lifestyle

10 things Japan gets awesomely right

68 Comments
By Philip Kendall

Although Japan is not without its faults, it is nevertheless an incredibly efficient and easy-to-live-in country, and we’ve discovered that there are numerous things that the Japanese get not just right, but awesomely right.

Here are 10 things Japan gets awesomely right

1. Vending machines

If you’re looking for something to quench your thirst – whether hot or cold – you rarely have to go more than a few hundred meters in any direction in the city.

Canned (black, white, extra milk, iced, low sugar, no sugar, extra sugar, fat-reducing) coffee, tea, green tea, barley tea, sports drinks, hot chocolate, soda, beer, fruit juice, raspberry jelly, even bread and stew; if it can be packed into a can you can find it in a Japanese vending machine somewhere, and it’ll usually cost you no more than 120 yen for a big can of the stuff. Many vending machines in Japan even give customers additional incentives to use them, with LCD panels displaying a row of numbers after each purchase–get three sevens in a row and you win a free drink of your choice! And newer machines are completely touch-screen operated, with their contents displayed as animated images–perfect for the iPhone generation.

2. Food

Was there ever any doubt that Japanese cuisine would make the list? Admittedly, there are odd dishes like raw horse meat and fugu, a fish that may or may not kill you if not properly prepared, but the vast majority of Japanese food is simply superb, and we’re not just talking about boxed lunches crafted to look like Pokémon characters.

There’s so much to choose from, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to a final list, so here are just a few of our all-time favorites:

  • Donburi Basically big bowls of fluffy white rice topped with anything from strips of marinated beef and pork to kimchi and raw tuna. Donburi is true soulfood – hearty, filling and extremely moreish. The donburi that most people come into contact with is that of fast food-style restaurants like Yoshinoya or Sukiya, and they’re certainly decent for the price you pay, but there are plenty of outlets that charge a little more but pour their heart and soul into this simple yet supremely tasty dish, so be sure to track one down if you visit Japan.

  • Gyoza Japanese gyoza may be considered a little unrefined by Chinese standards since they are most often fried, but we simply adore them. Massively moreish and available in dozens of varieties, these little dumplings are simply to die for and we’d happily munch on them every single day if it weren’t for the large amounts of garlic and nira chives contained within them that would make us entirely repellent to everyone around us.

  • Miso soup Yes, it’s simple and you can buy this stuff as an instant, “just add hot water” mix, but a good bowl of homemade miso soup has almost magical properties. It also makes a great hangover cure (trust us, give it a go the next time you’re feeling a little fragile after one too many glasses of Babycham!).

  • Okonomiyaki Often described as a savoury pancake or “Japanese pizza”, this is essentially batter made from shredded cabbage, flour, eggs, grated nagaimo (yam), and water or a little fish stock. Ingredients – literally “whatever you want”, which is where the name okonomi (as you like) yaki (grilled) comes from – are mixed into the batter which is then poured onto a hotplate, shaped into a flat, circular shape and cooked through. Topped with anything from mayonnaise, sweet barbecue-style okonomiyaki sauce, dried seaweed, and shaved bonito, okonomiyaki is a fantastically tasty and filling dish that’s meant for sharing and playful experimentation.

  • Ramen Believed to have originally been a Chinese dish, ramen – noodles in soup with toppings – now exists in hundreds if not thousands of varieties across Japan’s 47 prefectures. The soup is usually soy, salt, miso, or tonkotsu (lit. “pork bone”) based and ramen fans each swear by particular varieties, although Fukuoka’s Hakata ramen, a pork-bone broth with relatively straight, firm noodles, is perhaps the variety best-known outside Japan.

  • Sashimi Strips of raw fish, usually served with wasabi and soy sauce. Not to be confused with sushi (see below).

  • Shabushabu Another dish that’s often enjoyed socially, shabushabu is basically vegetables and wafer-thin strips of raw meat cooked (by the diner) in a very light stock. The meat is so thin and the stock so hot that it cooks in mere seconds, and tastes absolutely wonderful, especially dipped in some goma sesame sauce.

  • Sushi Perhaps Japan’s most famous dish, sushi is vinegared rice either topped with or wrapped around “neta” ingredients like fish and vegetables. Even cheap conveyor-belt sushi is good, but sushi made by chefs who have trained for decades and use only the finest ingredients is nothing short of divine.

