50 Reasons Why Japan Is Awesome (or, 50 Things To Do & See In Japan)
This is a MONSTER post with lots of photos, so let’s get straight into it. In no particular order, here is 50 cool things about Japan…
Vending machines: Mostly they are really nothing special. We’ve heard rumours of vending machines with used school-girls panties and other crazy things, but never seen anything like it on my travels around this country. They are great because if you are thirsty, no matter where you are you are just about guaranteed to find one. And the prices are all reasonable, only about 10-50% higher than supermarkets, but definitely cheaper (and more convenient than) convenience stores – but that still equates to be about half the price we pay for the same drinks in Australia.
Beer vending machines: Usually about the same, sometimes less than convenience store prices. There is a beer vending machine that stocks 1 litre Asahi Super Dry cans near my house! That one is a little special.
You can drink alcohol just about anywhere: Low restrictions on where you can drink means you can drink alcohol on public transport, out on the street, at any festival or park etc. In Australia you’re basically only allowed to drink within licensed venues.
Cheap alcohol: I’m comparing to Australia here, although beer prices are relatively the same, prices for spirits are much cheaper in Japan. As an example, a 700ml bottle of Canadian club is about 1000yen in Japan, in Australia it would be at least 3500yen. Also there is a cheap “beer” called happoshu which is almost half the price of normal/real beer.
Cheap cigarettes: If you’re a smoker, prices are about a third of what they are in Australia.
High-speed trains: The bullet train and the soon to be a reality, Maglev train. The E5 Hayabusa was launched this year, the E6 (shiny red) Hayabusa will be faster and launch in 2013 (watch a HD video of the two new bullet trains). The Maglev train line has been approved for construction, the route is almost completely straight between Osaka and Tokyo, with a stop at Nagoya.
Izakaya: I’m sure places like this would be illegal in Australia, the reason is that they offer not only all you can eat (tabehodai) but also all you can drink (nomiodai), usually for a given period of time (e.g. 60/90/120 minutes). Always assured of a good time and able to experience many different Japanese foods and drinks. This isn’t the first time izakaya has been mentioned on japantravelmate.com – it made my top 3 list of reasons to visit Japan!
Free tissues: A very popular form of street marketing, keep your eyes open for people wearing advertising clad clothing handing out tissues. Grab a pack for your travels… they come in handy – a friend figured this out the hard way after using the toilets at JR Kyoto Station and discovering you have to buy toilet paper before you enter…
It’s OK to sleep at work:We’re talking mainly office jobs, no client facing jobs or anything that might be dangerous of course! In many different types of companies and schools, it is fine to take a 10 or 20 minute nap at your desk. Sprawled out or sitting up, it is very common.
Kei cars: These cars are defined as having a 3 cylinder engine no larger than 660cc. They are cheap to buy, cheap to register (e.g. vehicle tax), gets you through tolls cheaper and use less fuel.
Tokyo: One of the world’s mega-cities, Tokyo has about the same population as Australia. You’re guaranteed a great time visiting here, there is an almost endless amount of things to do and see.
Sumo: A sport that is over 2000 years old, you have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate the skill and sheer power. On top of that is the ancient rituals and hardcore fan base, there is no questioning why this is such a popular sport in Japan. It also attracts many foreign participants from all over the world.
Personal sweat towels: Perhaps I like this one because I sweat a lot. When it is hot in Japan, almost everyone carries their own personal small towel, used to wipe away sweat in the high humidity. Helps prevent sweat from building up and turning into stench. I always have mine in the summer, it was definitely handy at the Awa Odori dancing festival in Shikoku.
Cherry blossoms: Famous all over the world, the cherry blossom is in bloom only for about a month in Japan. It dominates the news, with daily updates on the status on the “cherry blossom front”, which basically is an area that moves from south to north (with the spring weather) and indicates when and where in the country the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
More photos: Cherry Blossoms in the Japanese Spring.
