Here I am writing my guest post on my last day in Japan. I came from England about a month ago, full of excitement and puzzled about this new place I would encounter as I’d never been in Asia before. However, I am left with many great experiences and happy memories, while also with a deeper understanding of this island and its people.
Japan is completely foreign to Westerners, since we are given all these ideas about how it is. One really has to come here to understand what I call the “Japanese common sense”, which in all honesty took me a while to get. Thankfully, I had the wonderful pleasure of being received by my dear friends, the writers of this blog, who made my stay even much swifter and memorable.
Regarding the places, I got to get a grasp of Tokyo, which is a fantastic city, full of contrasts (massive, busy and young Shibuya vs. traditional and quirky Asakusa) and also managed to visit Kyoto and Nara, which are full of history and marvel. About Japanese cuisine, I got to savour all sorts of noodles (udon, ramen, soba, etc), fresh sushi, many varieties of rice bowls, beautiful strange sweets (strange since they are all done with rice and adzuki beans, but maybe I shouldn’t say strange….they aren’t strange anymore and I am going to miss them) and japanese’s version of western food (let’s say cookies are funny).
I also finally understood the fact that there are definitely “things japanese”. Nowhere is better exemplified than in a japanese toilet (or at least what they call a “Western” type toilet). The strangest one I found? One that had music as an option (warm seats and water noise are standard).
Anyway, for those who know me, I am usually not that serious when I talk or write, so here is a list of many impressions I got as a foreign visitor in Japan
- Japanese have small feet compared to westerners. Fact. When I went to ballet class, I had to use men slippers, and I am a 39/40 european.
- Japanese have a thing for creative hairstyles. Talk extreme bunheads, crazy pony tails and hair colour. Actually, think of any hair style appearing on a manga/anime and you can see it live (more frequently in Shibuya/Harajuku).
- Japanese love their phones. They text, play videogames and watch tv on them. They are not particularly crazy about iphones though. I saw very few on the train.
- Japanese are easily amused by westerners and their ability for doing “Japanese things”. Susanne and me got plenty of stares when dressed with yukatas.
- Japanese always have a massive camera hidden somewhere. Beware.
- Japanese bureaucracy is quite particular. They get things done but not in ways one would expect.
- Japanese don’t eat cereal for breakfast. I am a cereal girl, so I was unhappy with this.
- Japanese idea of sweets are soft beans. But they are very good 🙂
- Japanese pay in cash. The hardest thing to find in Japan is an ATM which accepts international cards. Might be easier to get Dutch cheese.
- Japanese kids are extremely cute. I always ran into them when walking to the institute. They all carry identical bags to school and matching hats.
- Japanese love cats. Susanne as well.
- Japanese like electric appliances with many buttons. I got scared of using the kettle. Too complicated.
- Japanese are polite and shy. That is why their toilets have a sound button. The only time when their politeness is off? Rush hour, weekday, Tokyo Metro. It’s like a pamplonada without the bulls.
- Japanese have weird systems for classes of any type. There are membership fees and ticket fees.
- Japanese have terraces that they mainly use to hang their clothes.
- Japanese have a thing for socks. One can find them in every colour and shape. I was very impressed with those that go just around the ankle.
- Japanese train system? Best in the world, or at least best of the ones I’ve tried.
- Japan is the only place I’ve been where I feel like I could leave my laptop in the park, and find it next day.
Summarizing, I should say I loved Japan and I am really looking forward to coming back again (I still need to see those sakura blooming!). I would also like to send a huge shout-out to my hosts, Susanne and Domenico, who were lovely and for whom I have maddd love and admiration (since they had to put up with me for four weeks!).
And to finish off, some pics of my stay in this wonderful place.