I have vehemently expressed how Japan is my favorite country in the world. It's all the weird quirks, the latest crazes and its uniqueness which makes Japan such brilliant place.
When I first arrived in Tokyo, I had no idea how to eat sushi correctly, why people bow and how to greet or thank in Japanese. I didn't know why people take their shoes off or that it's perfectly safe to carry large amounts of yen in my wallet, whilst getting lost in the darkest streets of Tokyo.
I fell in love with Japan and all its special traits. Now I want to move there and live a happy life whilst further discovering one of the most interesting cultures on Earth.
1. Japan is silent
I know, I know, you can't believe some of the world's most densely populated cities on the planet can actually be silent. Well apart from certain districts in Tokyo where you can mainly hear the jumbo adverts, the streets of Japan are rather quiet. Nobody speaks loudly, nobody screams, there is no chattering in the background.
2. There are vending machines everywhere
Oh no, you forgot to buy milk, noodles, smokes, bananas? Worry not, there are vending machines EVERYWHERE in Japan. You can buy anything ranging from hot or cold drinks to umbrellas and warm meals.
3. You need a manual to use the toilets
There is a singing button, a seat warming button, a button which shows a person sitting on top of a small spring, a person sitting on top of a waterfall ... there is a plus button, a minus button. Ergh, I guess just try and get to know your toilet before using it.
4. Size matters in Japan
Everyone eats. Everyone eats all the time. Yet everyone is skinny and petite. Chances are, if you are anything over (UK) size 6-8 you are probably considered fat in Japan.
5. The Japanese are super proud
It doesn't matter if a Japanese works in corporate environment, Michelin restaurants or serves you at the local shop, everyone is super proud of their work. They do things well, never cut any corners and take their job seriously.
6. World's best service
In line with the previous point, since everyone is super proud of their work, things are obviously done correctly, all the time, any time. This in turn translates to Japan having the world's best customer service. Forget the 5* hotel experience you have to pay serious cash for in a Western country. In Japan, you will feel like royalty just by ordering noddles from the tiny restaurant hidden in a dark street. Impressive, right?
7. Japan is super safe
Japanese children go to school alone since they are 5 years old. Women have nothing to fear even when they walk in the darkest street in the middle of the night. Having the lowest crime rate on the planet, Japan has maintained its reputation as being the safest country in the world.
8. Person or chimney?
In Japan, there are still bars, restaurants and establishments where people are allowed to smoke indoors. Pachinko, for example, are loud entrainment places where people play the slot machines and smoke like chimneys.
9. Sometimes you just need to take the shoes off
It can happen to you anywhere. At the restaurant, at the temple, when entering someone's home. Japanese are quite strict about their "taking the shoes off" rule and you should absolutely respect this. Make sure your socks are always clean and spotless.
10. They don't speak English
I was surprised to see the small amount of people who can speak English in Japan. For such internet oriented nation, I expected that most will have no issues communicating in English. In reality, I heavily relied on gesticulating and pointing at things. Learn a few basic phrases before visiting Japan.
11. They are dead on time
Never, ever, ever be late when meeting with a Japanese person. Everything in Japan is dead on time: the trains, the buses, the people, the service. On rare occasions when the trains are late, the conductor offers an explanatory note to the passengers so they can use it at work/school. If you are invited to a party for 7 pm, be there at 7 pm sharp.
12. Hello sexy!
The Japanese look good even when they take the garbage out. Everyone wears good clothes, is dressed properly and nicely arranged. There are no people wearing baggy t-shirts, old trousers and dirty shoes.
13. No rule benders
Is there a rule, a law, a sign? The Japanese take it seriously and respect it. It is because nobody bends the rules in Japan, the society works so perfectly, the crime rates are the lowest and people respect each other.
14. No tipping
Chances are, if you tip in Japan, someone is going to run after you to give you the money back. It's not an insult to tip, but people are simply happy with their salaries and their work, hence they don't believe tipping is necessary. However, should you have loved the service so much (and you always will) just buy the chef a shot of sake. Say Kanpai (the Japanese for cheers) and leave it to that. It will be far more appreciated.
15. Disposable houses
All Japanese houses look rather good and they seem to be preserved in great condition. Well this is because in Japan, people demolish and rebuilt their houses every 30 years or so. Of course, not all houses undergo these drastic changes.
16. No cards please, we're Japanese
For such high tech nation, Japan still uses the good old cash. From the economy's perspective, using cash is obviously much better, but it's also more inconvenient for the person carrying the money. However, since Japan is the safest nation on the planet, carrying lots of yen in your pocket means no harm will come to you. When I tried to buy something of high value in Japan, I wanted to pay with my visa card. It turns out, the merchant didn't even know how to use the card machine and offered me a staggering 15% discount for the inconvenience, if I pay with cash instead.
17. Manners matter
Of course not being a douche applies to all travelers in any country, but the Japanese are super tight about their customs and manners. Sure they will forgive you if you are a foreigner, but they will also much appreciate you if you put a little effort in. For example, learn how to eat properly. Or familiarize yourself with the basic customs and manners before visiting Japan.
18. Religion is not a thing
The Japanese are not religious, they are spiritual. No, it's really not the same thing. Whilst highly peculiar about living in harmony with their nature, they don't actually go to shrines or temples to pray, but to pay their respects, which is a huge difference in Japan.
You can learn a bit more about Japan and religion here.
19. Japan is not expensive
For so many years tourists avoided visiting Japan because of the "super expensive" label. In reality, Japan is not expensive. Sure, if you compare it with the living costs in Cambodia, Japan is rather pricey, but I'm comparing it to the living standards in the US, UK and Europe. You can eat a decent hot meal for as little as $3 if you know where to look.
20. Japan has four Seasons
Japan has four seasons and people celebrate them, live in line with them and even cook accordingly. People also dress for the season, so if you are planning a February trip to Japan, make sure you bring REALLY warm clothes. You will also have the chance to experience amazing matsuri (festivals) throughout the year in Japan, each celebrating a specific season.
There is plenty more about the Japanese way of life and no better way to learn about it but to experience it . What did you learn during your trip to Japan? Tell me all about it in the comments section bellow.