  • Takoyaki Tiny little balls of tasty batter with a piece of octopus in the middle, cooked in a special hotplate and served with a rich sauce, mayonnaise and flakes of “aonori” dried seaweed. These things can be mercilessly hot when eaten straight off the teppan, but we always stuff them straight into our shout holes regardless. Oh, that devastating, delicious takoyaki tongue burn!

3. Removing your shoes when going indoors

We appreciate that it sounds like something a Japanophile might say in a cringeworthy attempt to prove how integrated into the culture they have become, but after years of living in Japan and taking our shoes off when going indoors, we now find the idea of walking around one’s home wearing the footwear that you traipsed around outside in kind of gross, and every time we watch a Western movie or sitcom and see a character sitting with their shoe-clad feet up on a sofa, chair or bed, the same thought pops into our heads: “Are you sure you didn’t step in any dog poop while you were outside?”

As most of you will already know, in the majority of Japanese homes – and also in schools and some clinics – people remove their outdoor shoes before entering the building proper. This practice is not unique to Japan, of course, and the “true” reason for doing this differs depending on who you ask, but most agree that the Japanese desire to draw a clear line between the clean uchi (inside) and dirty soto (outside) is the main driving force behind this.

The idea that the inside of the home should not be unnecessarily dirtied is also reflected in the layout of a typical Japanese bathroom. Just as how one showers before entering the bath in Japan (after all, why sit in water containing the day’s grime?) and the tub kept spotlessly clean, the toilet is usually found in a room completely separate to that containing the bath and shower. Why? Because the toilet is pretty much the “dirtiest” place in the house, while the bath is where one purifies one’s body. In the Japanese mindset, the two simply do not belong together, and we can’t help feeling they’re on to something with that idea.

Of course, walking around the house in slippers, stockings or going barefoot has the added bonus of keeping noise levels down – which is important when your walls are paper-thin and/or you live in close proximity to others – but when you think about where your shoes have been as you walked about town, stepping in puddles and maybe even gum, spit, dog pee (or worse), and dirt in general, it makes sense that you should leave all that outside by stepping out of your shoes at the genkan entryway.

This practice can be a little annoying at times, especially when you lace up your shoes, step outside and then realise you’ve left your phone in the living room (which means repeating the process all over again or doing that weird “walking on your knees” circus act we briefly see the character Satsuki do in the Studio Ghibli movie "My Neighbor Totoro"), but after being exposed to Japanese customs we’ve come to think that wearing shoes inside the house makes about as much sense as taking all of your carpets and furniture outdoors and expecting it to stay clean.

4. Taxis

Anyone who has ridden in an inner-city taxi in Japan will know that they’re far from cheap. So you might well be wondering how on earth these things made it into our top 10 list. Three words: automatically opening doors.

Hail a cab at the side of the road and after it comes to a halt, the kerbside passenger door will automatically open for you. And not just unlock and open by a couple of inches, but swing out completely so that passengers can slip in while carrying their bags, kids, girlfriend, whatever. Once you’re safely inside, the driver uses a lever to close the door after you. It’s a very small gesture, but it makes a world of difference and makes you feel like a minor celebrity, even if you are entering the taxi covered in baby vomit or have been caught in a sudden downpour.

5. Convenience stores

Coming from the UK where they are usually seen as something of a last resort for grocery shopping, my only experiences of convenience stores were midnight visits to buy toilet roll or milk, and perhaps to make ill-advised alcohol purchases after a party has gone on too long and it was decided that doing whiskey shots would in no way be a terrible idea. Everything is expensive (you’ve gotta pay for that convenience, right?), many of the patrons look remarkably unsavoury (my drunken, early-twentysomething self included), and the staff rarely seem to want to be there any more than the customers.

Not so in Japan. Convenience stores – 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, Mini Stop, even the littler guys like Save On and Coco – are all kinds of wonderful, and they’re absolutely everywhere. Products are rarely much more expensive than in other stores, many stock snacks and ready-made meals that were prepared that very day rather than the best part of a week ago, and they offer a ton of services that are genuinely useful, including:

  • Courier delivery pickup/dropoff You can take a package to your local convenience store, have them measure it, slap a delivery label on it, and the courier service (usually Yamato, or “kuro neko”) will pick it up from the store and deliver it for you. And the rates are surprisingly reasonable. You can even arrange for luggage to be dropped off and kept safe.

