Things I Miss: Japan

James and I returned from Japan this afternoon. I felt a bit sad leaving such a lovely country, but at the same time it feels good to be home. Back to the usual. Back to looking for a job. Back to gigging (I already have three this week, haha!). Back to being with my family. Back to hanging out with my crazy neighbour Tristan and catching up with the rest of my friends.

I want to thank James for putting up with me the whole trip. I complained, I whined, I was grumpy, I was intolerable, but he put up with all of that 24/7. Hahaha. Little things like being hungry, wanting food, wanting to buy things, being moody, bad habits (he was pretty familiar with all of them anyway), whining, being completely stubborn… something tells me that someone who puts up with that kind of stuff for nearly six years in a relationship must be a gem. ♥

It does feel good to be back home because even though I prefer winter to summer, the cold was a bit hard to deal with in Japan. Maybe because I was insistent on wearing skirts (I hate jeans) and not wearing my coat sometimes.

I decided to write a list of things I miss about Japan. I had a similar segment on my photoblog but it was quite short-lived. This time I am determined to bring it back, as well as introducing a few other interesting segments to my blog this year.

This list is in no particular order.

Shinkansen (bullet train). Shinkansen!

Being able to go from one major city to another was amazing. The bullet train was super fast. It was quite expensive, and is apparently more expensive for locals, but it beats taking a handful of trains and having to change stations all the time. Great for long distance, and if you don’t like planes, it seems like the way to go.

I wish Australia was a little like this. We have country trains, which go long distances, but it isn’t that fast. I miss the bullet trains being so roomy, with enough room to move your legs and put your luggage, and the fact that they were so comfortable.

Transport.

It is crazy. There is the subway, the JR (Japanese rail/train), and the shinkansen, and it all links together in this crazy system, not to mention you have separate companies in more rural areas that have their own system. And then there’s buses. You can go anywhere, quite easily.

Sorry Sydney, you are totally not up to scratch. I am tired of having to ask for rides home from gigs. Haha.

Drink vending machines.

You could buy a hot drink from a vending machine. For a little over 100 yen. That is really cheap. Go to a vending machine in Sydney, and a drink costs you about three dollars. Usually a pretty small size, too.

James says he will miss “Suntory Boss, who is the boss of them all since 1992” — his favourite vending machine advertisement for Boss Coffee.

Gujo. And snow.

Gujo was fantasmagoricamazingballs. A small town, soooooo far away from everything else. Quiet. Snow. The people at the Iwasaki Sample Village where we made our plastic food models loved us. They didn’t seem to get many visitors and were thrilled. I think we really made their day. But they also really made ours.

The snow was incredible, the way it painted the town white, all the rooftops covered in a layer of white. We experienced the agony that people in America and the UK feel, when the snow turned to sludge and made the paths really yucky. I had snow fall from a tree onto my head. We walked up a sludgy mountain. James made snowballs. It was the first time we had seen snow since 2007.

We went to the top of the Gujo-Hachiman castle and the view was amazing. So yeah, I will miss that little town in its entirety.

Arashiyama.

A beautiful town.

That is all.

100 yen stores.

Yeah, I will miss them… just a little bit. They have bad spaghetti sauce though. But tea and biscuits for just a buck a bag? Can’t say no.

Edamame.

I am sorry, but please. These beans are the best.

Onigiri.

Where can I get a rice ball with any filling I want for just a buck or two in Sydney? No-freaking-where. Onigiri is rare in Sydney. Sushi is pretty popular, but sushi is not as popular in Japan, apart from in supermarkets, already packed in boxes.

I want rice balls.

Food in general… and how cheap it is.

Yeah, I will miss that, in all honesty. In Australia, you can pay close to ten dollars for an average meal. In Japan, that might get you a whole lunch set, or a huge bowl of noodles. It is cheaper to buy ready-made food than to buy ingredients, though.

I will miss 7-Eleven. I will miss being able to buy a decent meal for a cheap price. From a convenience store. Like a few dollars for a box of spaghetti. I kid you not. And also the fact that you can buy vodka at $2.50 a bottle what.

Tokyu Hands.

A store that has almost nearly everything except fashionable clothing (I am also only saying that because it was the only thing I noticed). Hardware, craft, kitchenware, indoor furnishings, bedding, souvenirs, stationery, bicycles, bags, you name it, this store has it. It is a lifestyle store, but it is the lifestyle store.

Cleanliness.

While I am not going to miss going on endless hunts for rubbish bins and ridding my handbag of trash at the end of the day, I will miss the fact that Japan is so clean. Public toilets are clean, and stations are clean, and the streets are clean. It just doesn’t happen back at home. And it’s good to know it is in that state even though it is not very easy to find a rubbish bin or trash can.

Heating.

I dunno man, but heating in Japan is crazy. I don’t know what it is like in the summer, but in winter you can look forward to your train being heated, and you don’t have to freeze to death. The seats are warm.

The shopping centres are really warm. Anywhere indoors is warm. In Nikko, there was a store that even had a bench and a heater next to it. I felt almost guilty sitting there just to get away from the cold.

