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100 Reasons Why You Should Visit Japan (Japan is Awesome)

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Our resident Englishman and Japanophile, Ben, is here to tell you why the next plane ticket you book should be a one way ticket to Japan.

When I first decided to move to a foreign country on my own for the first time, I had literally no idea where to go. There were so many places! How could I possibly choose?

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In the end, I decided on Tokyo, Japan. I decided by basically spinning a globe and going to where my finger landed. I can’t describe how happy I am that my finger landed on Japan. I have travelled all over the world and yet I have not found a single place that even comes close to how extraordinary Japan is. It is easily my favourite country. So, if you are having difficulty deciding where to go, I’ve decided to compile a list of 100 reasons why you should visit. That should save you from spinning a globe and accidentally turning up in a place you don’t like – this has also happened to me.

If you are already interested in Japan, then I hope this list will provide a little boost for you to get yourself out there. Obviously there are more than 100 reasons why you should visit Japan and we will cover them in the future, but this should provide enough for you to get started! Ganbatte ne!

1.  Yukimi Daifuku 雪見だいふく. I don’t think there is a more perfect food in existence. This is a little ball of ice cream wrapped up in mochi, a sticky Japanese rice cake. It comes in all varieties of flavour from the classic vanilla to strawberry and chocolate. When I was too busy working to eat properly, I would simply pop down to my local konbini コンビニ and pick up a few packs of these. They are delicious little snowballs. They are made out of dreams. I am determined to get this delicious product in other countries, starting with the UK. In the meantime, we will try perfecting our own recipe and will pass it on to you when it’s done.

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雪見だいふく、俺の友達。久しぶり! wikipedia: yukimi daifuku

2. Different flavours of Kit-Kat. Did you think that this chocolate biscuit comes in only on flavour? Well, not in Japan! Japan has about a gazillion different flavours. Each prefecture has its own flavour and new flavours come out depending on the season – sakura flavour anyone? There’s too many awesome flavours to list here but just off the top of my head: matcha green tea, rum and raisin, strawberry cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, wasabi, sweet potato, and red bean sandwich.

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check out Alanna’s Flickr for more kit-kat madness!

3. Sushi, すし, 寿司. Oh my, I wasn’t even a fan of sushi before I went to Japan. I’d had it a handful of times in different countries and it had always been mediocre or just plain disgusting. But arriving in Japan infused me with a deep passion for beautifully constructed and wonderfully tasting raw fish. If you want to understand more about the traditions behind sushi, and fancy salivating for a little while, check out the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Going to this man’s restaurant is definitely on my bucket list.

Good sushi is an explosion of flavour. It melts in your mouth, makes you moan in pleasure, fills you up, and makes you crave for more. Sushi fans may also want to check out Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場 , the largest of its kind in the world.

4. Izakaya 居酒屋 . Izakaya is a traditional Japanese pub. It is usually filled with Japanese business men doing some serious drinking among friends and colleagues. It usually has low lighting and traditional Japanese décor, along with a fantastic atmosphere. It is the food I like in particular. It is tapas style. You get lots of little dishes to enjoy and share while you talk and drink. A lot of izakaya have an all you can drink, nomi-hōdai飲み放題 , and all you can eat, tabe-hōdai食べ放題 ,style of doing things. My favourite izakaya food is takoyaki たこ焼き, which is a little wheat and batter ball filled with delightful ingredients like diced octopus – hence ‘tako’ – ginger or onion. Oh sweet Lord it is good stuff. I also like yakitori 焼き鳥, which is grilled skewered chicken.

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credit: hanami web

5. Okonomiyaki お好み焼き. This is like a cross between pizza and pancakes Japanese style. ‘okonomi’ comes from the meaning of ‘what you like/want’. ‘yaki’ means ‘griled/cooked’. At okonomiyaki restaurants, you order what fillings you would like and the waiter brings it to your table for you to cook yourself on your own private grill. It is so much fun and the taste is out of this world.

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お好み焼きだいすき!

6. Ramenラーメン – Japanese noodles! Naruto’s favourite dish! These come in all sorts of flavours and even the stuff in cups tastes fantastic. Not like the stuff you get in England. Lots of places in Japan will have a ‘Ramen Street’ which is basically a long line of ramen shops. You place your order and pay via a machine outside and then you take your ticket inside with you and a couple of minutes later you are chowing down on delicious doodles! Hell yeah!

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credit: lnguyen from BBC good food

7. Bento, 弁当. This is a Japanese lunchbox. You can get cheap ones from Konbini or you can get more expensive posh ones from big markets and shopping centers. They may not be the healthiest things in the world, but they sure are delicious. Each bento box usually contains an assortment of rice and fish, or meat, and some vegetables. Combine bento with a couple of packets of yukimi daifuku and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal.

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8. Wagyu Beef, 和牛. I have yet to experience the famous Kobe Beef, 神戸, ビーフ but I can say for sure that all the other beef I have eaten in Japan has been world class and I haven’t seen it beaten anywhere else in the world. And I eat a lot of beef. It’s just so juicy and tender that it practically melts in your mouth.

