In this blog post I will share things that I like about Japan. Many things popped up into my head, but I tried to keep it short. Well the word short is pretty relative, but heeeey let’s start anyway! I listed everything on alphabetic order.
All you can drink, nomihōdai, 飲み放題
Grabbing a drink with your colleagues after work is a big thing in Japan and sometimes even mandatory. So the all-you-can-drink concept might go hand in hand with that custom. You won’t have to worry about spending too much money when going out for a drink at a place where they have nomihōdai. Because for some amount of yen you can drink whatever you want and how much you want. Usually this will be at Karaoke establishments, bars, clubs and restaurants.
I’ve played videogames ever since I remember. Final Fantasy, Mario, Spyro the Dragon, Jack and Dexter, Dead or Alive and GTA are some of my favorite childhood titles. I loved getting lost in fantasy worlds and discovering new characters. Every time I walk into an arcade I bring that sense of getting lost and discovering with me. I don’t remember the first time I went to an arcade, but I clearly do remember the moments that I didn’t want to get out of them. Now arcades in Japan are some next level stuff. There are arcades with more than 10 floors where you certainly can get lost in! But one thing is sure, you won’t get bored with the variety of games they offer.
Bento box, 弁当
A bento box is a Japanese lunchbox for kids and adults. They will bring them to school or to work. I have seen a lot of creative creations inside these lunchboxes mostly prepared with healthy ingredients. They really fascinate me.
Chopsticks, Hashi, はし
“Eating rice with sticks? But how?!” Yeah, that was me asking those question in another life. First time I tried eating with sticks I was very clumsy, but after practicing I’ve got the hang of it. Eating Japanese dishes like ramen or soba have never been more enjoyable. And you know, Japanese rice is sticky which makes it a pretty easy to eat with chopsticks.
Before going to Japan I heard that it would be difficult to find public trash cans in Tokyo. The reason for that was the Subway Sarin Incident or Tokyo subway sarin attack. At first it was thought that people would start to throw their litter in the street, but that didn’t happen. As time passed it became very convenient not having trash cans in the city of Tokyo. It saved money and maintenance. Other cities in Japan are considering to do the same. Aside from the trash can story I found Japan to be very clean overall.
Everything is done with care
When Japanese people are busy preparing or creating something I notice a great amount of presence. Very aware of every little detail, trying their best not to make a mistake. I see this while doing calligraphy, wrapping a gift or decorating a cake. I really love seeing the intensity and dedication they put into it.
If I had to point out something unique about Japan it would be fashion. Fashion magazine dedicate themselves to show the latest fashion trends. Especially teenagers and young adults follow these trends and walk around the streets of Tokyo as if they just came out of a photoshoot. Their make-up, hairstyle, clothing and shoes match perfectly together. It goes without saying that the general population of Japan cares about how they present themselves in everyday life, therefore putting time and effort into their looks is almost mandatory.
It might seem silly to list fruit in this list, but I have a good reason for it. In Japan fruit is seen as a luxury. It is very common to give high-end fruits as a present on formal occasions. You can find gift shops selling the best and most expensive fruits in the world. A package of strawberries could cost more than 30 euros, a watermelon sold at a price of 300 and apples selling for 20 euros per piece. Of course you can find cheaper fruits in the supermarket, but I’m curious how a 20 euro apple will taste haha. So I will try once. I’ve eaten watermelons, melons, oranges, grapes, apples, pears and other kinds of fruits in Japan and they were always tasty!
Japanese convenient stores, Konbini, コンビニ
Japanese convenient stores are mostly open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. They are found on almost every corner of the street selling sweets, drinks, meals, magazines, toilet utilities, batteries and even cosmetics. Sounds pretty convenient. Hence the name convenient stores. I love them!
Japanese festivals, matsuri, 祭
I have been to the Kashiwa Matsuri, Sumidagawa firework festival and another firework festival in Chiba which I forgot the name of. I also stumbled upon one in Omotesando and Shinjuku during the summer vacation. These festivals are celebrated annually and attract a ton of people. You will find food stalls, dancers, singers, music, fireworks, traditional clothing and games. When you are visiting Japan you’ll most likely come across a festival yourself, because there are just so many of them!
People from all ages entertain themselves by singing their favorite songs while the lyrics show up on a screen. Although originated in Japan, people from all over of Asia enjoy this activity. You will get a private room where you can sit, drink, dance and sing the night (or day) away with your friends. Karaoke establishments are open from the morning until after midnight, but some are open 24/7. I seriously had great times singing my lungs out to some old and new songs. Japanese and English.
Kawaii translates into cute and the word has surely become part of Japanese culture. You can find it in commercials, fashion, toys, behavior, institutions and pop culture. It is literally everywhere. Think about child-like behavior, squeaky high pitch voices, vibrant colors and large eyes. Sounds familiar if you watch a bit of anime, doesn’t it?
I think I have mentioned it in some of my videos or other blog posts, but I will say it again. Kyoto is the most beautiful city I have seen so far. I only have been there for one day, yet I’m still deep in love with all its beauty. Kyoto is a place where many shrines and temples are situated like Kiyomizu-dera and Fushimi inari taisha. The city has such a rich history of which I’d love to learn more about.
