I recently returned from my honeymoon in Japan – a trip it felt like I had been planning for many years. Both my husband and I have always wanted to go; not only for the more geekier and stranger aspects of the culture, but also for the beautiful temples and shrines. Plus the incredible food!
During my two weeks over there, I learnt a lot about Japan and its culture. Here’s some of the things that surprised me most.
The Japanese are always prepared for rain
In many ways, the Japanese remind me a lot of the British. Perhaps it’s because that, at times, we seem to share a very similar climate. While it didn’t rain an awful lot during our time there, whenever it did the locals were well equipped. Everyone has an umbrella – we were caught short without one at Tokyo DisneySea and had to ask two very sweet girls if we could share theirs! Umbrellas are such a big part of the culture that one of the rides at Disney had a special slot in which to place yours in, and you’ll find umbrella hooks and stands in almost every public toilet and outside many shops and hotels. Us Brits could stand to learn a thing or two!
Schoolgirls are the queens of the selfie
You may think teenage girls are selfie-obsessed over here but you haven’t seen anything until you go to Japan. Whilst in the queue for one of the rides at Disney, we witness the same group of girls take selfies together every 20 seconds, and that’s not an exaggeration. It may have been pouring down that day, but almost every teen was wearing a goofy (pun intended) Disney hat paired with their school uniform. A bizarre but incredible sight to behold.
Vending machines are the stuff of dreams
The vending machines weren’t as varied I’d imagined them to be (yes, the used underwear ones are a myth before you ask), but they were still pretty amazing. My husband was particularly blown away by the fact you could get hot coffee in a can from a machine. You can also get hot food in some vending machines. They are everywhere too – we never had to worry about being thirsty!
Everything is surprisingly cheap
Many people are put off by going to Japan because they assume it’s going to be expensive. Whilst the flights certainly aren’t cheap, once you’re over there everything is surprisingly affordable, especially food and drink. Of course, this depends on where you eat, but if you wanted to visit the country on a shoe-string budget you could with relative ease.
The people are super friendly
Another thing that worries people about visiting Japan is the language barrier. It’s true that not everyone speaks English, but in the more tourist-heavy places you’ll almost always be able to find someone to help you. What really surprised me was the fact that, most of the time, we didn’t need to ask for help. We met a lovely man when we were stood looking lost in a subway station. He asked us where we were trying to get to and he walked us all the way to the other side of the station and showed us which line we needed. He spoke amazing English too – we even had a conversation about the EU!
The toilets are tech-heavy
This is something I knew about Japan already but I already miss those heated toilet seats…
Trains stations double up as shopping malls
The train stations in Japan are huge and easy to get lost in. Some have 20+ different exits! All of them have a selection of stores in, but Kyoto Station was easily the most impressive. Within it is a large food court, a selection of fashion and souvenir stores and several malls are attached to it. It’s no wonder the locals were originally pretty angry about its construction, though.
Everything has a mascot
From train stations to observation decks, everything seems to have its own mascot in Japan. It’s an easy way to sell souvenirs, I suppose.
Its streets are incredibly clean (and smoke-free)
Rarely did we see any rubbish on the streets in Japan, which is incredible considering we rarely saw a dustbin. Despite all the vending machines, eating on the street isn’t common in Japan and everyone is expected to take any rubbish they may have home with them. It puts other countries to shame – I’ve seen Brits chuck fast food wrappers on the floor when a bin is no more than five steps away. Perhaps the Japanese are a bit more respectful of their environment.
Smoking is also not allowed on the street, except in designated areas. We did see a few people flunking the rules, but not many. I am already missing the smoke-free streets!
But smoking inside is okay
Japan has a conflicted approach to smoking – you can’t smoke on the street but, in many places, you can smoke inside. Smokers are confined to a smoking section, which is often sealed off from the rest of the establishment, but not always. Panchinko and slot arcades are very smoky and almost unbearable if you’re a non-smoker.