  • Bill payment Want to pay your gas, electricity, internet or mobile phone bill? Take it to the konbini (the common term for convenience store), hand them the tear-off slip with your cash and they’ll process it for you in seconds. Et voilà! Your lights will be back on in no time!

  • Booking tickets and paying for fun stuff Depending on which convenience store you visit, you can use their ATM-style machines to look up and reserve things like plane, concert and theme park tickets, receiving a printout and then paying at the counter. You can even shop online at websites like Amazon and Yodobashi Camera and, provided the site you’re using offers “konbini barai” (convenience store payment), after entering your unique code at the machine simply hand over your cash to the clerk. No credit card required.

  • Printing stuff out Even if you don’t have a USB pen to take with you, log in to the convenience store chain’s online printing service and save your document there. You’ll receive a passcode which you enter at the store’s printer, which (after you slot in a few yen) will spit out your documents. You can print anything from whole web pages to essays written in MS Word.

Oh, and let’s not forget that you can also buy food, beer, whiskey, wine, light bulbs, DVDs, video games, newspapers, magazines, cat food, hot baked goods, seasonal stews, fresh coffee, point cards for Amazon, iTunes, and Nintendo and Sony’s online stores… the list is endless.

Convenience stores in Japan: Actually convenient.

6. Recycling and waste management

Japan may well be a little on the wasteful side, throwing out startling amounts of perfectly good food every single day and sealing consumer products in way too much plastic, but we have to admire their system for garbage collection and disposal.

This of course varies from town to town, but most cities require residents to sort their household waste into distinct categories: burnables and raw waste, plastics, PET (plastic drinks) bottles, glass, aluminium cans, paper and cardboard, and so on.

But how can refuse collectors be sure that people are sorting their waste properly? Surely any joker could just stuff all of their trash into the same bag and sling it out on collection day? Well, most of the bags are either clear or thin enough to see through, with different coloured print on them denoting exactly what can be put inside them, with each kind of rubbish collected only on certain days. Trying to throw away kitchen scraps in a bag meant for cans? Tut tut. You might get lucky but often it’ll be left behind and marked with a sticker asking you to use the correct bag (and all your neighbours will secretly judge you). But it really doesn’t make sense to try to cheat the system, especially when some towns (each sell their own refuse bags in local supermarkets and, of course, convenience stores) even encourage proper recycling by making bags for the likes of cans and plastics cheaper than more general “burnable” waste bags, so it pays to be green.

Japan still has to mend its wasteful ways, but its approach to refuse management is definitely a step in the right direction and one that many countries could learn from, so we’re all for that.

7. Punctuality

Yes, we moaned in our previous article about how set in their ways the Japanese can be, and how rules here are made to be kept, not broken, but we appreciate that without this fondness for law and order things in Japan simply wouldn’t run as smoothly as they do. People here take punctuality extremely seriously, and it is considered common sense (and courtesy) to arrive a good ten minutes early for meetings, regardless of their nature. This may be a little too regimented for some, but in short this is part of why stuff here works as it should, and you can rely on pretty much any service running according to schedule.

There are times when delays are inevitable, and even Japan’s über punctual rail network may fall a few minutes behind, but you can be sure that if that happens their operators take it extremely seriously, and you can expect both earnest apologies and a member of staff handing out “proof of lateness” slips to passengers at the ticket gate so that they can show their boss that it was in fact the train company’s fault they were five minutes late, and not their own.

If you arranged for a package to be delivered by a certain time, it’ll be there. And if it’s not you’ll very often get a call from the delivery guy himself apologising and informing you of the fact. Pizza due to arrive by seven? Make a space on the table by 6:45. If your phone service operator promised you that an engineer will call on a certain day at a certain time, 99 percent of the time that’s when it’ll be. You have to admire that kind of dedication to timekeeping.

8. Customer service

We admit that this perhaps blurs a little with our last point, but there’s something inherently awesome about having the staff at McDonald’s treat you like royalty even when you’re too stingy to drop an extra few yen to make your hamburger a cheeseburger and choose a cup of water over a Coke. Yes, as in every country, there are a handful of twonks who let the side down, but if there’s one thing you can say about the Japanese it’s that they really know how to look after customers.

