This year I went to an art residency in Japan. For 3 month I lived mainly in Yamanashi, Kofu city, but visited Tokyo, Kamakura, Toyokawa and Kyoto.
Since the day one I was writing notes about strange things that I was coming across in Japan, things I found unusual or never saw before. This post is about that. So if you are planning on visiting this amazing country, my note maybe useful to you.
1. There are no trash containers anywhere (sometimes you can find a recycle bottle/cans, but that’s about it). You would have to carry your trash with you all the way home.
2. No hand paper in the bathrooms and no napkins in most of the restaurants. You will be given a wet napkin before your meal however. Everybody has a handkerchief.
3. On the toilet seat, that is usually filled with different features, there is a music button. You use it to produce a sound of a waterfall so no one can hear you peeing.
4. Many restaurants have machines where you pay for your meal and drinks prior to the order. Push a button to select your meal and with this ticket go to the chef.
5. There is a special way to open a nigirry (traditional rice and seaweed roll). Don’t tear it apart, read an instruction!
6. Obvious that must be mentioned: when using Internet all browsers switch to Japanese, to change Google to English: just change .jp extension to .com
7. There is No tipping in Japan.
8. Every kitchen has a little gas Fish grill, but not every kitchen has an oven.
9. Classic Breakfast in Japan includes: miso soup, rice and grilled fish. It is a large breakfast that I would not mind to have for lunch.
10. Trash days. All trash must be placed in special colored bags that you buy at a store, every region of the country has different colors and rules. All trash is brought outside particular time in a particular place with a bright color net, you put your bags there. This could be done 2 times a week, if you miss 8 am time, you have to wait till the next time.
11. When serious businessman, wearing a smart suite, pulls out his fancy phone and… There is a goofy bright green soft toy hanging from it, you start thinking about fashion and traditions differently.
12. There are no mirrors in toilets usually 😦
13. Don’t forget to take off your shoes! There are separate shoes for the house and in the same house there are different set of shoes for the bathroom.
14. Bath tab is very small, but taller and more square then European one. Some houses have an electric heater of the tab, you set a temperature so it stays hot. That’s how you would take the furo. In the family you take a shower first, then spend some time in such tab. There is an order of the family members to take the same tab. As a guest I was always the first.
15. Asking for “saki” will only get you a high spirit drink, not the Japanese rice wine. You need to ask for “Nihon shu”.
16. In the vending machine you can buy cold and hot drinks, like tea… Even hot ginger ale!
17. In the capsule hotel you would charge your electronics in the special box, for which you pay. All the plugs around the hotel are taped over.
18. There is a TV inside each capsule room.
19. Most of the capsule hotels are for men, but some of them would have a women floor.
20. Many businessman rent a karaoke room for the night and sleep in it, perhaps after singing a favorite song.
21. Pochinko ( gamble game, very popular in Japan ) houses trying to attract more women that’s why bathrooms are designed very well with nose powder rooms and all you desire for your cosmetic need for free.
22. Japanese school girls will be very safe even at the sketchy night club areas of larger cities in the middle of the night.
23. Many Japanese are very shy speaking English, even though they understand it perfectly. But the fear of mispronouncing the words makes it almost impossible to have an English conversation. I recommend to use translation systems.
24. Japanese left side traffic is not however followed by the bicyclists, they can go on the sidewalk as well as on the road.
25. Fruits are very expensive in Japan. Especially the honeydew. I saw single fruit offered for over 100$
26. Sleeping on the floor is the most popular way of sleeping, if you put enough mattresses, if it actually comfortable.
27. In the winter time it is common to use a heat table, it is a low wide table with a controlled heat element, which you cover with blankets to keep it hot inside.
28. American culture is so popular that some times on the street you can meet a real Japanese cowboy.
29. Tanuki – a mythological character, raccoon dog with large balls (he drags them on the ground they are so big) is found very often in Japan, usually in front of restaurants. I even had a quest trying to find them.
30. All rooms in Japan are measured not in square meters, but in tatami, a traditional mat made out of rice straw.