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美味しそうだね!

9. Rice, ご飯 お米. In the West, bread is our staple food. But in Japan, each meal comes with a healthy serving of rice. The Japanese have immense respect for this superfood. While I was in Japan, I switched from bread to rice and instantly noticed many health benefts – the biggest one being clear, stable energy. After eating bread, I always get a sugar crash. You must have experienced that afternoon slump you get after eating a sandwich at lunchtime? With rice, you just don’t get it. The Japanese show their respect for this food by making sure they eat every single grain given to them and hold their bowl of rice in one hand throughout the duration of the meal. It is worth noting that rice, and the methods of cooking it, in Japan is different to rice in the west. The closest we could get to Japanese rice when shopping in a British supermarket was risotto rice. We are such fans of Japanese rice that we have some exciting rice-related stuff coming out very soon. Top tip for a tasty and quick meal: rice + butter + soy sauce = heaven.

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10. Food generally – the food in Japan is my favourite in all the world. They have the highest standards, cleanest and freshest produce, and most skillful chefs. Tokyo also has more michelin-star restaurants than Paris. Food is pricey but you will know what you are paying for when you have it.

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お腹すごく空いた。。。 credit: wikipedia

11. Japanese version of other foods. I have never had Korean food before I went to Japan and I haven’t had it anywhere else, so my experience is exclusive only to Japan. Japanese people are crazy about Korean food and I can see why! It is delicious! Korean-style pizza and Korean-BBQ have quickly become some of my favourite foods! Also, Chinese food! It was a nice surprise to discover that Chinese food was delicious and healthy in Japan. It certainly isn’t either of those things in England.

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credit: wikipedia

12. Vending machines everywhere. You can see a vending machine every couple of steps in Japanese cities. They contain hot and cold drinks. Fancy a hot coffee on the way to work? Pop in a few yen and you’ve got it! Some machines even contain beer. Can you imagine seeing a vending machine full of beer in your country? I don’t know about you, but where I’m from, that thing will be smashed open and robbed within minutes of going up. Some of the machines are basically just big computers with a touch screen and you can pay for your product with your train pass! You can get food in these things too. Everything from fresh fruits, junk food snacks, to a full bento. Japan is a place of convenience!

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13. Japanese Green Tea. My favourite is matcha with close runner-ups being genmaicha玄米茶 or ‘brown rice tea’. Japan has a seemingly infinite amount of tea varieties. Japanese people hold the ritual of drinking tea in great reverence. I can see why! This magic stuff has invigorating, relaxing, and life-giving properties. If you get a chance, try to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. All your worries seem to slip away as you sip on a fine cup of tea. FYI: Japanese people drink their tea piping hot and will find it amusing if you have to wait for your tea to cool down. They will usually ask you if you have a ‘cat tongue’ or neko-jita 猫舌, which means you are sensitive to hot food and drinks.

14. Japanese attitude. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Everything you may already know about Japanese culture, from kaizen meaning ‘continual change/improvement’ to zen buddhism, can be felt running through daily life in Japan. Even in Tokyo, the most densely populated city in the world, there is an aura of meditation, like a calming electrical current, running through the air. Japanese people are very conscious about harmony and keeping things in balance. Here’s a concrete example: Japanese people always wait for traffic lights to turn green before crossing the road, even if there are no cars to be seen for miles. Yet, if a stupid gajin like me crosses the road while the lights are still red, Japanese people will also make an effort to follow suit in order to make sure that I do not look to out of place. You can tell exactly what the Japanese spirit is by looking at some of the most common expressions in Japan. Something you will hear a lot is the expression ‘shoganai’しょうがない, which means ‘it can’t be helped’. If something goes wrong in Japan, instead of moaning and complaining about it, Japanese people will accept that it has happened and merely say ‘shoganai’. It is a meditative practice of self-awareness, with it’s western parallel being ‘keep calm and carry on’. Another phrase that is used a lot is ‘mottanai’もったいない , which means ‘what a waste’. The west has a wasteful culture, particularly in regards to throwing out food. Japanese people won’t do this. Even if they are full, they will say ‘mottanai’ and try to finish everything on their plate.

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15. Japanese people. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface with this topic. I have never encountered so many polite and considerate people in one country before like I have done in Japan. Even in a city like Tokyo, where there are over 13 million people crammed into a very small space, everyone is totally respectful of your privacy. I can count the number of times someone has rammed into me in Tokyo on just one hand. I lose count how many people barge into me in London within the space of 10 minutes. Japanese people will never tell you when you make a mistake with their language or commit a cultural faux-pas. This is nice, saving you lots of embarrassment, but sometimes it would be good for someone to tell you where you are going wrong. I spent a lot of time in Japan wrapped up in blissful ignorance of the fact that I was blundering through the country like a British boar with no cultural language, butchering the language in every situation. Anyways, although you definitely can’t stereotype an entire nation, I would have to say that my experience of Japanese people is that they are polite, warm, friendly, caring, curious, and upbeat.

