15 Things to Know Before you Go to Japan | Cute to Off-beat

things to know before you go to Japan

Things to know before you go to Japan: 15 Off-beat and quirky things to love about Japan or think it’s crazy?

 

At first I thought Japan was going to be so clean and orderly, that I might actually find it… ahem, boring.

I know, I know, …shame on me for thinking that, but I’ve gotten to love traveling developing countries. Developing cultures spoil me with colorful diversity, unpredictability and the economy allows me to enjoy longer travel vacations.  They help me stretch my travel dollar,  keeps me on my toes and shows me the kind of things, which spits of shock and grows chest hair on women.

Visiting first world countries can feel challenging for me. I’ve been awedsoiled and spoiled. And I like it.  Japan, I knew was safe, well-mannered, orderly, clean.

Now where’s the fun in that?

When I actually traveled Japan, I realized not only could I get around on the cheap, but as extremely conservative and traditional Japanese culture can be, it’s also got a wild streak to it.

asakusa
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15 fun and quirky things to know before you go to  Japan

With youth pushing for hyper-progression and older generations still preserving tradition, Japan is  a country of extremes.  As a city full of worker drones and black business suits, there’s a youthful  and rebellious side of Tokyo youth, which gravitates towards breaking free from a limiting tradition.

That makes for fun and interesting quirks. After this, you can let me know… would you love Japan or think it’s just crazy?

Crazy and quirky things about Japan

1. Never trust blondes

When it comes to hair color, the Japanese will surprise you. Tokyo folk struggling to find and create their own individual expression. Just when you think you’ve spotted a foreigner on the street, have a closer look. Often, the hair color will deceive you.  It’s popular to dye your hair to any color other than your own.. black.

blond-japanese

2. The Japanese love “cute”

Kirei desu nee? (Translation: Cute isn’t it?)

Maybe  the love for all things “cute” is an affliction throughout Asia , but sometimes, it feels like the Japanese started that trend. As the home of Hello Kitty, the Japanese place innocence and virtue on an extremely high pedestal, such that even pop stars sign contracts, which bind them to uphold clean and virginal images regarding sex and relations.

This brings me to…

cute

Hello Kitty dolls at Kiddie Land in Omoetaesando

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Souvenir trinkets in Asakusa, Tokyo

3. When “cute” just gets ugly or just plain, perverse

Japanese are masters at creating cute products. But you can’t be perfect all the time…

If you’re a society that worships cute things so steadily, then from time to time, you might slip and assume something is cute when it’s really… fugly.  Check out the dolls below. I found them at Kiddy land in Tokyo.  My Japanese girlfriend told me they were popular because they were cute.  I realize in this large world, we can’t all agree on the same image of beauty.

If I were a child, this would give me nightmares, like a Chucky doll.

Then there’s that other kind of “cute” that crosses that grey zone between fetishized fantasy and then … hyper-warps into over-the-top bit disturbing.  For instance, why would you want to look like an anime  (comic book) character?

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Pikura Photo makeover booths in Tokyo. You can retouch your eyes, skin, a lot… so you look like an anime character

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J-rock collectible trading cards, where the look of innocence must be preserved. And okay, what are these outfits they’re wearing?

 

Japan has a such a fixation on innocent cute-ness, celebrities must appear clean-cut and in girl bands, girls are under written contract to always be appear and act demure, so as to preserve the  fantasy of innocence for fans.

From the adult fantasy fun of having maid cafes, where girls dress as maids serve you, to blow job bars and the anime fantasy and popularity of “school girl fashion”. it’s all cute until it gets kinda uh, pervy.

School girl uniform fashion

5. Manga Craze

Who ever thought that comic books (manga) would be popular even with adults?

Although westerners enjoy it through events like Comicon, Japanese culture is consumed by it. You’ve got films and TV dramas based off of them,… manga cafes, an internet cafe/library where you can read and watch anime (and sleep overnight in the cafes). There’s also areas like Akihabara -otaku central- dedicated to shopping for manga and anime. There’s even popular street fashion in Harajuku, where teens like to emulates or dress like their favorite characters- wanna see a grown girl dress up as Sailor Moon?

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Manga exhibition ad in the subway

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Anime and Manga shops in Akihabara Tokyo

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Akihabara: The Tokyo district dedicated to otaku culture and manga/anime fixation.

media cafe popeye manga cafe fukuoka

Manga cafes: 24 hour internet and manga libraries.

 

6. Vending machines to Vending machine restaurants

The Japanese love vending machines. From cigarettes, drinks, bike rentals and food, you can buy anything from a vending machines (even used girl’s panties… but that’s a different category)!  Maybe the Japanese believe in a automated approach to sales, as saving time and efficiency.

Japan also has vending machine restaurants, where you pay outside through the vending machine, collect your ticket and go inside to get your meal served up. I guess it saves time and confusion when you have to order from a normal human being.

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Vending machines are common in Japan.

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Watch my tour of how to eat at a vending machine restaurant


Ways Japan will blow you away

7.  Metro:  A Sleeping Capsule on Wheels

It’s easy to feel drowsy when riding a Tokyo metro. It’s not that it lulls you to sleep with a rocking lullaby, but the fact you’ll find practically Tokyo person falling into Sleepland, in their seats or hanging on a strap.   Japan is one of the most overworked countries and the subway rides home show this.

