Cultural Experience | Japan

Top 10 Countdown of Things You’ll Love About Japan

A few of the countless big and small things that make Japan the greatest.

Japan is one of those places that if you haven’t been there, you don’t think about it too much, but once you go it’s the only place you ever want to go again! Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve been to 5 different continents, and no place has captured my heart like Japan has.

Japan has a perfect mix of traditional way of life mixed in quite nicely with the zaniest modern culture ever. It’s beautiful. The people are kind and friendly to a point where it seems strange to travelers who might be used to more gruff travel destinations. It’s a treasure trove of quirky super-Japanese things. Japan is so unique and so special, and there are so many wonderful things about it, it is almost not fair to just do a list of 10. But alas, here are 10 big and small reasons that you will love about Japan. Most of which you might ask “why?” about, and I will answer you, “because, simply, Japan!”

10. The Toilets

It’s just one of those “because… Japan” things. Yeah, it might be unusual that toilets are on this list, but also I dare you to find a place that has cooler toilets… it’s like the first really different thing I noticed about Japan. They even have fancy diamond studded toilets on exhibit at the science museum here. You either get a high-tech toilet that can do all sorts of fancy, ah…, hygienic things, usually with a heated toilet seat! Cold-butt syndrome no more! OR you use a squat toilet which is exactly how that sounds. It does seem strange that there are as many fancy toilets as there are squatters… but maybe thats just a testament to the “modern-traditional” thing?

9. Ryokans

Sometimes people stay in old-fashioned hotels because they are fun and themed, but in Japan people stay in Ryokans because that is just how hotels should be. Take your shoes off, have some green tea, and sleep on your tatami mat. And don’t be afraid to use the public bath. Which, yes, is a bath that people use together, fully nude. And it’s not even weird! “See without seeing,” as they say… probably.

8. Karaoke

Literally, the national pastime of Japan. Karaoke bars are everywhere. You can go during the day, you can go at night, you can go by yourself, you can go with your friends… and you get your own private room! In Japan, it is more impressive for you to have the courage to get up and sing well or poorly in front of people than it is to sing well. A must-do for a visit to Japan!

7: Pop Culture

Perhaps you have either grown up loving or at least have known of Nintendo, Studio Ghibli, Pokemon and well, every anime show out there.  They all started in Japan, and they’re going strong. Japan has a knack for inventing the most adorable and fun shows and games. Take a geek pilgrimage and visit Japan. And fly on that ANA Pokemon decorated airplane while you’re at it.

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Pokemon Center!

6. Themed Everything

Modern Japanese culture just loves getting into a theme… kind of like American college students! Walk around Harajuku to see people dressed up as cartoon characters just because. Actually walk around any populated, public area in Tokyo and I bet you 50 yen you’ll see someone decked out! And also haven’t you ever wanted to go to a Pikachu cafe, a robot-battle restaurant, a pixel bar, a ninja bar, or perhaps a jail bar (where I presume you simulate being locked up and in prison as you dine?). They all exist! Also, you can’t fail to mention the mere existence of Cat Cafes. Where you get tea or coffee and play with cats. All the rage now. Yes.

 

5. Disneyland

Uh, the Japanese might love Disney more than anyone else. Disney, for some reason, is EVERYWHERE in Japan. You can buy Disney chopsticks, Disney clothing, Disney themed food… and you can buy these things at random convenience stores and at just about every other trendy clothing store around. And you will be sure to hear a Disney song playing in the background almost everywhere you go… for reals. Disney will be there. And who can blame them, because they have two of what many people consider to be the absolute best Disney theme parks in the world. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are just incredible. DisneySea is quite possibly the most well-done theme park in the world, and is worth a visit.

 

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Tokyo DisneySea

4. Lack of other Tourists/English Speakers

Many if not most people in Japan do not speak English, or at least don’t speak it well at all. There are hardly an foreigners or tourists, in comparison to other big travel destinations and there really aren’t even that many non-native Japanese people living in Japan. Japan’s semi-isolation is really just so refreshing and it makes for such an interesting visit. Japan has done an absolutely remarkable job of being true to itself, and when you visit Japan today, you see what Japan has been like for a long time in many ways, with perhaps the exception of super fancy toilets. Really, Japan is just so… Japanese.

3. The Landscape

Welcome to the beautiful temperate giant mountain rainforest of the world. Japan is simply gorgeous! It is SO green, and every city/town is surrounded by beautiful hilly mountains that you just assume is crawling with Totoros. There are a number of fantastic places to get lost and hike, namely the hike up the mountain on the island of Myajima or the Fushimi-inari 1,000 gate torii shrine trail in Kyoto. It is a treat in itself to drive around the fantastic countryside and see the lush mountains sprinkled with adorable Japanese-style homes.

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Forest in Kyoto

2. The Food

Okay, if the thought of raw fish makes you squirm… get used to it, because Japanese food has fish and it is amazing and there’s nothin’ you can do about it. Except go to McDonald’s, but that’s no fun! Even vegetarian dishes in Japan are simply dishes with no meat… with the exception of fish of course. Sometimes you have no idea what you are eating, and it’s not like you can ask and you just gotta take a bite and appreciate a food for what it is. And if you can get past the raw fish/unknown sea animal thing, it’s delicious! Sushi in Japan is definitely not California rolls, but its even better…. and really fun to eat. Visit a conveyor belt sushi bar and watch your food in delight as it circles around a track for your eating pleasure! Eat some Japanese ramen (PLEASE- it is the most delicious food ever) where you order from a vending machine! And Kobe beef… is worth ditching a vegetarian lifestyle for. Yum.

 

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(adorable) Japanese food

1. The People

Of course, the people are what truly put life into the spirit of a country. Japanese people are so kind and so respectful. It’s a place where the ground workers at an airport will wave at your plane before you take off. It’s a place where actually almost anyone will wave and say “hello” to you with a friendly smile. It’s a place where pretty much anyone will be happy and excited to talk to you… or take a picture with you. And then, Japanese culture is just so full of respect and honor for everything they do, and everyone they meet that there is an astounding amount of care and effort put into everything they do.

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Japanese friends!

 

There are probably a thousand and one other things that are wonderful about Japan. Too many things. It is one of the most wonderful places in the world with so much to do and so much to see, and clearly, so many “little” but wonderful things to experience. It would be impossible to travel to Japan and not love it. Come as a student, as a regular visitor or even come and live for a time and work as perhaps an English teacher! Experience the beautiful, quirky, fascinating and just plain great country that is Japan. Do I sound like a broken record of a Travel! Japan ad? Well it’s because it is THAT great. Trust me.

Top 11 Things You'll Love About  Japan

Jenna Peck

Southern Methodist University | 17 stories

Jenna Peck is a senior majoring in History and English at Southern Methodist University from Long Beach, California. She has studied abroad in Italy, England and has recently returned from a voyage around the world on Semester-at-Sea. She loves to travel and really finds it difficult to stay in one place for a long period of time, but when she does she loves to read, explore the world of the internet, blog and find exciting things to do right at home in Dallas, Texas!


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