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よろしくお願いします! credit: wikipedia

16. Manners/Politeness. This goes hand in hand with the people and attitude but deserves a special mention. Everyday routines and the way that people speak together is dictated by adhering to a rigid set of manners. The language itself is set up in such a way that there is a specific way of speaking so as to convey as much respect as possible. It’s called keigo, or honorific speech, and you are likely to hear it used by the staff in restaurants, at hotels, or anywhere in the service industry. It is often said that you can never quite tell what a Japanese person is thinking and that has something to do with the fact that they are so polite. You could have a some food on your face and no one will tell you about it, or mention it to others, for fear of embarrassing you.

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17. No crime. Tokyo is without a doubt the safest I have ever felt in a city. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the middle of the day, or the middle of the night, there simply does not feel like there is any cause for worry. Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Unlike in most countries, there is almost zero threat of being mugged, murdered, or becoming a victim of terrorism. When I am working in a café in Tokyo, I feel completely comfortable leaving my laptop and phone on the table when I go to the toilet. I have also heard multiple accounts from friends who lost their phone or purse/wallet in Japan and someone contacted them to return it within 24 hours.

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18. Hygiene. Surely Japan is the most hygiene-conscious nation on earth. If people have a cold, they wear a mask so as not to infect others. Before every meal in a restaurant, you are provided with hygienic hand-wipes. There are hand-sanitizers everywhere. You can often find people on the street, and in the metro, handing out free tissues to passer-bys. Japanese people take cleanliness very seriously, often showering multiple times a day. It made me realize what a smelly European I was by comparison.

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In Japan, people wear metaphorical AND literal masks at the same time.

19. The seasons. Japan is a country with four strong seasons, each one as impressive and atmospheric as the one that preceded it. Winter brings flurries of snow and you can marvel at seeing plenty of yukidaruma ゆきだるま or snowmen as you walk down the road. Spring brings gentle winds and the gorgeous sakura comes into bloom for only a few weeks. Japanese people love sakura and marvel at its beauty during hanami parties. Make sure to try Starbucks’ sakura hot chocolate. Summer brings heat and beautiful flowers. Autumn is full of auburn leaves of a million different hues. Kyoto is the place to be when Autumn comes. Japan becomes a different place with each new season but one thing’s for sure: it always stays beautiful.

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きれいだねー! credit: wikipedia
20. Love hotels, rabu hoteru, ラブホテル. These establishments have sprung up in red-light districts all over Japan. If you’re near a train-station, chances are you will find a few too. These are discreet little hotels that cater to couples wishing to find a place to get nasty for the night or just a few hours. They have an hourly and a nightly rate. You see, most Japanese people live with their families in houses with very thin walls. It can be hard to get intimate with your partner without being heard. So, many people will book a short stay in a love hotel. They actually aren’t as seedy as you would imagine. Many of them have different themes. For example, there is a BDSM Hello Kitty themed hotel and there is also a hotel that looks like the inside of a subway. Of course, there are plenty of normal hotels. Each room usually comes with a nice array of amenities, including stuff like karaoke, costumes, toys, room service, hot tubs, and so on. When you go inside a love hotel you will not be met with a person at reception. Instead you will see a computerized menu showing you what rooms are available. You make your selection and a key comes through a little slot and off you go to get some hot loving!

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credit: tripadvisor

21. Temples, お寺. There are plenty of these shrines and buddhist places of worship all over Japan. Each one has its own flavour and is sure to fascinate you with its history and the rules you have to follow. If you are based in Tokyo, consider taking a day trip to the nearby temple town, Kamakura 鎌倉市. You’ll have a lovely day out!

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22. Toilets. If you want some extra fun at any point in Japan, just ask someone this phrase: トイレはどこですか – toire wa doka desu ka. They will point you to a toilet. Brace yourself and prepare to be amazed! Many of the toilets in Japan have heated seats. Many of them play music or river noises to drown out the sounds you make. Many of them talk to you. You don’t even have to touch most of them. With just a flick of a button, or standing in front of a motion sensor, the toilet seat will lift itself up for you. Some toilets will perform a light show for you. Most toilets are energy efficient and have the option of a big or a small flush. Many toilets will even thank you for your deposit. I could go on and on all day.

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23. Kawaiiかわいい Japan has a culture of cuteness. Even though Japan is predominantly an atheistic/buddhist country, I am convinced that they worship Hello Kitty. I mean, there are shops selling clothes for dogs and people will dress up their chihuahua and push it around town in a baby stroller. Seriously, the amount of cuteness you see in Japan is ridiculous. There are cute little animal mascots everywhere. A little cartoon cat will tell you to mind your step on the train. A cartoon monkey will tell you to pick up your dog’s poop. Animals dance across the TV screen singing cute little songs all the time. You will hear the exclamation ‘kawaii’ a lot. Japan is obsessed with cuteness. It’s like a religion. I actually found myself sad when I left Japan and I had to acclimatize myself to the distinct lack of cuteness anywhere else in the world.

