I learned this from a friend a while ago but I just realized y’all might find it interesting. In the West, we have an old chivalry-based tradition of “ladies first,” right? Well, in Japan, it’s the opposite.
“Otoko mae” – “men in front” – is the catchphrase. During assemblies, the boys sit in the front and girls sit in the back. Same when the students are lining up, when teachers get up to speak, etc etc.
It’s just an interesting difference – especially in that two completely opposite mentalities both stemmed, in different ways, from the oppression of women.
Other interesting expressions I’ve learned:
“Mae narai” – this is a command given when you’re trying to organize a large group of people. It signals that everyone is to stand at equal intervals in line, which they accomplish by positioning themselves one arm’s length from the person in front of them. There are several group commands that everyone is very familiar with. The MCs of school events can very quickly – as in, immediately – get the entire audience to sit down, stand up, bow, stand at attention, etc, with just a word.
“Asa meshi mae” – literally meaning “before the morning meal,” this is the Japanese equivalent of “it’s a piece of cake.” As in, it’s so easy I could do it before breakfast. Kind of like what I thought learning Japanese would be like. Heh.