). If that isn’t culture shock, then I don’t know what is. As an English-speaking nation and a former British colony, we are heavily influenced by the West (Europe and the USA), we watch lots of Western shows and yes, we also do watch lots of South American and Filipino soap operas .. but the point is, not many Kenyans know much about The East and many confuse Japan for China or vice versa. Anyway, without further ado, presenting post #100. Here is the hashtag for the posts

The first time I saw someone with a huge wallet popping out of his back pocket was in a crowded bus on the way to campus. I couldn’t believe it. Just like below:

This would never happen in Kenya. When in Nairobi, I keep my wallet inside a smaller bag inside my handbag, which I walk with under my armpit while always on the lookout. If you see someone with an exposed wallet in Nairobi, I am sure even thieves wouldn’t pinch it. It’s clearly a trap! Even with our wallets hidden deep inside our bags/bodies, pickpockets still manage to get at them or just take the entire bag with them. Japan would be a goldmine to them (pickpockets).

Now China is more like Kenya where they have this anti-theft shoulder strap bag thing for men.

This Anti-Theft-Hidden-Underarm-Shoulder-Bag-Holster is available on Alibaba

This Anti-Theft-Hidden-Underarm-Shoulder-Bag-Holster is available on Alibaba

Manbags
They are everywhere in Japan. They are such a big deal almost every guy you encounter will be carrying a bag ranging from a formal briefcase to a casual, as feminine-as-can-be handbag. Most of the manbags are more stylish than any bag I own! Very few men in Kenya carry manbags and some people think it is gay to be seen with one!

The images below are sourced from the web but they are everyday scenes.In fact, there is a pininterest page just dedicated to Japanese men and their fashionable manbags. Here is another blog talking about the same thing.

The stylish manbag

The stylish manbag

The stylish manbag

The stylish manbag

Nairobi men would rather be dead than carry their girlfriends’ handbags, let alone their own. This thing about men being too macho to carry handbags is just in the mind guys, it’s a culture thing. A culture shock thing? Haha I live for the day the stylish manbag will be a common scene in Nairobi.

  • Kawiria

    Hahaha this is going to be one interesting series, can’t wait to read some more.
    Also the man bags, yaani they have the same struggles as us women? Like what to carry or not what to carry in your bag. But I like the way our men are carefree with just their wallets and phones to worry about. Don’t know about the carry bags, it would definitely be a culture shock for me.

    • savvykenya

      I wonder what they carry in those bags, I would want to find out too! But see, our men sometimes wear fitting jeans so the phone, wallet and keys all in the pockets isn’t very convenient. Plus if the guy is a reader where does he keep his book? It took me a long time to not misjudge every guy I met based on his manbag!

  • Haha, hapana. A backpack will do, and a satchel for when I grow up.

    • savvykenya

      Sema tu hivyo and if you come to Japan and stay a few years, you will start spotting colourful handbags. There is nothing unmanly about a handbag except in the mind!

  • Alffie Miko

    You are so right. This culture thing is quite something. I am only in Malawi .. a lot of similarities but the cultural differences are significant .. not as drastic though .. like simple naming Jere shocked me .. in Kenya, for example, I think a name like Precious is female but this side of town it is male ..
    That aside, looking forward to this series ..

    • savvykenya

      It is true, our culture shapes our thoughts and perceptions of the world around us, that is why it is good to travel, you get exposed to other cultures and have a greater understanding and awareness! It has only been a year here so we’ll see with time..

  • I cannot agree any less. I was tempted of trying, especially with the wallet, but I found it uncomfortable! My backpack serves me better.

    • savvykenya

      backpack or you have switched to a manbag? Or handbag? LOL

      • Haha…I think I will try an handbag soon! For real I almost bought the wallet (or is it a purse)? But kidogoo…ilikuwa ngumu!

        • savvykenya

          don’t be afraid to try it, you might grow to love it.. don’t forget to post a picture!

          • ピクチャーはだめですよう!

          • savvykenya

            Let me be the judge of that haha.. just post it here.

          • Well…let us see how it will go!

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  • I would love to see Sam carrying a manbag. He carries mine, but I can’t imagine him telling me,’Have you seen my handbag?’ And I’ll be like, ‘You can just use mine. But just for tonight!’ hehehe… It still looks weird.

    • savvykenya

      It won’t be weird if you stayed here.. the change is quite subtle. For instance, the word for bag/manbag/schoolbag/backpack/briefcase etc is the same in Japanese: kaban (bag). It covers all bags and doesn’t discriminate between genders. So you’ll just be asking Sam, hey, can I use your bag? And he’ll be like sure, let me just clear out my stuff and you can use it for tonight.

      It’s been a year and I still get shocked when I meet a guy with a better looking bag than mine, which is almost all the time. I need a fashion sense.

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  • Terry

    Are you still in Japan? So glad to have come across this page because I will be coming to Japan next month….

    • savvykenya

      Yes, here for at least the next two and a half years.. Where in Japan will you be going, for how long, and to do what?