From hotels to fast food joints, customers almost always receive polite greetings and smiles. Keigo (honorific Japanese) is routinely employed and staff are quick to find something to apologise for even when it’s clear that the customer is, in fact, in the wrong. Have a problem at the bank or post office and staff will do their best to find a solution for you rather than simply apologising and trying to move on to the next customer. And at some petrol stations, or gasorin sutando as they’re known, having wiped down your windshield, run a cloth over your wipers and asked if you have any garbage you’d like thrown away while they pump the gas for you, attendants will stand at the edge of the forecourt and bow as you drive away, only lifting their heads once you’re several car-lengths away.

There are times when we almost wish they’d relax a little (staff carrying your purchases to the threshold of their shop in a department store and thanking you repeatedly for your patronage can be a little disconcerting for those of us who grew up eating alphabet spaghetti and fluorescent pink pudding), but on the whole it’s fantastic to see so many people taking their work so seriously.

9. Toilets

Ask someone to list a few things that define Japan, and “space-age toilets” will almost definitely come up eventually. And they truly are things of tremendous technological achievement. Heated seats, not one but two spray functions whose pressure, warmth and direction can be controlled, ambient noise to mask any embarrassing bottom burps, lids that open automatically as you enter the room as if to say “Are you sure you don’t want to do a little one?” and multiple flush options make going to the bathroom in Japan an adventure in itself. There is plenty to be said for the health benefits of old-school squat toilets – and they still exist in their droves even amongst their gadget-riddled brethren – but with so many buttons and dials to tinker with, who would want to miss out?

10. Drinking pretty much anywhere

The imbibing of alcohol in public places may be frowned upon in some countries, and completely illegal in others, but in Japan it’s considered perfectly OK to crack open a beer in the park, or on the street or bullet train (though food and drink in general are a no-no on most regular trains).

Perhaps after putting in so many hours of overtime, people here feel it is their God-given right to enjoy a cold one? Perhaps it’s simply that so few Japanese make a nuisance of themselves and get violent after drinking (if anything, a sudden onset of red-faced sleepiness is usually the worst they have to fear)? Whatever the reason, no one bats an eyelid at the sight of someone strolling down the street or sitting on a park bench with an open can of Asahi in their hand, and it’s thanks to this relaxed approach to public drinking that parks all over Japan are filled with revellers (and this includes entire families rather than just rowdy students), eating, drinking and enjoying the beautiful cherry blossom during hanami parties every spring. No brown bags or secret slurps in Japan – it’s beer cans and cheers of “kanpai” as and when you see fit, and we think that’s pretty great.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Another Amazing Vending Machine From Japan -- 10 things Japan gets horribly wrong -- 12 disappointing things for Japanese people traveling in the U.S.

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68 Comments
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forgot shinkasens

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Forgot Daiko taxi service.

Also, number 7 doesn't apply in Okinawa.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Drinking anywhere isn't really a good thing. Let's not forget that alcohol is a drug, and it has lead to people getting into accidents, dying and even killing others under the influence of it.

-33 ( +8 / -40 )

but most agree that the Japanese desire to draw a clear line between the clean uchi (inside) and dirty soto (outside)

so true, so true

5 ( +11 / -6 )

Drinking anywhere isn't really a good thing

Doing too much of anything is not really good. Generally, there is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation.

Having seen them in other countries, I would also add the general cleanliness of restrooms in Japan. This is especially true of the newer supermarkets, shopping malls and restaurants.

14 ( +17 / -3 )

Drinking pretty much anywhere

Not exactly unique to Japan (New Orleans and Las Vegas are the first places that comes to mind with respect to open container laws), but at least isn't totally frowned upon - within reason.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Japan certainly does get many things right. No question.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Waste management, NO, Japan burns plastic!

5 ( +14 / -9 )

Has this been written by a N.American? The point about public drinking makes me suspect so.

Re. recycling, I have to say that the UK - at least where my family lives - is as good if not better at this. The difference is that the UK doesn't make its residents do a lot of the work, like Japan does.

I agree with the wonderfulness of convenience stores 100%. less so with vending machines. A huge waste of energy, especially given the number of convenience stores.

I like taxis because you can always be assured of getting one - you can hail them in the street, and don't have to book one or go to a rank. But the drivers are less likely to know where to go.