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24. Adverts. My God. Japanese adverts are the most bizarre, cute, and hilarious adverts I have ever seen in my life. The adverts in Britain look positively snooze-inducing compared to Japanese adverts. Seriously, check out this advertisement for milk. That’s right. It’s advertising freaking milk!

25. Fashion. This one is tied in with the ‘kawaii’ culture a bit. Girls wear cute clothes, guys wear cool clothes. Girls wear nice dresses, guys wear nice suits. Japan is incredibly fashion-conscious and has some of the best style of any country in the world. I won’t name any names, but there are a few certain western countries I have been to where it looks like the guys are still dressed by their mommy. You figure out which country I’m talking about. The only downside is that I can’t squeeze into most of the clothes made in Japan. I wish I could. They look awesome.

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credit: cute japanese fashion

26. Engrish and gairaigo/katakana words 外来語. Japanese people are not able to produce a lot of phonemes and they typical aren’t fluent in English. The result of this is that their attempts at English are often very amusing. I’m fascinated by all of the loan-words that have made it into Japanese from English. I’m fascinated because they often don’t even closely resemble the meaning of the word they came from. For example, a lot of people will say ‘high tension’ to mean ‘excitement’. You may also hear someone talking about a ‘doctor stop’, which refers to something that the doctor says they must not do any more, like smoking.

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27. Onsen 温泉 These are hot springs that serve as public baths in Japan. They are incredibly hot and incredibly relaxing. You can combine your trip to an onsen with a stay at a ryoken旅館 , which is a traditional Japanese inn, where you are pampered and can indulge in a huge feast.

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28. Anime. This type of program is a cornerstone of TV viewing in Japan. You have some anime which are for boys and feature lots of battles and cool explosions and stuff. You have some anime which are for girls which features cute drawings and cute voices. Some great anime include: Sword Art Online, Summer Wars, Guilty Crown, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Nodame Cantabile Toradora, Gintama, Hunter x Hunter, Toki wo kakeru shoujo.

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29. Manga. Comic books are super popular in Japan. You will see tons of people reading them on the train. You will also see tons of people lined up in a konbini during their lunchbreak, devouring the latest Shonen Jump. I can’t get enough of Manga. I wish I had more time and a bigger budget to just read them all day. Some great manga include: Doraemon, Bakuman, Death Note, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Yotsubato!

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30. Service. Japan has the best service in the entire world. Everyone who works in the service industry is repeatedly given the mantra ‘the customer is God’. Seriously, that’s how waiters and waitresses and pretty much any server anywhere in Japan treats their customers. Customers are treated like Gods. Even in a cheap basic café in Tokyo, you will get better service than you would in a five-star restaurant in England. And how much are you supposed to tip the best servers in the world? Nothing. Not a cent. Japanese people find it strange and kind of offensive if you tip them. They will flat out refuse to accept it. Take that [insert well-known western country]. Servers are never a nuisance in Japan. I, for one, hate it when a waiter is constantly interrupting me to ask if ‘everything is alright’ when I am in the middle of chewing or conversation. This won’t happen in Japan. If you want something, you call them over by yelling ‘sumimasen’ or ringing a bell on your table. You don’t have to wait around forever for the bill either. You just get up and walk to the front to pay when you are ready to leave. Easy-peasy Japanesy.

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31. Martial Arts. Judo, Karate, Kendo, Kyudo, Aikido, Yabusame. Japan has a long and illustrious tradition when it comes to beating people up in style. If you have a yearning to learn a graceful kinaesthetic skill, Japan is the place for you. And don’t get me started on ninjas and samurai.

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32. Sumo. This sport is watched mainly by older people nowadays but hey, any culture that has the national past time of watching semi-naked obese men attempt to throw each other out of the ring is okay by me.

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ぽっちゃりだけど、セクシー credit: wikipedia

33. Bowing. This comes back to what I’ve already mentioned about Japanese attitude. Bowing is a way of showing respect to someone by lowering your status. I love it when I see a bow-off, or bowing war, in Japan. You will often see two people who are saying goodbye and, if they both have immense respect for each other, it can take over 10 minutes for each person to leave because both of them keep bowing, trying to bow lower and lower than the other person.

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34. Purikura. These are sticker photo booths that are incredibly popular in Japan. You basically get your picture taken and then have fun photoshopping yourself with bigger eyes, thinner legs, cute stickers, and so on.

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35. Game Centre ゲーセン These are so awesome in Japan. If you’re in Tokyo, make sure you go to Akihabara秋葉原 for your video game needs. Arcades in Japan are often multi-story buildings crammed with the coolest games. Make sure you check one out and bring a big bag of coins. You can spend hours in these arcades. The time flies!

