Wednesday, 23 June 2010

10 things I love about Japan

So, I saw a thread on a forum titled "Positive Things About Japan", and thought I would comprise a little list of things that I love about Japan, so far. Here goes!

1) The politeness
If you ask where something is, chances are you will be walked to your destination, or if it is too far, people will run around to find a pen and paper and draw you a map. If they don't know, they might ask somebody else. I'm not saying this doesn't happen anywhere else, but try it in Egypt - you will probably find yourself lured down a dark alleyway into an obscure shop and asked to buy overpriced souveneirs. How often in the UK do you enter a shop and hear "Can I help you?" or "Welcome!". Here, whenever you enter a shop (or walk past a stand) you will hear "irasshaimase!"... it does get annoying, sometimes, but you are made to feel welcome when you enter a shop, rather than feeling like a total nuisance (as you may do back home sometimes). People will go out of their way to help you, even if you can barely speak the same language.

2) Powdered Green Tea - Matcha!

What is this strange green powder, I hear you ask? It's green tea! Add boiling water for a delicious cup of green tea (IMO it tastes better than regular green tea...) or use in cooking for matcha-flavoured goodness! At the moment, it's matcha season, so you can buy matcha cakes, donuts, KitKats and even gyoza! It's nicer than you might think!!

3) No chavs! Less crime!Not once have I seen a smashed bus stop or being yelled at by Burberry-clad cretin sipping cheap cider as I go about my daily business. Walking down a busy street at night, people milling in and out of bars, never have I encountered anything worse than a friendly push. No bottling, no broken noses, no "you started on my sister, innit! Am gonna f*cking kill you!". To my knowledge, not many teenage pregnancies. The rebellious teenagers of Hamamatsu, or so it seems, hang out outside Starbucks of an evening, practicing synchronized dance moves for an audience that may or may not exist. And... there is less crime, apparently. I would feel safe leaving my door unlocked. I could lose my wallet and feel confident that it would be handed in somewhere....Without pondering about what social or political factors might be to thank for this, it fills me with dread to think about returning to the UK and feeling afraid to walk home. Admittedly I have been afraid a couple of times here, and heard about girls being followed home, and the occasional murder... but compare that to Manchester and it's minimal. We still need to be careful, but the feeling of fear isn't like it was in Moss Side!

4) A hundred million KitKats!
So far I have tried: Banana, Sakura, Matcha, Milk Tea, Passion Fruit, Raspberry Cheesecake (I think) and Bitter Almond Kit Kats. See my friend Ali's Kit Kat blog for more information!

5) Izakayas!Japanese style restaurant-bars, great for large groups of friends to hang out! The menus are usually accompanied with colourful pictures. Beautiful food, drinks, cocktails, sometimes all you can eat/drink options, and a little button than calls the waiter when you're ready to order! One of my favourite ones has a touch screen where you can order whatever you want - dangerous, though! The atmospheres are awesome.

6) The alcohol...
Umeshuu (plum wine), chu-hai(fruity goodness) that cost only 108Yen in some shops, sours, shouchuu... nomi hodai (all you can drink) - one place does all you can drink for 1000 Yen (for two hours if you buy some food)! Ooh and most bars don't measure the spirits, so a Baileys for 600 Yen looks like a quadruple (at LEAST) in the UK... it's easy to get drunk here!

7) CombinisConvenience stores - but oh, how convenient they are! You can pay your bills here, just take it there, they scan the bar code and there you go! They come with photo copiers, hot food counters, a LOT of alcohol, stationary, bathroom products, photo booths and a lot of food. The nearest one is a 2 minute walk from me and is open 24 hours... so I can get shampoo, sushi, photos of myself and envelopes whenever the need strikes me!

8) Purikura
Poorly imitated in the UK with sticker machines (which I LOVED as a child), Purikura booths allow a group of friends (anywhere from 2 to perhaps 15!) to take a frantic series of pictures, before editing them on a touch screen. You can add writing, patterns, accessories or colour your hair pink, before printing them off as tiny cute stickers! Since I have been here, I have accumulated a LOT of these stickers. They are good ways to mark an occasion, a night out, or, well, any night really!
This one is from my first day in Japan (see how I wasted no time making friends)! The second one is from the other day :)

9) Japanese guys are not afraid of their feminine side!
I see so many Japanese guys doing things that our less self-confident Western fellows would shy away from, fearing that it would make them look "gay". I am talking about the guys I saw in Disneyworld, sharing their girlfriends' enthusiasm for wearing Mickey Mouse ears and brightly coloured accessories. I'm talking about "man-bags" and wearing pink. I'm talking about the guys I saw dancing at the Hamamatsu Dance Festival, smiling and leaping with wild abandon and joyful disregard for how their peers would view them for partaking in something! It's refreshing, and while at first you may wonder if all the guys here are gay, you will soon realise that this is just how these guys roll... love it! Although, perhaps many male ALTs won't appreciate this trait when it hits them in the form of a friendly "kancho"....

10) "When would you like it delivered? 9pm? OK!"If you miss a parcel from the post office, you can call the number (there's an English speaking line) and they will ask when you would like it delivered. If it's 9pm, then they will turn up at 9pm with your parcel. Even more exciting is Amazon's cash on delivery service... no more messing around with cards online! Just promise them the money, they will turn up, you hand over the cash, and it's done! I don't think it would work anywhere else....
Those are just SOME things... there are more. Perhaps I will wait for another post!


  1. Nice post! I agree with all of those points - a good reminder of why I came here!

  2. I could go for some green tea and a banana flavoured kit-kat right now! keep up the good work miss and don’t forget your duck! x

  3. Very nice list, and thanks for the nod! ;)

  4. I love it! I agree completely!