Whenever I visit Japan, I usually go in the Summer or Winter. (Maybe I like to torture myself with the crazy weather.) Each time I come home, I always bring back a new & interesting cultural experience, or reminisce about my favorite ones that I wish we could observe here in The States. I don’t think I’ll be visiting Nippon again for a long time, so here I’ve compiled a short list of the things I miss about being in Japan.

  • No matter how late you go to bed, you will always wake up at the butt-crack of dawn (around 6am-ish). I’ve tried the sleep-in thing, & it doesn’t work, even if you don’t have jet lag.
  • Their TV commercials are so much cooler & funnier compared to ours. We may not quite understand most them, but they are still highly amusing.
  • When you walk into a shop or a restaurant, you will be greeted by the entire staff no less than FIVE times. Even if they’ve already seen you, they will greet you again (& again, & again).
  • If you wake up & head out early enough, you can catch a glimpse of shop workers getting ready for the day’s work by reciting cheerful chants & receiving a rousing pep talk from the store manager.  (Watching this in person really amazed & pumped me up as well.)
  • The breakfast sets (served until 9:30am) are so delicious & divine.  The portions are ample & the prices are very reasonable.
  • Beware of walking around Harajuku too early in the morning, you might be looked upon as a spy, or a crazy person for waking up so darn early.
  • Obviously, being in the land of sushi, you’ll find sushi restaurants everywhere, ranging from basic kaiten to gourmet Michelin star rated.  So far, I haven’t encountered a sushi joint I didn’t like.  Pretty much all sushi you’ll find is delicious no matter if it’s a hole-in-the-wall joint (which are the most fun to explore) or an expensive 1-month advanced reservation restaurant.
  • The street vendor food (especially ones at Kaminari-mon at Asakusa street) are so fresh, delicious & tastes just as good as eating at a dine-in restaurant.  Don’t forget to try the cola flavored shave ice!  (I also miss the fresh-off-the-grill senbei from Kamakura.)
  • I really miss those 1am karaoke sessions that last into the wee hours of the morning… Big Echo is one of the best places for karaoke. They have the most up-to-date song selection I’ve ever seen…& the kitchen is open 24hrs. Booze + karaoke + tambourines with friends = Pure Bliss.
  • I’m not into teen flash fashion, but I really miss shopping in Shibuya on the weekends.  That’s when they block off the streets to cars so people can walk on the streets. This is the same in Ginza on the weekends…but I can barely afford the cookies at the patisserie, let alone shop at Mitsukoshi or Matsuzakaya…
  • Harajuku (especially Takeshita street) is wall-to-wall packed on the weekends, but I love the high energy feeling & the bustling atmosphere. Omotesando street is the best place to sit, slow-sip your coffee & just people watch.  Especially with the trees lining the street, it really gives off a serene feeling even though you are in the middle of a popular shopping district.
  • I love it when, regardless how small or large the shop is, the store clerks always pay careful attention to even the smallest detail in wrapping/packing your purchases.  Don’t think of it as excess rubbish.  Think about how much care & warm feeling was put into packing your goods. Not only do the store clerks want your packages to look good, but they want them to be taken care of, especially if you’ll be shopping for long hours…they’ll even put ice packs in your bags, so your delicate food items won’t spoil.
  • I love how on rainy days, all shops will tape plastic slipcovers over all your shopping bags, so that they don’t get wet from the rain.  It’s small things like these that really touch you & make you feel warm & appreciative.
  • I take public transportation to work everyday, & it’s right then where you encounter a lot of really rude & arrogant passengers: people who cram their bikes or strollers on packed train cars, or place their bags & such on the seat next to them even if seating is crowded.  It’s so refreshing to see people in Japan exercise restraint & politeness on their public transportation systems.  Everyone puts their cell phones on quiet mode, so that the phone won’t ring loudly & disturb others. Passengers also refrain from making phone calls while on the train. Most of the younger generation are well aware of loud music echoing from their headphones & keep the noise down out of courtesy…& this is just scratching the surface. I miss the Japanese public transportation system in general.
  • Most, if not all, people who drive cars use their turn signals & strictly abide by all traffic laws (especially the No Drinking & Driving law).  This is much more than I can say compared to China. Just kidding.  No, really.  I’m serious.
  • Getting stuffed on homemade foods & sloshed on booze with your close friends & family is so relaxing & enjoyable… It’s a warm feeling that cannot be properly described.
  • I enjoy watching fat dudes with awesome top-knots & giant ceremonial “thongs” push each other around on a tight stage in a centuries old sport.
  • I also love watching dudes dress up as women & playact one line every 5 minutes in a 6 hour performance that could rival any Broadway show in New York.
  • I love how even the smallest of items can be practical & make sense. No matter if it’s as large as a sofa or as small as a paper clip, Japanese people will find a use & a purpose for the item.
  • I really miss late-nite snack runs to the local conbini, or 3am ramen munchies…Those things really hit the spot sometimes. In terms of late-nite ramen runs, I’d suggest trying Ichiran at least once. The raw garlic add-on alone will blow your mind.
  • Even weirdoes get some love. Whether it’s the Rockabillies twisting in Yoyogi park, or the cosplayers acting emo on the Harajuku bridge, or the OL’s & Ri-man’s boozing it up & talking loudly over a rousing after-work meal, or the misunderstood pervy Otaku in Akiba who lust for the LovePlus+/Mirai-chan body pillow & a Gundam garage kit…everyone gets some lovin’ & acceptance.
  • Where else in the world can you sit down at a restaurant & they serve you beer BEFORE they serve you a glass of water. I’ve been to a few Izakaya restaurants where they immediately serve you a glass of ice cold beer (at $3 US bucks a pop) & you have to request a glass of water.
  • I also miss the cakes & the afternoon sweets hour that comes right after lunch & just before the shop prepares for dinner. High tea is a tradition that dates back centuries in many countries around the world, & I wish we could adapt something like this in the U.S. Trust me, it would really reduce a lot of our stress.
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