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36. Ikebana, 生け花 or ‘living flowers’ is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Now, I’m quite a masculine guy but even I am intrigued and awed by the beautiful arrangements you can see in this lovely art form. It is a very disciplined and minimalist art form that focuses on harmony, displaying the balance between nature and humanity. There is something so incredibly soothing about ikebana. I would love to learn more.

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37. Otaku. The closest English equivalent we have for this word is ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ but that really doesn’t convey the breadth of meaning that ‘otaku’ has. An otaku is someone who is obsessed with manga, anime, and video games, practically to the exclusion of a social life. Of course, you can use the word ‘otaku’ to describe obsession of any kind – for example, I am a bungaku otaku or ‘literature nerd’ – but it holds a profoud meaning in Japanese. The otaku culture in Japan is huge. Just take a trip to Akihabara in Tokyo if you want to see an otaku place and everything that entails. There is a huge otaku subculture in Japan and it is one that I look upon with fond feelings.

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38. Karaoke. This is a huge past time in Japan and is startlingly different from karaoke in the United States. In America, you usually sing karaoke in front of a big bar of people. These people are mostly strangers. It is quite a harrowing experience, so some people like to get drunk to build up the confidence to sing. However, in Japan, you only sing among you friends. You do so in a small room where no one else can hear you. It’s not uncommon for just two people to go to karaoke together and sing. Some people will even go and sing on their own. But ultimately karaoke is a bonding experience amongst friends. Kids like to skip school and hang out in a karaoke room together. Also, if you miss your last train home, you can book out a karaoke room for a few hours, which will be a lot cheaper than a taxi.

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39. Trains, 電車 ‘densha’. I have never seen a better trainsport service anywhere in the world. The Tokyo Metro, in particular, is astounding. I have been on a lot of metros and all of them beat the London Underground but the Tokyo Metro is the king of them all. It is incredibly easy to navigate and even if you get lost someone will help you. One old man actually approached me and offered to show me the way because it looked like I was lost. I actually wasn’t lost but I was astounded at his kindness. If you are lost, just ask literally anyone. You can ask the people who work there, who will always produce a map and make sure you understand even though their English is usually not good. Or you can ask any passer-by. The chances are that they will literally take you to where you need to go. Complete strangers will go out of their way to help you. Also, the trains are all incredibly punctual. The average delay is 18 seconds. If your train is 5 minutes late – which, trust me, it won’t be – the train company will print out a ticket declaring the lateness for you to show your boss. Japan also has the ‘shinkasen’ 新幹線 or ‘bullet-train’, which is a very fast, and very cool looking, super-train.

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40. Kimono. This is a traditional Japanese garment and something I think we all think about when we picture Japan. These garments are so beautiful so graceful and carry a long tradition.

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41. Art. I particularly enjoy ukiyo-e, 浮世絵 Japanese woodblock prints, which translates to ‘pictures of the floating world’. These pictures are beautiful and contain some extraordinary tales from Japanese mythology, history, belief, religion, and so on. I remember seeing one print that depicted the once-believed source of earthquakes: a giant catfish under the sea.

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42. Robots. Japan is the most advanced nation on the planet when it comes to all things electrical. The future of robots will rest on the pioneering shoulders of Japanese engineers. If you want to have a crazy night with some robots, check out the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. You eat from a bento as you watch exotic dancers fighting with robots while a light-show goes on. It’s crazy to say the least. Check out this life-like robots they have just designed:

43. Japanese language. Of course I had to mention this. I love the Japanese language. As an English native, I can’t deny it’s difficulty, but it is also a lot of fun. I love the way it sounds, I love the way it behaves, I love the grammar, the words, expressions. I love everything about it and hope to reach fluency within the next year.

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Now where can we learn Japanese…?

 44. Valentines Day and White Day. In Japan, February 14th is where girls bake chocolate goods for guys. The guys do not give or do anything in return until a month later on March 14th, White Day, where they reciprocate with giving girls cookies. I think that this is a lovely and endearingly innocent tradition.

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45. Bonsai. This a Japanese art form that uses small trees in containers. I like this because, like ikebana, it epitomizes everything that is great about Japanese culture. Not only are the trees beautiful but it takes a lot of painstaking time and care to make them look that way. They have to be continually nurtured and looked after. It reminds me of the Japanese philosophy of ‘kaizen’ or ‘continuous improvement’.

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46. Kabuki and Noh. Kabuki is Japanese dance theatre. It is stylish and it’s performers have gorgeous costumes and elaborate makeup. Noh is also a form of Japanese musical drama although it’s a lot heavier to understand than Kabuki and is based on Japanese literature. Although I can’t understand what is being said in Japanese theatre, the costumes and songs and atmosphere is so quintessentially Japanese and is definitely something worth checking out.

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47. Tatami. This is a mat that serves as a traditional Japanese floor in many homes. It is softer than normal flooring and many Japanese people sleep and sit on it. When I think about Japanese housing, this is what immediately comes to mind. Although it’s weird in the west, there’s something about sleeping on the floor that I love.