In Arashiyama, when we ate takoyaki at a street stand, there was a heater plugged in under the tent. Like, come on. In freezing winter, you appreciate that. It is quite meticulous. Which brings me to…

Being meticulous.

Japanese people are so meticulous in the way they pack your stuff when you go shopping. They pack it so neatly, they always want to give you a paper bag, and a plastic bag, and another paper bag (okay, I am exaggerating on that last point). They tape the edges of your bag… though James said it’s to prevent you stealing, or putting stuff in the bag, or taking stuff out.

Still, I sort of miss how neat they are. Which also brings me to…

The language.

Japanese is so neat.

People like Liz and Sydney mentioned that they would love to go to Japan but fear the language. What I want to say though, is that you can really get by in Japan without knowing much about the language. I studied Japanese in high school for four years. My Japanese is horribly rusty (that was about seven years ago). James didn’t really know a word of it.

Yet I could still remember bits of the language. I could still read most Japanese except for the more complicated kanji characters. Even if you can’t read the language, most places have photographs, most shops make it obvious what their service is, and the transportation system has English translations. People are very patient and understanding. If you can’t speak Japanese, people will actually make a visible effort to give you directions or help you, even if you are not a local.

I’m gonna miss seeing “soba” written everywhere. I’m gonna miss the soba. Great noodles, that.

Ramen.

This one’s for James. Also, dipping ramen is the best.

Yum. That is all.

Irasshaimase!

I don’t know, but being welcomed into every shop and every restaurant you go into is inexplicably pleasant.

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Comments on this post

I’m really glad you had such a good time in Japan! Although I’ve been falling behind and am gonna catch myself up with your blog posts from there, whoops /o Oh man, everything you listed is making me want to go there. I’ve been to like various places around China, though I know obviously it’s not the same thing. Plus in my opinion Japan has always seemed more industrialized and cleaner than China, as far as things I’ve seen outside of there?

But yooo your blog post has put Japan near the top of countries I want to visit! ONIGIRI. SOBA. Heated drinks in vending machines?? And I’ve literally never heard of dipping ramen before (?!?!?!) but now I really really want to try it, haha.

I’m glad you had an awesome time in Japan and in Hong Kong, but more so Japan.

Learning a new language isn’t scary at all. People only make it scary because they’re not familiar with it and also the pronunciation. It can be quite scary. I took Japanese one semester, but lost interest due to a friend who was all full of herself. I later took Chinese, and I worked at it. I’m still a bit bad with my pronunciation on some things, but generally speaking — people fear of the unknown and can’t quite cope with new change.

That is a shock that Japan keeps their public bathrooms clean! I went to Catalina Island a lot as a kid with my Grandmother, and their public bathrooms were disgusting. Not one of us wanted to use them. We walked in, it wreaked so bad, that we had to go and ask a restaurant if we could use their restrooms. Thankfully we were able to. But man, public restrooms are the worst ever! Sand everywhere, smells you wouldn’t want to believe or could bare. LOL. But I’m glad that they keep their restrooms clean. That shows that they care. But I heard that Japanese are genuinely clean anyway.

Glad you had a good time. Japan sounds like it’s way ahead of the curve when it comes to transportation, compared to everyone else. Regarding the language, there is an app where you dial in to a toll free number and you can have a live person translating for you on the line, I think it’s 99 cents USD a minute or so. No pics from Japan?

Japan is on my bucket list because everyone I’ve ever heard from that has gone there has LOVED it. I work with a girl whose dad is from Japan and she visits often. She just raves about it as well.

Sounds like you had a wonderful time! I especially would like the transportation stuff. In the U.S. it is not that way at all but it would be so nice if it were! In the city I work in, there’s barely buses. If there was a subway, it would make the city flourish, IMO but public transportation isn’t as important here, for some reason.

I wish we had a bullet train too! I have to drive between Texas cities, and it takes me 3 hours to reach the other majors ones. I would love to be able to just ride a fast train to one and not worry about driving. That’s great that Japan has a good transport system in general.

I always see those vending machines on Anime and wonder about them, haha. And I loved your photos from Gujo. It looks like a place I would enjoy too. It looked beautiful!

Onigiri isn’t popular here either. I found a place with them, but then was disappointed that they didn’t sell any with filling 😞

That’s awesome that Japan is so clean and neat. I didn’t know that they were so good about heating too. That sounds like it’d make shopping and getting around much nicer.

My brother went to Japan without knowing any Japanese, and he said he got by fine. I still want to learn Japanese before I go because it seems exciting to be forced to use it 😆 I’m hoping to go later this year actually!

I am glad you had such a good time in Japan! I agree that edamame is the best. I do miss cheap drinks – that is something New York had too. I guess it’s just something about big metropolitan areas. Welcome back!

Hi there too, I do agree on Edamame but lived in Nyc and in Manhattan the drinks were quite expensive, also in huge cities capitals in my experiences! :/

(Y) Nice post! I “only” lived and visited Europe and the Usa but Japan and Australia (lucky you?! hehe) is totally a must for me, so thanks for this post! I love to browse around blogs who tell about other countries as it comes from your experiences and won’t feel like a travel agency or book, if you know what I mean 🙂 I will read your other posts about Japan as well! Regards