I also agree that public and private services (gas, electric, GPO, delivery companies) are fabulously punctual and efficient.

These things make Japan a very convenient place to live.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Convenience stores?!? At a Canadian 7-11, I bought a SIM card for my cellphone for 10 bucks. Not registration, no nothing. After a 10-second transaction, I had a new account and phone number. Japan can never be THAT convenient and efficient. Softbank wanted 2 official documents from me, at least 2 years left on my working visa, and it took them 2 hours to process my contract!

Ah, but in Japan the stores sell beer and sake, so that's a good thing.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

We appreciate that it sounds like something a Japanophile might say in a cringeworthy attempt to prove how integrated into the culture they have become

Ah how nice of them to add this just in case, you know, to stay "cool" to themselves.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

When I was in USA, I was fascinated by the simplicity of their toilets. I found they were very elegant.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

This article lacks perspective.

On the consumer side, Japan is easy, even if the quality of products has been decreasing and almost everything seems to be imported or repackaged as Japanese.

But on the employment side, this is anything but an easy country, with long commutes, long hours, unpaid overtime, more and more contract work, etc.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Cannot disagree more with this list. Vendinig machines - a huge waste of energy 24 hour heating a cooling. Convenience stores - again a huge amount of wasted energy - check out the lighting alone. also destroying traditional eating culture and healthy diets of young generations. Toilets - again massive amounts of wasted energy on these gimmicks

I thought this would be an interesting positive article but for much of the list shows some of the worse things about Japan.

-6 ( +11 / -17 )

Vending machines

If you love drinks, they're great. If you want to buy a bag of chips or a sandwich, you need a conbini. Not so conbini sometimes.

Taxis

Yes, if you value an "experience" over getting from point A to point B cheap and quick. If you're in a hurry, you're in trouble.

Customer service

Seriously? Yes, polite and deferential, but if you need a thinking human, don't hold your breath.

Toilets

So long as you don't need to use a station toilet out in inaka (no TP and squat) I suppose you're OK. I doubt tourists ever run into a tp-free squat.

Drinking pretty much anywhere

Well, when you understand that this ALSO can mean puking, peeing and passing out pretty much anywhere, whatever floats you're boat. Not everybody is an alcoholic.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

this list seems a bit old and huge generalisation at times. heres my take, i used to live in japan.

1- im from scotland and i can tell you since i was a kid if you went into your friends house and they had a carpet, their mum would kill you if you had shoes on. it is the done thing in the UK that if people have carpets people take their shoes off. of course its not part of the culture but it is good etiquette.

1- i found taxis very expensive in japan, even more than the UK maybe. useful but i did not use them in japan as much as i do here at times. the uk has private and government run taxis that offer maybe not as polite service but a more extensive helpful one

1- drinking everywhere is not a good thing. i saw salarymen puke on the train, fights etc. in Scotland you cannot drink alcohol in a public place. you might even be stopped from going on a train if too drunk and rowdy.

1-recycling - again in scotland everyone has several recycle bins now : glass,paper,food,compost,regular waste.

1- not all toilets in japan are space age. go out to small towns and there are some pretty disgusting squat toilets in train stations.

1-agree with poster about customer service in japan its very polite, but if you have a problem its almost like you are causing them trouble and they handle it badly. lack of real human interaction, as if speaking to a robot.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

Drinking anywhere is great, as it is also combined with drinking anytime. There is always a bar open somewhere, or a combini somewhere else.

Taking off your shoes before going in the house is common in many countries in the world. Maybe even most countries.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Recycling and waste management - BURNING EVERYTHING does not count as waste management. (but its far better than China, so I will let this one slip.

Punctuality - yeah... but they make me LATE becuase they all drive EXACTLY the speed limit which is already too low.

Toilets - this one is 50/50. They I would say dead even with America. I have lived here 6 years. two apartments. with TERRIBLE Japaense style toilet. so I have a cheap western style cover. It sucks. I HATE my bathroom. Everywhere I have worked, only have one, or very few western toilets. AND toilet rooms NEVER have heating or air condingint. When a toilet is nice in Japan its REALLY nice. but 75% of time they are worse than the average American toilet.