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48. Taking your shoes off. There’s a joke in an episode of Family Guy, where Peter is welcoming guests into his house and he says, “Don’t worry about taking your shoes off. Our house sucks.” It’s a funny remark because most western houses really don’t care whether you take your shoes off or not. But in Japan, it is a massive taboo to walk into someone’s house with your shoes still on. There’s a section in the house, when you come through the door, for you to put your outdoor shoes and replace them with slippers.

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49. Convenience stores, Konbini. Japan is a convenient place and you can see this by popping into one of their many convenience stores. The main ones are 7-Eleven, Sunkus, Family Mart, and Lawson. Unlike convenience stores in America and England, Japanese convenience stores are actually convenient. They have so many handy things from full meals and drinks to electrical appliances and toiletries. And the staff are always incredibly polite.

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50. Doraemon. I love this cat. He’s a hell of lot nicer than Garfield. Doraemon is a gadget cat from the future who is always ready to help his cowardly owner out by producing some whacky invention. I love the manga and the anime is also good. There’s tons of material and it’s great for learning Japanese.

51. Taxis. When I arrived in Japan for the first time, I left Narita airport and had a taxi driver run straight up to me. He took both of my suitcases and put them in the trunk, refusing help. Then he opened the door for me – taxis in Japan had automatic doors, by the way, so don’t touch the handles – and when I sat down he even buckled my seat for me. During the whole drive, he attempted to speak in English and kept handing me little candies. He did this with a big smile. I couldn’t finish all of the candies so I left the taxi with a big handful and a smile. Again, Japan wins the best service award and still doesn’t expect a tip.

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extortionate prices though… credit: nihonsun

52. Punctuality. It is a social sin to be late in Japan. If you are running late for work or a personal meeting, you must call ahead of time as soon as you possibly can in order to warn the person who is waiting for you. Even turning up a few minutes late is seen as a bad thing. I think punctuality is great. It goes hand in hand with common courtesy.

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53. Recycling. I got confused by Japans recycling system but I applaud them for having such a detailed one. Households separate their waste into many different categoreis in order to be friendlier to the environment.

 

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54. How fun it is to get lost. The most fun you can have in Japan is just wandering around and not knowing where you are. When you do this, you stumble upon all sorts of treats and hidden gems. I have found so many lovely cafés and bookstores and shops this way. I have also found lots of beautiful scenes. Japan is one big playground. Be a kid and have some fun!

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55. How easy it is to find your way back. Once you are lost, you don’t need to worry. Practically anyone will help you. But if you don’t like asking random people, just go into a shop or find a koban 交番 which is a neighborhood police station. You’ll find your way back in no time.

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56. Drinking. I’m not a big drinker, but there’s no denying that drinkers will be in heaven when they come to Japan. Japan has a huge drinking culutre. It is a bonding experience. Also, you can drink anywhere. Help yourself to a cold beer from a vending machine and drink on the street if you want! Japan has a great selection of booze. I’m not a fan of sake, Japanese rice wine, but they have some great beers. Asahi and Sapporo come to mind. Japan also has a great selection of whiskey with a very different taste from the Scottish ones. Go for Yamazaki. Smoothness followed by a bite.

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57. Shopping. If you are in Tokyo, and you’re loaded, check out Ginza for great shopping. But really, anywhere in Japan is going to give you some fantastic options for buying whatever you want. And everything is really good quality.

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58. Skyscrapers. Mainly in the big cities and Tokyo in particular has an impressive amount of skyscrapers. I used to love just wandering around looking up in the sky and admiring the different structures.

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59. Theme parks. Did you know that Tokyo has 2 Disney Lands? Japanese people go crazy for that sort of thing. So, if you like rollercoasters, games, and generally just running around and having some childish fun, book a ticket to Japan. Japanese people also seem to like ferriss wheels or ‘kanransha’. There’s a really good one in Yokohama 横浜.

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60. Mount Fuji 富士山 or ‘fujisan’. This gorgeous wonder is located on Honshu Island, is the biggest mountain in Japan, and is visible in many prefectures. On a clear day, you can see it from Tokyo. I have heard that it is very rewarding to climb up too, if you’re into that sort of thing. The view from the top is incredible.

View of Yokohama and Mt. Fuji in Japan.
Overlooking Yokohama with a view of Mount Fuji

61. Natural beauty generally. I don’t know where to start with this one. There’s too much to see. You could spend your whole life in Japan and still not have enough time to see everything worth seeing. Off the top of my head, you have Yakushima Island off the coast of Kyushu and Yakusagi Forest, pretty much everywhere in Nara, the snowy beauty of Sapporo, Mount Aso, everywhere in Kyoto, and Lake Mashu.

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credit: Moyan Brenn flickr

62. Everyone Poops, Minna Unchi, みんなうんち. I read this book in a doctor’s surgery and couldn’t help but snap a picture of every single page. I didn’t realize that everyone poops. Now that I do, I’m a lot happier.

