I Heard That In Japan…

It’s hard not to come into a country with some preconceptions, especially when you’re like me and read too many blogs/guidebooks about the place. Somehow, without realizing it, I subscribed to a few stereotypes about Japan.

Now that I’ve been here for nearly five days, I can give you my expert opinion on whether these stereotypes have any basis in fact.

I heard that in Japan…

1. The people are really polite.

Nara Deer Park, Japan
Deer in Nara accosted this man for his ice cream, but he was too polite to push them away.

Coming from Korea, where the rule for boarding a subway (an elevator, a bus, anything) is to enter as everyone else is exiting, Japan has been such a relief. Cars stop to let pedestrians cross the street. People line up in a civil manner so getting on a train is nothing like participating in a rugby scrum. Not once has an elderly woman cut in front of me at the supermarket.
It’s refreshing.


2. Things are really high-tech.

Levitating Bed
We were this excited every time and took turns operating the switch.

I base this not on the multi-buttoned toilets (that’s old news), but on the amazing levitating bed from our Osaka hotel room. Simply turn a dial and the double bed is mechanically raised to the ceiling, opening up a 6 x 3 foot lounge room. Ingenious.


3. It’s really crowded.

Dotombori, Osaka, Japan
Dotombori, the nightlife district in Osaka. Busy, but not crazy. Though it was Monday night.

Five days, of course, isn’t enough time to get to know a place. Although I’m not really qualified to make these judgment calls, that doesn’t stop me. I’m going to go ahead and say that the Kansai region of Japan is NOT crowded, at least during the week we’ve been here.
That might not be the case in other regions or in other seasons. I now understand why summer isn’t the busy season – everything I wear is accessorized with an attractive sweat mark down the middle of my back. Maybe that’s why no one gets too close.


4. Things are really expensive.

Nara deer shop
That weird giant pillow of a bald head costs over $25, so there are some bargains. Just gotta know where to look.

Ugh. True.
Jared and I went into a bar in Osaka because we saw beers advertised for 430 yen. At about $5, it was the most reasonable price we’d seen.
Except that was the price for a half pint. Our two full pints came to about 1550 yen, or $18. By the time sticker shock hit, the beers had already been poured. We left after one.


5. They cook the food in front of you.

Okonomiyaki, Osaka, Japan
This guy was a wizard. And the food was delicious.

I thought this was a gimmick used by Japanese restaurants outside of Japan, but surprisingly, it’s not. We chose an okonomiyaki restaurant for our first dinner, and were seated right in front of the chef as he whipped up omelet after omelet. I was entranced.
Not every restaurant does this, but many do. Nothing like dinner and a show to make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth!

What stereotypes have you heard about a country that have surprised you?

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  1. Oh I loved visiting Japan! I traveled there for only six days about a year before we moved to Korea for EPIK and it was awesome! We never made it back during our year in Korea (decided it was too expensive sadly) and I’m still wishing we could return again. Have a great trip!

    1. We are loving it here. I’m constantly surprised by how different Japan is from Korea, though a lot of that is probably because we come from small-town Korea. I might have to come back in the future, too, because 8 days isn’t enough!

  2. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I was really surprised on how Americanized Australia was. Maybe because I went there after New Zealand, but going to Australia was like a cheap version of coming home. Especially to a native of California. The cities are hot, loud and crowded. Just like home!

    1. I agree on Australian cities – I found them to lack personality, except Melbourne, which I liked. But I think the big difference between Australia and the US is more subtle and comes out in the attitudes of the people. More laid-back in Oz, at least when compared to the midwest!

      1. Yeah, definitely more laid back then California, but we are the most laid back (except for maybe Hawaii, which is sooo New Zealand-like!) in the US, sooo…:-)

        1. That’s what I hear! People are friendly in the Midwest, but I wouldn’t exactly use the term ‘laid-back’ to describe us. I think that state of mind comes with proximity to the ocean.

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