I recently traveled to Japan with my boyfriend this summer and I absolutely fell in love with the country. So I thought I might share some of the things we experienced while we where there. We only went to Tokyo and Kyoto and only stayed for 1 week, so keep in mind that the things I am writing is based on this too short of a stay. So here are some of the things I experienced, saw and noticed while I was there. I hope you will enjoy reading it!
And btw, I do apologize for the quality of some of the photos. They were all taken with my iphone, and I have no idea how to run those programs on the computer to make them look better.
1. Friendly People
To me Japanese people seem very friendly and polite, and maybe especially to tourists? E.g when we asked people for directions people literally went out of their way to make sure we got to the right place. This one guy even took the train with us all the way to where we stayed. This meant that he had to pay money to take it with us, and spend 30 minutes riding and changing trains. And trust me, this was not some kind of creep. He was very sweet and polite, and when we tried to say that it was too much and that he didn’t have follow us, he just said “no, it is OK, I am on holiday”. Then when we got to our final stop, he made sure we made the right exit (there are SO many exists in just one subway station). Then he asked to take a picture with us, then he smiled, gave us a hand shake and said “I hope youll have a great stay in Japan”. We were just blown away, and felt like we could not thank him enough.
This, people guiding us to our right train station, actually happened a lot of the time. People walked with us for quite a while just to make sure we didn’t hop on the wrong train.
You should know though, before going to Japan, that not everybody are able to speak English. How ever this was not a problem for us, because we usually just needed help with directions. We usually just said the name of the place that we wanted to go and then people would point, and try to explain in a mix of Japanese and English, which worked out just fine. How ever some people do speak very good English, it is just not that common.
Another thing I liked about Japan is that everybody started to speak in Japanese with us. I was like “these people think I am actually able to speak Japanese?” It was a total ego boost. I also think that this is actually the polite and correct way to approach people while you are in your own country. This is probably not that big of an issue in countries like England, France, Australia and the USA, but it definitely is in Norway. A lot of my friends that don`t look “typical Norwegian” are approached by strangers in English. Which I find extremely rude. Why would you assume that just because someone looks different than you that they don`t speak Norwegian? I have also experienced that when my friends answer in Norwegian (without any accent, well they are raised here, so of course) people still continue to speak to them in English. So I was very pleased to see that this was not the case in Japan.
2. Clean streets
There are almost no trash to be found on the streets anywhere, and strangely enough there are almost no trash cans to be found either. Instead of throwing trash away in the streets or in trash cans, people carry it with them home. Also, nobody eats while they are walking or taking the train or subway ( I guess it is considered to be rude?). Sleeping on the train on the other hand seemed completely normal.
Another thing that I REALLY liked, is that nobody smoked in the streets. People went in to “smoking booths” where they smoked and threw their cigarettes away. Which means that you never have to ever inhale smoke involuntary, and there are no cigarettes thrown away in the streets either.
3. People take of their shoes before entering a home (just like in Norway)
It is considered rude to enter a home with your shoes on, which made me feel right at home. I just find it so weird when people walk in their homes with shoes on, not to mention it is way more hygienic to leave your shoes by the door.
4. Number one!!!
A lot of the best selling products are labeled with “number one” (yes in English). So when ever we were in doubt at restaurants and were not able to read the menu we just asked for “number one”. Even the old grannies working there knew what “number one” meant.
Also, most menus comes with pictures, so even though not all restaurants have English menus, most show pictures of the food they are serving. Which made things a lot easier for us.
This restaurant was dedicated to the girl group AKB48, consisting of 48 members. Here are some of the girls posing with their favorite food aka “number 1”.
Speaking of NUMBER ONE! Japan has the record of the worlds tallest building the Sky Tree, which is measuring 634 meters above the ground. I heard that sometimes you have to wait in line for 4 hours just to be able to take the elevator to the top. I guess we were very lucky, because we only had to wait for 25 minutes in line.