Cherry blossom festivals and viewing (ohanami): With the onset of spring and the delightful cherry blossoms seemingly everywhere, all areas of Japan have cherry blossom viewing days, events or festivals. Typically this consists of an outdoor meal (a BBQ or buying from a stall), sitting on a blue ground sheet with your friends drinking beer.
More photos: Ohanami panorama and Okazaki Cherry Blossom Festival.
Capsule hotels: I’ve heard these were created to be earthquake proof, but they just seem like a way to pack more people into smaller places for cheap accommodation. I love these, my only tip is don’t go for the cheapest because they are usually very old and allow smoking inside the capsule, so they stink. My old favourite was the Asahi Capsule Plaza in Osaka. My new favourite is 9hours, a capsule hotel in Kyoto, a new designer hotel that really is something special.
Love hotels: Designed for one thing… making love, having sex, fucking, screwing, doing the in-and-out, gettin’ naughty, sekkusu… These hotels are very popular, I think because Japanese homes have paper thin walls so couples have a hard time “doing the business” without the rest of the family hearing. Most are themed, or at least have themed rooms, are EXTREMELY clean and can be paid for by the hour.
Samurai: Super cool ultra warriors, an icon of Japan.
Samurai swords: The awesome weapon of the super cool ultra warrior.
Ninjas: Just as famous as Japan’s samurai, the sneaky ninja is loved all over the world. Have you seen the annual ninja parade?
Castles: If you’re interested in Japanese castles, be sure to check out Japanese Castle Explorer. An amazingly in-depth site with interactive map and all the info you need on just about every castle in Japan. You’re never far from a castle when travelling Japan, be sure to check one out.
Temples: Some of the most beautiful places, you’ll find temples all over Japan. Kyoto seems to have one on every block, and they are dotted all around Tokyo. The brilliantly red Osu Kannon temple in Nagoya is one of my favourite (outside of Kyoto anyway!).
Festivals: The Naked Man festival, the huge Awo Odori dancing festival in Shikoku, spring’s cherry blossom viewing festivals and many more. Almost every month in Japan there is some kind of festival, always unique and exciting with Japan’s rich culture and history on display.
Toilets: If they aren’t the gadgetised “I’ll wash and dry your arse for you” automatic Japanese toilet, the normal household toilet usually helps save water. Simple genius – want to see my Japanese toilet?
Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi and Namba in Osaka: The best nightlife in Osaka – also known as downtown or south Osaka – the area is so lively, I just keep going back.
Internet speeds: Known as “hikari-fiber” (hikari being the name of a bullet train service), Japan enjoys super high speed Internet. When the company connected my internet, a guy literally connected a fiber-optic cable from my apartment to the line outside. Try it for yourself at any internet cafe.
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Motorcycles: I don’t know the exact laws for motorcycles in Japan, but there are some crazy rides going around. There are many mini-bikes and some are highly modified. The Honda Ape is a good example, a mini-bike for a grown man.
Asahi Super Dry beer: It’s just a great beer, and they have so many different sizes of cans and bottles, I’ve become a collector!
Yebisu Premium: An even better beer, but more expensive beer.
Sweets: The Japanese do sweets and desserts of all varieties extremely well. I’m still amazed at how often you see something about desserts on TV.
Interface and Information Design: Being somewhat a geek and having studied Multimedia (including digital interface design), I love how Japan displays information. From a floor layout that is easy to read, to train platform signs, it is all pleasing to the eye and easy to understand.
Genki drinks: Literally meaning healthy drink, there are so many different types: ukon/ginger drinks (the pink and orange metallic bottles below) which are supposed to stop hangovers and make you great at drinking booze; CC Lemon with the power of 210 lemons worth of vitamins C; multi-vitamin; cold, flu & cough. They are a great pick-me-up, especially for travellers.
Eating out, sanitarily: Everywhere you go to eat, from fast food joints, izakayas and sushi train restaurants, you are always provided with a small sanitary towel (sometimes hot) to clean your hands before getting stuck into your meal.