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63. No sarcasm. When did it suddenly become such a good thing to have a snarky sense of humour? Why is it a good thing to be mean and cut-throat with your comments about people? You might not realize it, but after enduring sarcastic humor all around you for a while, you start to become a negative person. In Japan they, thankfully, don’t get sarcasm. I once made a remark to a taxi driver: いいおてんきですね – ii o-tenki desu ne – it’s nice weather, isn’t it? I said this even though it was pouring down with rain. That’s because when it rains in Britain everyone loves to make sarcastic comments. British people will say stuff like, “oh, what a lovely day!” even though it is terrible. Anyway, the taxi driver clearly didn’t understand my sarcasm. He nodded, agreed with me, and said: でも雨です – demo ame desu – but it’s raining.

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64. No obesity problem. The only fat people I ever saw in Japan where white. Japanese people know how to eat and have some of the healthiest food in the world. They eat small portions of rice and fish and rarely overindulge, giving them slim and healthy figures.

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65. Pikachu. No explanation needed. Just watch the video:

66. The Japanese smile. Japanese people have a smile that is infectious, warm, and friendly. You can’t help but smile when you are in Japan.

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67. Japanese schoolchildren. I love it whenever I see a big group of schoolchildren out on a trip in Japan because I know I’m going to get about fifty cute kids try and practice their English with me. They are very shy but their curiosity always overcomes their shyness and they can’t help but shout “hello!” If you shout “hello’ back they will go nuts and laugh and get all excited. If you say “konnichiwa” their jaws will be on the floor.

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68. Communication via email, meeruメール and LINE. People don’t really text. They usually have an email address attached to their phone. Or they use a really cute message application called LINE which has lots of cute stickers and characters and stuff. It’s a good thing. A nice little quirk.

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69. Capsule hotels. If you miss your last train home you can stay in a capsule hotel for cheap. They are basically just a little box. You can’t stand up in them but they are clean and have a TV and internet connection. If you want an alternative, you can stay in a manga café or a karaoke room for the night.

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70. Literature. I have yet to delve too deeply in Japanese literature, but I really like the stuff that I have seen. I like ‘I Am a Cat’ or 吾輩は猫である ‘Wagahai wa Neko de Aru by Soseki Natsume. I also like a lot of Haruki Murakami’s stuff.

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71. Team work. Japan has a collectivist culture. This is quite different to the individualist culture we have in the west. In the west we pride ourselves on being individuals and being different from everyone else. But in Japan, it is of great importance that everyone works together, supports each other, and does what is best for everyone. I like this attitude and it results in a friendlier, more socially-conscious society. The individualist culture seems to breed selfishness and greed.

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72. History. Again, I am just scratching the surface with what I know about Japanese culture but I am determined to learn as much as I can. Reading about the different age periods and how the culture has progressed over time is fascinating. Oh, and, samurai.

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73. Music. Some of the J-Pop stuff is actually pretty good. It’s catchy, upbeat, and funny. Particularly when they try to use English words. Japan also has some good rock bands. Check out ‘Kimi wa Taiyou’ by Spitz.

74. Origami. This is the Japanese art of paper folding. When a schoolchild is ill, their peers will work together to make 1000 origami cranes for them because it is said to be good luck.

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This crane and turtle were waiting for me when I arrived in my hotel room

75. Omiyage, お土産, ‘souvenirs’. Japanese people love souvenirs and gifts. They give them to friends and relatives all the time for any occasion. Japan has a great selection of souvenirs. Everything from great sweets to personalized chopsticks and more. Check out Asakusa 浅草 and on your way to the temple make sure to look in all the wonderful souvenir shops.

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76. Christmas KFC. On Christmas day, Japanese people go to KFC and order chicken. This is so popular that you actually have to book a place at KFC days in advance in order to get your chicken. Christmas is also a couples holiday instead of a family holiday.

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77. World Heritage Sites. At the moment there are 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. Included in this collection is a variety of castles, shrines, and temples from different eras in Japanese history.

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78. Snow Monkeys. The real name for these amazing little creatures is the Japanese Macaque. You can see them in the onsen at Nagano just relaxing and enjoying the heat the same way us people do.

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79. No swearing. Japanese doesn’t really have many swear words. And the rude words it does have are barely ever used. Most rudeness in Japanese comes from the level of politeness you use and stuff like that. You probably already know that Japanese has many different words for ‘you’. Well, many of these are exceptionally rude because they imply the person being spoken to as having lower social rank. Anyway, one of the rudest things you can say in Japanese is: 誰に向かって言ってんだよ dare ni mukatte itten da yo – “who do you think you are speaking to?” However, you won’t heard stuff like this said. Japanese people are far too polite.

80. Lights. There are different coloured lights everywhere in Japan. In Tokyo, there are flashing lights on skyscrapers everywhere. In more traditional parts of the country, there are lanterns casting a traditional hew. I wish every country was as colorful as Japan.

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81. Nighttime. There’s a certain something in the air after dark in Japan. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s intangible but I like it. It’s a bit of a buzz. There is magic in the air.

