61 things to share about Japan in our 1st year.

The beginning of June marks our one year anniversary since we had boarded numerous planes to reach our faraway destination of Japan. One year! Wow.

Often when people are getting ready to take a vacation or relocate to a new living environment, they usually read up on where they are going. They read things like what they will see, the climate, the people, animals, different foods, and the culture they’ll experience. After deciding that we would be coming to live in Japan for a couple of years, I bought a few books on the country and decided that I would read up on all areas of Japan, and learn their culture and language before even getting there. I’ll admit… all that didn’t quite happen. Time flew by so quickly and before I knew it, it was time to begin our journey to the east. So I wanted to share a little of what we have learned, found interesting, noticed, experienced, had to overcome or become accustomed too during our first year here in Japan- or things that you may not know about this island. (Note that some of these you may have already heard about or read about or maybe they even exist in America or other countries, but these things happen to be all new to me).

  1. Japanese sign documents with a stamp that says their last name, family name, or company- no signatures.
  2. language barrier.
  3. public urination on the sides of highways and city streets (is it ok?…not sure…but it happens!)
  4. driving on the left hand side of the road.
  5. bowing; no hugging during greetings, introducing someone, or in conversations, (sometimes handshakes, but rarely).
  6. ALL of their transportation systems are safe, clean, and runs right on the dot! whether it be 9:30 or 9:37.
  7. vending machines can be found almost anywhere- even on the mountains- and very frequently! You can find almost anything in them: beer, books, cigarettes, toys, candy, hot & cold foods..etc.
  8. almost every single piece of clothing and shoes sold here seem to be made in America or China- anywhere but Japan.
  9. currency exchange- yen.
  10. I have yet to find an ATM that is open 24 hrs.
  11. having police randomly pull vehicles to the side of the road for random inspections.
  12. Japanese wear longs sleeves and pants in the summer and shorts in the winter.
  13. Japanese carry parasols (umbrellas) on sunny days to keep the heat off them.
  14. coming of age is 20 years old, you can then legally drink.
  15. when paying, you place your money in a tray for the cashier- don’t hand them the money, they will take it from the tray.
  16. heated toilet seats
  17. heated subway seats
  18. some common foods found at food stalls: octopus balls, fried squid, snake, and whale.
  19. the Japanese toilets are in the ground and you have to squat to use them (kind of looks like a urinal that lays down in the ground…) Americans here say squatty-potty, but not sure if that’s the actual name.
  20. some of the best restaurants and shops can be found under train stations, even whole shopping complexes.
  21. KFC is the place to go for Christmas- reservations are actually needed weeks in advance because they are booked up for that day!
  22. New Years is the biggest holiday of the year.
  23. if you lose something or leave something behind, chances are that it will be right where you left it  later or someone will come running after you to return it!
  24. Japanese movie theaters have the capabilities for the movies to connect with your IPhones so it’s like you’re in the movie (it will ring when a phone in the movie rings or when you answer it, you will hear the characters voice, pictures will appear…)
  25. no tipping in Japan.
  26. taxi doors automatically open from the left side.
  27. reading comic books and books- right to left.
  28. stray cats are everywhere in the Kyushu region of Japan and it is rare to see one that actually has a tail.
  29. no epidurals are given when giving birth in Japan.
  30. c-sections are cut vertically when delivering a baby.
  31. love hotels- hotels that have different themed rooms for couples to rent by the hour or night to have some time alone (it’s not uncommon for married Japanese couples to still be living with other members of their family, so alone time is difficult).
  32. capsule hotels- your room is literally a capsule.
  33. Japanese are crazy about theme parks.
  34. always a festival going on or a celebration of some sort every month.
  35. you can buy museum tickets at their local convenient stores (Lawsons).
  36. pornography is not uncommon.
  37. Kit-Kats are huge here.
  38. Japanese like to experiment with flavors, flavored kit-kats and ice-creams, and everything always comes in the flavor of matcha (green tea)!!
  39. you must take off your shoes at the doorway of homes, schools, and some restaurants.
  40. pepsi-flavored gum balls.
  41. talking on cells phones on trains and subways are prohibited, considered rude.
  42. eating fish, soup, and rice for breakfast.
  43. pretty much every meal here comes with a side of white rice.
  44. hospitals are not open 24 hrs.
  45. public transportation is extremely easy to use and takes you pretty much everywhere in Japan, even to a lot of remote areas.
  46. unicycles are popular with kids.
  47. no central heating or air in Japanese homes.
  48. sales tax went up April 2014 from 6% to 8% (I hear they want to raise it to 10% by 2015).
  49. humidity here is a b@&^%!
  50. sumo is Japan’s national sport, but baseball is more popular.
  51. the Emperor and Imperial family hold only traditional/ceremonial roles- the prime minister is the real head of the government.
  52. bullet trains are awesome! but expensive!
  53. onsens (natural hot springs) are commonly divided between men and women but you wash before soaking in one and you bathe in the nude.
  54. Japanese have 3 main writing systems: kanji, hiragana, and katakana (I believe you have to know at least 3,000 characters in order to read a newspaper!)
  55. reversal of names- in Japan, a person’s last, or family name comes first.
  56. if you have to use the restroom, say toilet- not bathroom (toilets are in their own separate room, a bathroom consists of the shower/tub and sink area)
  57. two major religions- Shinto and Buddhism.
  58. children clean their schools- they do not have janitors or hire people to do that kind of work.
  59. ikebana, flower arranging, is really big here.
  60. some tea ceremonies last up to 4 hours!
  61. soybeans are an important part of Japanese cuisine- edamame, soy sauce, tofu, miso.

These are just a few points that come to mind as I sit here and try to remember all that we’ve learned or seen over the past year. And to think, there’s still so much more that I haven’t mentioned or learned yet! In this first year, I have focused much of my time interacting with the Japanese, teaching, travelling around their country exploring, and reading different literature. In our second year here, I would like to focus more on learning the language in depth, studying calligraphy, as well as continuing reading manga (animae) and their literature. There are still times that aren’t so easy here, that seem kind of tough, or that seem never ending. But when I look at the big picture, I get excited about all of the things that we’ve already done and experienced and then I get even more pumped about our upcoming travels! It feels weird to say, but compared to a couple of my Japanese friends and acquaintances, we have seen more in Japan than they have in their whole life here! Many in Sasebo have never even been to Tokyo! We are definitely soaking up every opportunity that we get from being here! And now we’re proud to say that we have survived one year here in Japan and look forward to a few more!


Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. No epidurals?? Yikes lol
    What happens if you do into labor in the middle of the night and the hospital isn’t open 24 hours?
    And most importantly…are you going to go to Disney in Tokyo?? lol

    • Yeah…the lack of epiurals will be interesting… at least its my first so I can’t really compare it to anything else (like how much more its gonna kill!) For me, I have to call the base translators and then they will call the hospital to let them know I am on my way so someone will be there to let me in. Haven’t figured out how the Japanese locals do it yet though. And MOST DEFINITELY we will be making a trip to Tokyo Disney!! 🙂

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