Cheap food: I’m thinking specifically of western-style restaurant chains (Joyful and Gasto). They are open 24 hours, the prices are cheap, usually below 1000yen and for a little extra you can have all-you-can-drink from the drink bar. In general, if you are going out for Japanese food at a normal bar or restaurant then you can get cheap meals. I’m comparing this to Australia where the equivalent meals would be around 2000yen ($20 AUD).
Pachinko: I’ve written a few times about pachinko on this site, but I’m not the kind of guy that frequents them. My foreign mates here in Japan prefer to gamble online at places like PartyCasino. The kind of people you’ll find at pachinko parlours are either unemployed or retired.
Style: Japan is absolutely crazy about fashion, even the guys. My favourite place for a bit of Japanese-fashion-assimilation is Uniqlo, check it out and grab yourself some unique limited edition shirts.
Okonomiyaki: Sometimes described as a Japanese pizza, for lack of a better word, this is a delicious food you just have to try. It comes in many variations, you can choose to have seafood, pork or many other things. Osaka and Hiroshima are well known for okonomiyaki and truly make some of the best I’ve ever tried.
Shikoku: It wasn’t until 1988 that the first of the bridges to Shikoku – the smallest of Japan’s four main islands – were completed. Previously accessible only by ferry, the Great Seto Bridge is a man made marvel, connecting Shikoku to the mainland of Japan. The bridges are amazing and there is also a phenomenon of whirlpools in the water near the bridges.
Japanese-to-English translations: Everywhere you will find Japanese that has been translated to English. I’m always on the lookout for these, a laugh is guaranteed. Check out all of japantravelmate.com’s Japrish.
Mt Fuji: This is just a damn cool lookin’ mountain, sprouting 3776m’s into the sky it is an icon of Japan and is very important to the Japanese people. Fuji-san is notoriously shy, but on a clear day you can see it from Tokyo – try Tokyo Tower, Sky Tree Tower or the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatories in Shinjuku.
Train stations: are actually less of a train station and more of a mega shopping complex, with multiple levels above and below ground to do almost any kind of shopping imaginable.
Architecture: From the almost ancient temples and castles, to modern houses which retain a flair of historic Japanese design, there is a lot of impressive architecture all over Japan.
Masks: when you have a fever, a cough, or any type of sickness you wear a mask. The white surgical style mask is frequently seen, especially in the colder months. I think this is really hygienic and should be adopted everywhere around the world. The number of times I have caught a cold from sitting next to someone spluttering their coughs and sneezes inside a packed Sydney train or Melbourne tram… if only for the mask.
Onsen (Hot Springs): As strange as it may sound, getting naked with a bunch of other blokes (or ladies, if you’re a lady), hot springs in Japan are amazingly relaxing. Natural onsens are the best, natural as in the hot mineral enriched water is coming out of the ground. Others are fake (i.e. they mix in the minerals to normal water and heat it up) but still very relaxing. One of the most relaxing days I’ve had in Japan, I spent 2 hours in an onsen, had a 1 hour massage in the same building then went back into the onsen.
Read: Onsen Etiquette – A foreigners guide to using a Japanese hot spring.
Autumn/Fall: Colours representing the changing season provide some spectacular views of natural Japan.
(Legal) Fireworks: Lots of fun for about 1000yen! It could just be the fact they are illegal in Australia, but the joys of a big bang make me feel like a kid again!
Anime & Manga: A cornerstone of pop culture in Japan, I’m a One Piece fan…
Ikebana (Flower Arranging): Amazing to contemplate, this ancient artform is taken very seriously, although most often enjoyed by retired grandmothers.
Sushi: What do you get when you cross a bullet train with a sushi delivery system? The coolest sushi train restaurant in the world!
Kyoto: I just keep going back… the home of no less than 17 UNESCO World Heritage sits, this is by far the most culturally and historically rich city in Japan. From the brilliant Golden Pavilion Temple to the serene mountain shrine of Fushimi Inari, this is a mandatory place to visit when you come to Japan.
