10 Incredible Things You Can Only Find in Japan

Published by MartaCastro on

10 Incredible Things You Can Only Find in Japan

It’s hard to pick the ten most amazing things in Japan because I could make lists about culture, religion, food, entertainment, etc. with no ending in sight. In this article, I decided to write about ten curiosities that do not go unnoticed by those who come to Japan:

– Public Transport

Public transport is incredibly punctual in Japan. If there is a delay of 1 or 2 minutes, the driver apologizes for the delay and the inconvenience this delay may cause passengers. Furthermore, if the train is significantly delayed, there is a certificate available for people to present to the company or school to justify their late arrival.

It is possible to go by train to almost every corner of the country. The famous high-speed trains or shinkansen, which travel at 320kms per hour, are very spacious, comfortable, and curious that the direction of the seats can be changed so that passengers can travel comfortably facing forward.

2 – Onsen, Hot Springs or Public Baths (温泉)

Water is closely linked to spirituality and cleanliness in Japanese culture. Onsens are public baths, usually with hot springs to relax and get all the benefits of nature and water.

We need to follow special rules upon entry to the ryokan (traditional Japanese inns or hotels). Most public baths have separate spaces for men and women. However, there are private baths for families or those who are shy or prefer privacy. Not only is it an experience of relaxation and bonding between people, but they are always connected to nature, so most of the time, they are outdoors overlooking lakes, mountains or the sea. It is without a doubt a must-do in Japan.

3 – Use of Yukata (浴衣)

The Yukata is a more informal version of the Kimono (and much easier to wear!). When staying overnight in a ryokan or other hotels, Yukata is provided for each person to use. They may be for exclusive use to go to the public baths or walk around the ryokan and go to the hotel’s restaurants. In cities where hot springs are typical, we can find people wearing their Yukatas and immediately identify who is housed in the same ryokan as us by the pattern used. However, in most western-style hotels, the Yukata is used exclusively in the bedroom, so it is best to read the instructions for its use on arrival to avoid the embarrassment of going to the Yukata breakfast when everyone is dressed in everyday clothes.

4 – The Japanese Bathrooms

Anyone visiting Japan is not indifferent to the technology of Japanese toilets. The tops open automatically when we enter the bathroom, the seats are heated, and the bidet is integrated into the toilet. There are buttons for washing, drying (with different pressures and positions) and even the water noise for the shy. Most toilets have an ecological system that reuses hand washing water for flushing. It should be noted that in hotels there are slippers exclusively for bathroom use, so don’t confuse the bedroom slippers with bathroom ones!

5 – Restaurants: Food Stores and Tickets

In Japan, most restaurants, large or small, have plastic displays of the meals served in the restaurant. So, even if you don’t speak Japanese, you can point to the food in the window and indicate the option you’ve chosen. In addition, there are many restaurants with a vending machine at the entrance. In this case, you choose what you want on the machine, make the payment and a ticket is issued. You can definitely get around even with poor Japanese language skills.

6 – Pets

Pets, especially dogs, are treated very differently than what we are used to. In Japan, it is normal to find dogs with clothes (from T-shirts, skirts, jackets and even boots) and the owners walk their animals in strollers. It is also common to find spas and hotels for dogs and at exorbitant prices. There are several rules that must be strictly followed by pet owners (such as registering the pet at the address, always walking on a leash, etc.).

7 – Pachinko Machines (パチンコ)

One of the biggest entertainments in Japan for those who like betting and gambling is Pachinko Slots. We easily recognize a Pachinko establishment when the doors open, the sound noise contrasts with the calm of the streets. These machines are similar to the typical slot machines where bets are placed. Here, people play individually, it’s not a social activity, so if you want to try it, be discreet and avoid chatting with other players.

8 – Chopsticks and their etiquette (箸)

Like other countries in Asia, most people eat with chopsticks. In Japan, there is a chopstick etiquette that we must know so as to not offend anyone around us. Some examples are: not playing with chopsticks, not pointing, not skewering, not crossing, not passing food from your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks, not using your chopsticks when you are sharing food (there should be extra chopsticks in this case).

9 – Yakiimo Van (焼き芋)

When I moved to Japan, every day at 3:30 in the afternoon I would hear a recording of someone saying “Ishiyaki-Imoooo!”. I realized it was a hot sweet potato van slowly driving by. Just like we have the ice cream vans or the roasted chestnut stands in Portugal, here in Japan roasted sweet potatoes are a typical autumn and winter delight.

10 – Vending machines

In almost every corner of Tokyo you can find vending machines: with water, juices, tea, coffee, coffee with milk, even ice cream and snack machines. I must confess that after more than five years in Japan, I still can’t drink canned coffee from a vending machine. However, I understand that in a city as hectic as Tokyo, many do. You can also find vending machines with traditional products, for example, if you travel to other regions of the country, you can find a vending machine with regional sweets.

How was your experience in Japan

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