Food- is also 50/50. Outside of Tokyo/Osaka, finding decent forgien food is REALLY hard. I live in Fukui and pizza sux here. Italian food is REALLY expensive. A few good french restruant. and two decent hamburger joints in the WHOLE prefecture. that are about 800 yen for just a burger. Even in places like Kanazawa, Kyoto, Sapoaro that have mexican resturants, they are pretty medicore. Indian places, if you can find one tend to be good becuase they are run by actual people from india. so.... Japanese food yes. Japan is really good. Forigen. They are HORRIBLE at. I just want a hotdog with relish, or a greek salad, a decent pizza. (I know you can probably get all that in Tokyo, I know you can) but in 90% of the Japan forgieng food is a JOKE!

-4 ( +9 / -13 )

I would add takkyubin to the list.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

a huge waste of energy

ifdd66's post is unpopular, but true. Convenience / gadgetry are mostly connected with wastefulness. And in a country that focuses so much on recycling, the excess packaging just seems hypocritical.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Bathing

Wash your body before your get in the tub...

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Well they have rules for everything and manual for life. What can you expect?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Convenience / gadgetry are mostly connected with wastefulness.

Except that new toilets use little water, new electronics are energy-efficient, etc

10 ( +12 / -2 )

InakaRob,

Costco has delicious Greek feta cheese in stock - I believe some companies will deliver Costco produce to you.

You might have that Greek Salad sooner than you expected!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Waste management, NO, Japan burns plastic!

Actually incineration is a very environmentally friendly way to dispose of goods.....but i guess dumping plastic in landfills must be a better solution, huh?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Walking on your knees when you have to rush back in to get something... yeah, guilty of that.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@Get Real yeah thanks for the heads up. We have "SEBU" grocery store with real nice selection of cheese, feta included. Some other stuff too. But its just not worth the price. As much as I want some cheddar. I am not paying 800 yen for 100 grams of it. Walmart used to sell 1lb for about 4$. I have YET to go to Costco in Japan. There is one in Kyoto that is a fwe hours drive. I know a few people who make a run every couple of months. I want to go to my local greek deli shop sit down and have a "greek salad", Baklava, and pita sandwich.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Starbucks shops that are usually spotless..:-)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Convenience stores - They rock. The prices are usually not too far out of line with supermarkets, mostly 24 hours, they took my advice and added ATM machines, paying bills, grabbing a quick snack late at night, lazy day microwave foods, Oden, delivery services and many have added public toilet facilities. They have my vote.

Drinking pretty much anywhere - I actually find this a plus. The open container laws are pretty strict in the US and there are there are very few public places where drinking is allowed. Once I was in San Francisco drinking orange juice from a brown paper bag and a cop grabbed it and pretty much yelled, "What are you drinking!" Yeah, right. I give Japan credit for not going crazy about this.

Food - Ramen! For me this is a winter food and nothing is better than a big bowl of Ramen on a cold Tokyo day. Get a plate of Gyoza and you are on your way.

For those in Tokyo, the Tokyo Ramen Show, held at Komazawa Park, will run from 15 Nov 2013 to 24 Nov 2013. You can experience Ramen from different regions of Japan. ¥800 per bowl.

Here is the link: http://www.ramenshow.com/index.html

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Punctuality - yeah... but they make me LATE becuase they all drive EXACTLY the speed limit which is already too low.

So leave earlier.

Japanese loos are amazing - heated seats, ahhhh... bliss. The trough-style toilets in older buildings are a nightmare though. I've only used one of these once, and it was an experience I don't want to repeat - now I make sure I go to the loo before I go out anywhere in Japan, and if I have to I use a restaurant or big shop with western style toilets.

I'm pretty much in agreement with all of the examples given in the article.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

gogogoNOV. 11, 2013 - 09:50AM JST Waste management, NO, Japan burns plastic!

I suggest you that you go into a field trip at your local recycling plant and see for yourself. Japan does indeed bur plastic but in a very efficient way, very low carbon emission. Their incinerators are way advanced than anything in the world.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Yes, as in every country, there are a handful of twonks who let the side down

Ah someone else who likes to use the word twonk. This should be used more often!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Is there no rubbish separation in the USA? Everytime I read about Japan's recycling programme 'leading the world' in rubbish separation it seems to be written by an American. Recycling is the norm in Europe.