8. The world’s most expensive bottled water is cheap

Japan is the only country I know of where Evian water is cheap . You can easily find them in the 100 yen stores,  priced below Japanese brands.  Japan is said to have really good drinking water; apparently, better than Evian. Knowing Evian is expensive in the U.S.,  I decided to stock up my Evian supply.

9. Massive Crowds

I thought Hong Kong was overpopulated and at this point, I’d hate to see China, because whoa, Tokyo! Tokyo wasn’t a city I imagined to be overpopulated and crowded. It is. The sidewalks of every main shopping or entertainment area look like a rock concert.

japan crowds, harajuku area

Crowd at Harajuku Square, crossing the streets

sensoji temple asakusa, tokyo attractions

Visiting Asakusa’s Senso-ji temple, along with Japanese high schoolers, Buddhists and tourists.

tokyo marketplace

Marketplace

10. Bicycle parking lots

For a technology-driven country, it’s refreshing to see bike transportation as popular as automobiles. In fact, the Japanese love their bikes and the little exercise it takes to get somewhere isn’t a problem. You’ll find bicycle parking lots on sidewalks, racks suspended in apartment garages and occasionally, in bike parks in underground metros.

bike rentals tokyo

Bicycle parks can be outside, in metro stations, at paid lots. Japan has a lot of bicycles

11. Craftsmanship

Japan is the place to go when it comes to quality craftsman ship.   Japanese take great pride in producing things of good quality. From woodwork to food to art, architecture and religious icons. Everything in Japan is a well-balanced art and strong craftsmanship.  One place to certainly see this is Asakusa’s Nakamise Dori, which has an old world charm to it.

Japanese cuisine is another area where you’ll find excellent craftsmanship as the Japanese prepare food with hospitality, respect and reputation in mind. Craftsmanship in Japan runs very deep.

senbei maker in japan, sokoji vendor, japanese senbei cracker maker

Walking through the market leading to Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, you’ll see food vendors creating food on the spot, as if it were an art handed down through generations. In many ways, it is.

japanese sash weaver, japanese textiles

Textile weaver makes fine Japanese sashes

Hakata Machya Doll, Hakata Machya Folk Museum in Fukuoka

Hakata Machya Doll at the Hakata Machya Folk Museum in Fukuoka

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Display of miniature dolls at Fukuoka folk museum

japanese slippers, traditional japanese clothes

How much would you pay for Japanese flip-flops ?

 


Ways Japan is wound a too tight

12.  Toilets make music

As your bum nears the toilet seat you’ll hear the sound of water running. It’s relaxing, calming and it help you untighten so you can do your business. But the real intent is to mask any natural body noises you’ll make.

Ironically, belching loudly in public during dinner is acceptable. It means the meal was delicious and enjoyable or at least, this is what my grandmother told me when our Japan relatives visited and would belch at the dinner table. (Anyone Japanese want to confirm or deny this?)

japanese noise making toilet

13.  Designated Smoking Areas

Before you light up, better check if you’re in the right place. It’s illegal to smoke in Tokyo, outside the designated smoking areas.

No wonder I always sense a sly grin on the faces of Japanese tourists abroad, as they walk down the streets with a cigarette in their mouths. Finding the freedom to smoke anywhere you please must feel pretty nice.

Japan's No smoking areas

No smoking areas

14. Neat, Safe, Clean and Orderly

Being half Japanese there are many aspects about my heritage to which I’m proud. There’s a high standard Japanese have in many things. The Japanese are flawlessly tidy and a bit anal. Their attention to craftwork detail and ambition towards discipline are impeccable. But I have no words for this umbrella holder.

umbrella lock japan tokyo, umbrella holders

Umbrella holder outside a Tokyo museum

15. Sick Masks: Does everyone have a cold in Japan?

SARS may have been dominant in China, but the Japanese wear Asian sick masks more than Koreans and I’m assuming, Chinese.  I’m not sure if it’s considered bad manners to pass around colds, bad breath or if it’s just a strong aversion to pollution, but I’ve never seen a culture who wears so many sick masks.

One day, I decided to put one of my hypotheses to a test. A Japanese girl rudely cut in front of me in line (the sassy little thing), so to get even, I coughed loud and hard. Hearing that, her body went into an immediate alert. Invisible prickles came out of her and she started to walk hurriedly to escape me. So I coughed again and she almost started running.  Maybe the Japanese are just paranoid about catching colds.

face mask ubiquity in japan, asian sick masks in Japan

Would you love Japan or think it’s just crazy? What would you recommend are things to know before you go to Japan?


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44 Comments. Leave new

I dated a Japanese girl who was in Hilo on a student visa, I was told that belching was in fact a compliment to the cook.

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Japan is on my bucket. When I saw the movie “Lost in Translation ” I knew I had to go. The Park Hyatt Hotel looks awesome.

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I love Japan for their obsession with cuteness

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I was in Japan last year, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the best experience. All I can say is Get the national JR Rail pass, it saved me lots of money. Also tipping is considered rude in Japan, some places accept it. For a classy bar in Shibuya go to Ishino Hana, Anthony Bourdain aired this on no reservations show. I must say very nice and classy bar!

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I visited Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo for the first time this year and loved it!

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Thank you!!!

I need this, going to Japan for the first time between 2nd and 9th January.

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