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82. Bubble Tea. My goodness, I love sucking those little balls into my mouth. This isn’t actually Japanese but it’s incredibly popular in Japan and there are bubble tea cafés and stalls everywhere.

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83. Cute cafés. Japan has lots of cat cafés. These are places where you can enjoy your tea and cake while surrounded with loads of cats. Sounds weird but I’m all in favor of it. I love cats. For the otaku guys, there are maid cafés where girls dress up like maids and dance and stuff. There are also just generally loads of cute little cafés with great food, great service, and comfortable furniture that are perfect for working or napping in. Don’t just stick to the big chains. Go explore a little and find a nice café to chill out in.

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84. Themed restaurants. There are so many of these. The robot theme restaurant in Shinjuku is interesting. I also checked out a prison-themed izakaya. You eat your dinner in a cell and are served food by a waitress dressed up in a blood-spattered nurse uniform. The food was crazy. There was one dish just called ‘the cock’. It was a sausage. You can find a themed restaurant for any of your prefered fantasies.

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85. No smoking while walking. Throughout Japanese cities, there are specifically desginated smoking hubs. It is against the law to move around while smoking, which is a good thing because it prevents non-smokers from having to inhale the fumes.

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86. Studio Ghibli. This is the Japanese animation film studio where Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful creations come to life. If you’re in Tokyo, check out the Ghibli Museum. It’s delighful. As for specific films, check out Spirited Away千と千尋の神隠し and My Neighbor Totoroとなりのトトロ

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87. Noises. Just walking around Japan, you will hear noises you’ve never heard before. Whistling, music, tunes, beeping, rattling, alarms. This is another reason why Japan is just a huge playground for a foreigner. It is total sensory overload.

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88. Superstitions. Japan has some cool supersitions that add to the quirky nature of the country. For example, there usually isn’t a fourth floor in Japanese hotels because the word for four, ‘shi’, sounds like death.

DSC00151 89.Cosmetics. Japan has some of the best makeup in the world. People come from all over specifically to buy cosmetic goods. So, if you’re into your beauty and fashion, come to Japan to stock up on the best stuff.

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90. Ramuneラムネ . This is a fizzy Japanese soft drink. It’s got a cool glass design and it sealed with marble which you have to push inside the bottle in order to open it. There’s loads of different flavors: banana, blueberry, bubble gum, cherry, green apple, mango, octopus, pineapple, teriyaki, wasabi, and watermelon, to name a few.

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credit: asian food grocer

91. Omatsuri 祭. These are Japanese festivals. Often people will celebrate holidays in a similar way to how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, with floats, food, games, and fireworks. It is a time for the community to come together and have a lot of fun.

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92. Sakura and Hanami. The cherry blossom is an ephemeral flower and therein lies its beauty. Hanami is a cherry blossom party. When the cherry blossom is in bloom, parks all over Japan fill up with people who sit and have a picnic beneath the beautiful pink flowers. I went to Yoyogi Koen in Tokyo to see the Sakura and it honestly looked like I had just entered a fairytale. Magical stuff.

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93. Otsukimi お月見 . This is the moon-viewing festival. Japanese people celebrate the moon by eating tsukimi dango – a type of rice dumpling – and offer sweet potatoes to the moon.

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94. Cosplay. This is where people role play and dress up as their favorite anime and manga characters. There are plenty of conventions in Japan where people will dress up as their favorite characters.

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95. Technology. If you want to see what your country’s technology will look like in the future, go to Japan. You will see all the mobile phones, TVs, and video games that won’t arrive in your country for years.

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96. Hentai fun. ‘Hentai’ means pervert. Although Japanese people generally don’t talk about sex and are very shy about discussing private matters, Japan is still a pervert’s paradise. Everything is sexualized. Even tentacles. It’s not uncommon to see people reading manga in public that features pictures of guys rimming each other. So, if you are a hentai, get your perverted ass down to Japan.

97. Shyness. The Japanese word for ‘shy’ is ‘hazukashii’ 恥ずかしい. The Japanese shyness is even greater than the famous British shyness. It is also one of the reasons why Japanese people are so endearing. They will blush over literally anything.

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98. Hair salons. Some of the best hair salons and stylists in the world are in Japan. It isn’t too costly either. For a movie star perm or runway ready locks, head to Japan to get your hair cut.

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99. High speed internet. As you may have expected from a country that has the most advanced technology and is a nation of avid gamers, Japan has one of the fastest internet connection speeds in the world.

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100. Japan wants you. Last, but not least, Japan loves foreigners. Japan is a wonderful country full of wonderful people who are incredibly curious about anyone who is not Japanese. You will be welcomed with open arms and have a blast! Ganbatte ne!

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1 Comment

  1. I feel homesick about Japan and I never even been there! I just know in my heart that I am meant to be there. I have a couple of questions, What happens if you don’t like seafood? If you are trying new food if you are over at some one else’s house and you don’t like it,do you still compliment how good it is?

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