Well, that’s it for the most massive list of why Japan is awesome! Explore Japan, and find what else is so great about this place…
Very cool post. I’m jealous of your large Asahi collection and the fact that you feasted on Shinkansen Kaitenzushi!
Love this! I can’t wait to go back and see some of these places! I really want to try out that capsule hotel one day and get that strawberry mochi dessert right this second.
i love ur post its owsum japan is best i m thing to japan and live there
You’ve done some great stuff here. I love Yebisu beer (the small expense is definitely worth it). I didn’t realize how cheap Canadian Club was in Japan (it was more expensive when I was there)
You’ve hit upon some great things in Japan. I would like to include MOS burger in this list–I love their coffee milk shakes (actually I like a lot of the coffee flavoured things in Japan).
Keep up the good work.
Very nice and informative post. I really want to visit Japan and just don’t know where to start. This was helpful.
Sunny if you have any questions at all about traveling Japan, don’t hesitate to ask me! I’m a seasoned traveler and have lived in Japan for a while.
I appreciate all people who try to understand and respect Japanese things and culture. 🙂
And I miss Japanese food SOOO BADDD.
This post made me so excited !!! Im going in march
Have a great time! You should be able to see the cherry blossom in March 🙂
Great read! Makes me miss Japan already 🙁
I should add also that the gaming stores there are amazing, even the 2nd hand ones there! I did a couple of reports on retrogaming stores in Japan as well as retro game themed bars too. I won’t link them as I don’t wanna spam, but the URL is in the url bit 😛
Thanks for the permission Dean! Here they are:
Akihabara is just awesome. Cool stuff in those posts, never knew about Space Station in Osaka, although I’ve frequented the Coolabah in the Dotonbori area a few times.
Loved this post! I go to Japan frequently, and I agree with you on all accounts on these. I miss it so badly there, and I only just got back from a trip two weeks ago. CC Lemon is one of my most favorite drinks in the world, up there with the sweet sake from the shrines during festivals and melon soda. I’m not sure what else I could possibly add to the list myself!
Your photo of the Dotonbori Guriko sign let me to go to Google Map and check to see what sort of building replaced the beautiful Kirin building that stood at the Shinsaiburi side of the bridge until it was torn down a few years ago. Sad to see they put up the most boring building in Osaka in its place.
If you never saw the Kirin building, the best place to check it out is in the Osaka arrival sequence in the (flawed) Michael Douglas movie “Black Rain.” You can see an aerial flyover of the old bridge (before the walkways were built to the canal) and the building. Or just Google it.
I also want to mention that while you are correct about “Hikari” being the name of a type of “bullet” train service, what it actually means is “light” so it suggests that the Hikari train is “fast as light.”
It’s used for fiber optic internet service because fiber optic is a light beam transmitted by glass wire.
Great post! For a twist on the tissues, I noticed companies handing out glove and boot warmers this winter instead of tissues in Sapporo, first time I have noticed it. We got all stocked up!
That’s an awesome freebie! Very appropriate for Hokkaido.
This is cool! I am going there by end of May. I’m definitely going and doing the stuff that you suggested. Well, maybe except the capsule hotel or tablet…claustrophobic.
Nice list. I really wanted to stay in a capsule hotel while I was in Japan, but failed to find one that would allow women to stay! They’re mainly set up to be cheap accommodation for businessmen – in most you can only check in for one night and must leave and take your belongings during the day. In the end I gave up and my two male travel companions stayed in one without me, but my female presence even caused some mild distress while I waited in the foyer for them to check in. Two staff members asked if I knew I couldn’t stay. The place I ended up staying (a cheap hotel in Osaka) made me sad as the communal baths were only for men, and they charged for shower use. My friends had a great time in the capsules, this just made me realise that Japan has some gender issues that you may not really expect.
So true! I love Japan, I’m going back there in December this year 🙂 and who’s favourite anime isn’t One Piece? 🙂
Ah One Piece! Love it… have fun on your next trip!