Manga & Anime
I remember watching Dragonball Z, Pokémon, Card Capter Sakura, Sailor moon, Ranma 1/2 and Hamtaro. I loved watching them so much! I noticed the big eyes, humor, colors and cuteness. When I was around nine or 10 years old I figured out these cartoons were actually called anime and originated from Japan. That is when my love for Japan started growing.
I have been drinking Japanese green tea for a long time now. I use fresh green tea leaves straight out of Japan for preperation. I infuse the leaves with heated water and enjoy the smell for a moment before drinking. At the moment I’d love to get matcha and try out some nice recipes with it. Not only tea, but also for baking! Matcha is made out of green tea leaves which are finely ground up into powder. Some might know that green tea can have a very bitter taste. At first I didn’t like the taste nor smell, but once I started to get used to it I started loving it. The smell is so sweet to me, almost like chocolate haha. Next to that green tea is also very healthy!
Mochi is made by pounding a special type of rice into a paste. Then it is molded into a shape. Mochi is traditionally made for the New Year, but it is also eaten during the rest of the year. It comes in all sorts of colors and tastes. I don’t have a favorite one and like savory and sweet just as much. At home I sometimes pop a few kakumochi in the oven and enjoy them with a bit of soy sauce. If you are eating them for the first time, eat them slowly without distractions. They are very sticky and chewy, so it’s possible to choke on them. Some people in Japan even choked to death because of eating mochi.
For many people mountains are not a big deal. They see them everyday. Just as regular everyday scenery. But I come from a country where there are no such things as mountains! My country, The Netherlands, is super flat. We have some hills here and there, but nothing that will make you break a sweat when climbing. In Japan you have a lot of mountains that can be hiked. Something I still need to cross off of my bucket list. Well I hiked the mountain trails of Fushimi Inari Taishia(伏見稲荷大社), but I didn’t went all the way to the top. So to me it doesn’t really count haha.
When learning about the cultural aspects of Japan it becomes clear that there is a strong sense of politeness in the overall behavior of Japanese people. In general they are very kind, helpful and friendly. They always say “ありがとうございます!”, thank you! and other phrases that show their deepest gratitude to one another. You will hear these phrases in stores, restaurants and other places where providing a service combined with a sincere smile. Be sure to watch your manners a bit extra when going to Japan, it will be most appreciated!
The word Purikura come from the word Print Club. Japanese pronounce it as Purinto Kurabu. You can make purikura in big photo booths. Inside the booth there will be digital picture taken of your friends and you. After you are done taking snaps you can edit and decorate them by using a stylus on a touch screen. When satisfied they will be printed out in multiple copies. This makes it easier to cut them out and share them with your friends. It makes a really cute memory and I made some while staying in Japan. Read more about it here.
Removing shoes at the door
In Japan it is a custom to take off your shoes before entering a house. Some hotels and restaurants will ask you to do the same. Shoes should be taken off at the entrance of the house, the genkan (玄関), where you will also leave your shoes and anything wet or dirty from outside. It helps keeping someones private space clean. I love this custom, because I cringe when people walk inside their house with shoes on. Maybe because I’m a hygienic person with a bit of OCD when it comes to cleaning. Just the thought of shoes that have crossed dirty city streets on my carpet, oh hell no! It doesn’t matter if you didn’t step in poop or that you just walked outside with them once. Take them off if you come into my house, even though I don’t have a genkan.
Most people in Japan want fair, beautiful skin without wrinkles or fine lines. Therefore skincare products are big business. New products come out all the time promising lighter, tighter, more radiant and youthful looking skin. Because this is so important the general population has some knowledge about skincare. A lot more than compared to where I am from.
Not only Japan, but also Korea is known for having amazing skincare products. I bet that people who are into beauty and make-up know at least one product coming from these countries like BB-creams or DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. A couple of years ago I bought some products from Skin Food. I remember being very pleased with it!
It might seem like a weird thing to like as a girl, but if you experienced the train system in Japan you’ll get what I mean. The trains in Japan are very punctual and barely arrive or leave too late. Unlike the Dutch Railway system it is one people can rely on, hehehehe.
Traffic light sound
Sometimes I experience a lot of memories coming up by smelling or seeing something. I get a tad nostalgic or start to day dream. I have the same thing with the sound of Japanese traffic lights. Whenever I heard the melodic sound it reminds me of the streets of Tokyo with people walking by in a fast pace and neon signs coloring the sky. I just really like it.
Youtube has shown me all about it before traveling to Japan. Hightec toilets with all kinds of buttons and settings for an amazing toilet experience. During the winter toilet seats are heated which makes it a lot more pleasant to take a dump in a Japanese home without central heating. After you are done doing your business there is the option to spray your butt clean and flush with a big (大) or small (小) flush. Besides that you can play songs or sounds that will hide the natural human sounds you make on the toilet.
Vending machines can be life savers. They are to be found in a busy street or even in the middle of nowhere. They will be there when you are thirsty, hungry or need a manga to read. That is right, manga out of vending machines. Also cellphones, hot drinks, icecreams, T-shirts, figures and even bananas. I like banana vending machines, unfortunately I haven’t encountered one yet.
My video on what I like about Japan.