5 Surprising Things About Japan
Before you all think I jumped aboard the Complain Train, take a look at my counter-post: 7 Things I Loved about Japan.
There are so many things to love about this quirky country. But for everything there is to love, there are a few things that may make you scratch your head, perplexed. Here are five things I wasn’t too fond about during my trip to Japan.
1: The payment situation.
Paper or plastic? The perplexing paradox of payment.
A country of contrasts, it’s easy to grow accustomed to ancient shrines neighboring ultra-modern skyscrapers. But payment in Japan? That’s a whole new perplexity. You’d expect a country of such technological advancement and efficiencies to mirror the same when it comes to money. But when it comes to the question of cash or card, you can put your plastic away. While some credit cards are accepted at many places, most of my purchases were from cash-only vendors. And we didn’t exclusively shop at street stalls — this included established restaurants, shops, transportation, and tourist sites. We barely brought enough cash on our trip. Toward the end, we were counting our coins and being extra conscious of our yen spending habits.
The good news: Japan is a safe country, so you won’t feel vulnerable with a wad in your wallet.
2. The smoking.
Who ordered the cigarette with their sushi?
Maybe it’s the smell or my miserable allergies, but I’m a low tolerance person when it comes to smoking. It’s as much a smoker’s freedom to blow around that second-hand as much as it is mine to cover my nose with my shirt and give the shady side-eye. I forgot how much I detest smoking (thank you, U.S. laws) until I went to Japan. There’s a pretty big smoking culture in Japan and it’s as socially acceptable as it is permissible to smoke — even in restaurants.
Smoking ruined the Japanese dining experience for me. It’s a struggle to enjoy your food when it’s a struggle to breathe. I won the upper respiratory infection lottery in Japan and my winning ticket was purchased at a smoky ramen restaurant. I truly believe that environment triggered my sickness to worsen and spiral out of control.
3. The sanitation.
Here comes my trash talking.
Don’t play hide and seek with a garbage can because the garbage can will always win. In Japan, you’re more likely to find free wifi than a place for your trash. You’ll never be more excited about encountering a rubbish receptacle than you will in Japan. Make it a game with your travel companion.
Here’s how you can have fun with some Garbage Games:
- I spy. See who can find the trash can first.
- Race To The Waste. Once the trash can is spotted, see who can run there faster.
- Junk In The Trunk. Find out who carries around the most litter in their pockets.
The loser’s punishment is to carry around the next day’s trash. Sounds like fun, right? Go to Japan for some epic Garbage Games.
4. The crowds.
Three’s a crowd. So is 13.6 million.
The population of Tokyo is a confounding 13.6 million. In ONE city. I hail from Michigan, where the entire STATE’s population is closer to 10 million. I’m an open-spaces-personal-bubble type of girl. Sardine style isn’t my jam. I can handle the crowds but find them to be exhausting. There’s an extra sense of rushing when stuck in crowds that interrupt the slow observation of being somewhere new.
How to deal with these Japanese crowds? Visit the tourist sites early. Avoid public transit during rush hour. Take some time to decompress in a Japanese garden.
5. The hand washing.
Soap and hand dryers not included.
Remember in elementary school when we learned to sing the Happy Birthday song while while hand washing to make sure all the germs were scrubbed away? That only counts when you use soap. My next gripe is Japan’s public restrooms. The toilets are a dream, but this traveler had a dumbfounded look on her face when she tried to find the soap and hand dryers or towels. Yep. Most Japnese restrooms don’t have these sanitation essentials. After this discovery, I questioned everything I touched. Pro tip: Bring hand sanitizer and a small hand towel.
Have you visited the Far East? What did you find surprising? What do you dislike about Japan? Perhaps you found these things endearing? :)