From one Aussie to another, thanks for giving me an idea about how some of the “essentials” (alcohol, ciggies and food) compare to what they are in Australia.
I wonder if everything is expensive in relation to what we have at home. 😛
All alcohol except for beer is cheaper in Japan. Beer is the same price at what we pay in Aus.
I find generally things are much cheaper in Japan. The main thing which seems to be more expensive is domestic travel (i.e. actual transport options like the bullet train), but business hotels are very cheap.
Great post, very informative. We are going at the end of Nov and will be doing a lot of the things you have posted about. I don’t think Fuji is “3776km’s” high though! Will there be colourful trees around that late in the season?
Haha Wags – thanks for picking up that mistake!
The times for viewing koyo (autumn/fall leaves) changes slightly every year. I always visit this page – http://www.japan-guide.com/blog/koyo12/ – where they do weekly reports every year. Look for “Mt Fuji” on 2012’s reports, and that can help give you an idea of when to visit.
Hey Dean – you forgot skiing – Japan has amazing snow and the ski resorts cater well for us Aussies.
Thanks Kero! I’ve never been to the ski resorts but I’ve heard that there’s one run by Aussies and one with lots of Australian staff. Looks like I’ll have to update this post soon – commenters are coming up with awesome ideas!
Well I’ve been wanting to visit japan for a while and seeing as next month I have two weeks between jobs I thought, why not now? Though I’m not too sure as to how to go about it. I would want to get a grand experience without breaking the bank you know. Any suggestions for me? I am an otaku myself! Haha. Would love to make this a reality. What would you estimate a weeks visit would cost minus airfare?
If you’re moving around the country (i.e. seeing Tokyo, Kyoto and one other spot like Hiroshima or Osaka), then definitely get the http://japantravelmate.com/shinkansen-photos-video/#jrpass (which will cost you around $300 for the week).
If you’re going for the “grand experience” and want to stay at nice places, allow for about 15,000 yen or more per night for accommodation in ryokans (traditional japanese style hotels) + about 10,000 yen per day for food and shopping.
You can do Japan very cheap though, spending about 2,500 yen per night for accommodation at capsule hotels, or about 4,500 yen per night for a cheap business style hotel (some include breakfast).
My wife & I are heading to Hokkaido in January for a weeks snowboarding, & then have 6 days to see other stuff in japan. I’ve been to Tokyo before, so would like to see somewhere new. Is there anything u can recommend? We’ll finish in Hokkaido & be in Tokyo around the 18th jan.
Two friends and i are travelling to japan in late april for a month… I’ve always wanted to visit japan since i was a child and it is a dream finally coming true… I just have a few questions.
1) How important is it to speak japanese? ( i want to be able to speak to locals and have a good time with them but am unsure how much english is actually spoken in a country that english isnt a first language.)
2) For a months stay how much would you recommend i take in Aussie dollars? i was thinking around $7000 as i want to be able to enjoy myself and not be worried about what sensational things i could miss out on with not having enough cash.
3) My plan is to head from tokyo south to horishima then back to tokyo obviously visiting the towns and sites in between. However is there something that i will be majorly missing by not travelling north?
Thankyou to anyone with any anwsers they give. 🙂
Great to hear you’re making a dream come true and heading over to Japan! To answer your questions…
1/ You won’t be able to speak to locals without Japanese. Most Japanese don’t speak English (just like most Aussie don’t speak Japanese). You’ll be surprised though, you will run into some people who are very keen to talk. If you’re keen to converse, why not take a few Japanese lessons? With just a few hours of lessons you’ll have a few phrases ready to go. You won’t regret it, it really adds to the experience.
2/ Personally I budget AU$1000 a week, so you’ll be fine with $7000. Depends on how much you like shopping though! One tip – make sure you buy a Japan Rail Pass (see http://japantravelmate.com/travel-tips-planning/shinkansen-photos-video#jrpass). It looks expensive at first glance, but it’s far more expensive not having one at all. This will cover your rail travel (the best way to get around the country) and keep you on budget.