5. Peoples sense of style
I think people in Japan dress very classy, the men usually wear suits and look in my opinion very elegant and stylish. The big majority of the women seemed to prefer high heels, skirts/nicer pants and blouses.
You also occasionally see kids dressed in “kawaii style” or other alternative dressing, which I found to be an interesting contrast to the usual classy and conservative attire of people.
6. The toilets
One thing that I loved about Japan is that all the public bathrooms are for FREE, (I only wish it was like that in Norway) and you can find one easily just about anywhere. Another cool thing that a lot of places the toilets had functions like playing music or making flushing sounds that you could play, so nobody could hear you doing your business.
I just hate going to those awkward silent toilets where you feel like you have to go as silent as possible, and if you just make one sound everybody in there will know it was you, and then you just sit in there and hope that by the time you are done everybody has left, because you dont want the girls in there to give you the “So-you-where-the-one-making-farting-noises-in-there”- look when you come out.
Another cool thing is that your can flush your butt or your private lady parts afterwards, and then you can press another button that can blow everything dry. I think for a lot of people in the west this must sounds kinda odd, but it feels so much better to walk around with a clean butt, LOL. And it is way more hygienic!
7. Shrines,temples, castles and palaces
The temples and shrines in Japan are just gorgeous, and I felt like i could have spent hours meditating and taking pictures there. In Kyoto we visited a number of different shrines and temples, but I still felt like I wanted to see at least a dozen more when we left Kyoto. There is just something very soothing about visiting temples, but then again maybe it is like that when you visit any religious/spiritual place?
Pictures from Rokoun-Ji. To the right is a picture of the Golden temple. The picture in the middle shows Buddha statues that people throw money at for good luck. If you manage to get a coin inside the black bowl, it is a sign of EXTRA good luck. On the left is a sneak pictures of two gorgeous women enjoying some green tea in the shade.
Pictures from Ryoan-ji Temple aka the Temple with the Rock Garden. The picture on the right shows the famous Stone Garden. No one know who really built the Stone Garden, except that people think it was built by a Zen Buddhist monk in the 1500. It consists of 15 rocks, but it is constructed in a way so that you can only see 14 at the time. It is said that only when you reach Nirvana you will be able to see them all at the same time.
The Bukko-ji temple, built by a Zen buddhist monk in the 1200.
The Hirano Shrine.
The Nijo Castle. The floors in the castle where made to be extra squeaky, so that no Ninja could enter unnoticed.
8. The food
Japan has a huge variety of food, which made me embarrassed to think about the food in Norway where the diet mainly consists of bread, diary products, potatoes, salmon, meatballs, pizza and the Norwegian version of Tex-Mex. The spices we usually use is mainly two: salt and pepper. After being in Japan I really don’t know how Japanese tourists survive in Norway. But maybe they bring their own? Just like a lot of Norwegians do when they travel abroad, lol.
Another thing that I thought was cool is that when people eat noodles they slurp and make noises. I read somewhere that it means that you enjoy the food. I tried to do it myself but it was actually very hard, and I just ended up getting soup all over my face. I am still trying to figure out how you can slurp your noodles like they do without getting it all over myself. Also it seems like they eat very fast. In Norway I am usually one of the first to finish my meal in a group of friends, but in Japan even people that got the meal after I did still managed to finish faster than i did. I highly recommend eating ramen noddles while you are there!
Needles to say, despise of all the walking we did I didn’t loose any weight while I was there.
And oh, in case you wondered, this is the cake I ended up having at the AKB48 restaurant.
9. An endless list of things to do
I think that Japan has a perfect mix of modern technology, modern buildings and traditional shrines and houses, which makes walking around a lot more interesting. There are SO much things to do only in Tokyo. I feel like I would have need a year just to get to see and do everything there. There are so many beautiful old shrines and temples, shopping malls, shopping streets, museums, art galleries, food and culture that you just feel like you cant loose any time there. Well, this was the case for us anyways, which made my feet very swollen and almost unbearable to walk on, because we did and saw so many different places in one day.