3/ Mate however long you stay in the country, you’ll always be missing something major. There are 17 world heritage areas in Japan (and at each of those there are between 3 and 20 individual locations, shrines, temples, castles etc). 4 of these are north of Tokyo. Your plan is spot on, take your time to travel between Hiroshima and Tokyo. If you have time, try and see Nagasaki (I’ve never been, but always wanted to do the two Atomic Bomb sites). You could spend 4 weeks in Kyoto alone and still not see all the sites in that city alone.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any other questions mate. I’m a fellow Aussie who’s lived in Japan and traveled extensively.
This has been an interesting read!
I really miss to see those things in japan 🙁 especially the cherry blossom!
Hello, this is such a cool blog packed with information that just makes me cringe with excitement and jealousy. It must have been such an awesome experience for you! I have a question though. As a person also is a One Piece and other manga fan, I’ve been pretty interested in Japan. Namely, its culture and language. Have you learnt Japanese? And what would be a nice precaution to take before coming, like learning the language or something?
Thanks for your comments. Yes I speak Japanese, not that good but enough to travel and talk to people. I highly recommend learning a few phrases, even getting a couple of Japanese lessons, it will make your trip much easier!
That is one cool Shinkansen Sushi restaurant. What a great array of photos you have here. Really awesome.
Keep it up.
Thanks Andrew. I’m lucky to have that Shinkansen Sushi restaurant as my local!
Neat list! I’m really keen to go here for a month next year, i’m saving a budget from work now. How easy is it to travel by foot? Do you know what it’s like to backpack around Japan? (what’s it like to travel alone?) and are accomodation prices good in general?
Hi Kaze. You can travel by foot and hitchhike, some friends of mine recently completed a challenge to hitch across the country. Only thing is I recommend you be able to speak at least a little Japanese.
I generally travel alone and it’s always very rewarding. If you stay at capsule hotels, accommodation is very cheap – around 2,500 yen per night.
Thanks a lot, that’s been really helpful! Looking into travelling mid April and already have lots written down to do. In terms of flights, am I right in thinking anytime from now is better for booking?
April is a popular time to travel to Japan – sakura season – so yes, the earlier you book the better!
I have quite literally read every article posted on your site in anticipation for an upcoming trip! Love this post and all your others. Great info that is incredibly helpful for a first-timer! I cannot wait now!! THANKS
Awesome, glad you enjoyed the articles!
I loved this article, but i would have loved a section for the tech that the japanese use, Along with more extensive anime and manga. Let’s not forget Akihabara, The place where every gamer, collectionist, Otaku wishes to be.
wow its a amezing !!
realy i’m very much proud of Japan & Japanese People
I love your post. That’s really awesome.
What month is the best for the autumn colors 🙂
For mainland Japan, generally November is the best month.
The show is overall fantastic. You mentioned the cat cafe but nothing about Ueno Zoo or Ikebujro Market or Sunshine building and the market near the imperial palace and the gardens, I think you have to make more, Thanks a lot.
Thanks for your comment. There are literally thousands of awesome things about Japan, my list of 50 isn’t exhaustive!
This is the best travel blog I have ever seen.I am taking my 12 year old daughter to Japan next April (I like to plan waaay ahead). This blog is going to be so helpful. I was thinking we should stay 5 or 6 nights in Tokyo and same again in Kyoto and do lots of day trips from there. We traveled around Italy last year for a month and did this and found we got a much better feel for the way people live and you really get to know the place better traveling this way. Do you think this would be a good plan for Japan as well? Sorry for rambling.
Hi Sara, thanks for the compliments on the site! What you’re planning is perfect, spend a good few days in each spot really helps you to get to know the place. I’ll contact you by email to discuss this some more.
Really very nice i also love to visit the japan and i love the night life of japan specially food culture heritage and travel spots …
where the FUCK!!!!!!! IS POKEMON GO
Wow I love the “super cool ultra warriors!”