As a veggie I can't really comment on the quality of most Japanese food. Veg tempura and kitsune udon are my favourites. While lightly battered vegetables are not unique to Japan, I can't find anything outside Japan that tastes like real kitsune udon (yes, I know it usually has a fish stock in it... I didn't know this until I'd been eating it for 5 years... it's the only 'sin' I allow myself in Japan :-) ) Japanese food is pretty useless though if you have any special dietary requirements. For an all-round world cuisine, visit London (yes, London. The stereotype is 30 years out of date and normally peddled by arrogant French and out-dated Americans!)

For me, the thing that Japan gets right is reliability. Japan is NOT particularly high tech... but nothing is ever "Out of Order"

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

We separate rubbish in the UK too... here in Glasgow we have separate wheelie bins at every house:

Green for general rubbish Brown for garden rubbish Purple for glass Blue for paper, card and cans Silver for organic/food waste

I've had to separate the rubbish in Japan, but only into bags and then take down to the pick-up point under a large net on specific days. Sounds okay, but I think large bins would be better.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Love the courier services. I ordered stuff from overseas, and on the delivery request was a time prefered for drop off. I nominated 10am. At 9.45am i recieved an appologetic call from the kuro neko guys asking if was ok to drop the goods of now. They turned up and kept apologising for being EARLY.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Japan is def an easy place to live, especially for all thr things mentioned in the article. Whether or not some of those things exist elsewhere is not the point; it's that Japan has so many conveniences. My favorite is the high level of customer service.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Japan has the biggest, meanest, loudest and smartest jungle crows in the world.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

But on the employment side, this is anything but an easy country, with long commutes, long hours, unpaid overtime, more and more contract work, etc.

Lately, I have started to think that this country could do with a little less customer service, for this reason you pointed out. Would I rather have a package at my door 15 minutes early, or my husband home at a decent hour to spend time with the kids? Because if he is out there performing this 'superior' customer service, he is doing lots of things that could wait till tomorrow.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"food and drink in general are a no-no on most regular trains"

Unless you have enough money to buy a shinkansen or green car ticket, lol.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan is awesome. I spent 8 years in Tokyo, I don't know about rest of Japan but Metro train network in Tokyo is super awesome.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I would take cheaper taxis than auto-opening doors. I hope auto driving taxis bring down the cost in the future.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

inakaRob

Who forced you to live in the boonies? Of course Fukui will be less convenient and have less choices than more populous areas.

I agree with the list. Japan is very good at doing whatever Japan chooses to do. The expression "awesomely right" is rather irritating though.....

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@InakaRob,

If you could rustle together some Spanakopita, Souvlaki, Moussaka and Dolmades, I'm sure you'd make a living somewhere with a wider range of food ingredients. Oh, and the place I mentioned, (that I visited again tonight), has 1kg blocks of cheese for around ¥1,000.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

How can they mention taxis and not trains? Here are my two big ones, with regards to things Japan do very right:

A good, efficient train system. I'm not talking only of shinkansen, but of the run-of-the-mill local and express trains that run all over the place Japan and make it so that anywhere you want to go in the country, you can simply walk or take a bus to the nearest train station and figure out where to go from there. These train stations really make even small towns urban by creating small downtown areas and centers of social life. You hardly need cars in Japan thanks to this system. Much better than the coach systems in North America (We can take you anywhere you want... as long as you're fine with being dropped by the side of the freeway and having to walk 1 or 2 hours to go downtown and with having to find out exactly which questionable restaurant or shop sells our tickets and where we pick up people).

Walking-friendly narrow streets. I love the narrow Japanese streets which pedestrians and cyclists "own" as much as car drivers do. It's easy to get anywhere on foot and in complete safety. No need for indoor malls either with their commercial narrow streets.

I seriously wish all the developed world would adopt Japanese transit and urbanism practices.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

these little dumplings are simply to die for

Be careful what you wish for, .....

Ramen! For me this is a winter food and nothing is better than a big bowl of Ramen on a cold Tokyo day. Get a plate of Gyoza and you are on your way.

....on your way to poor health.

"Nabe! Nabe, now there is a healthful and tasty winter food. Nothing is better on cold day than a big bowl of nabe.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I like the fruit here. Biwa, tsudachi, persimmons, buntan, many kinds of grapes, expensive perhaps, but we can afford to splurge. We buy a lot of produce at JA. It's cheaper fresher and grown locally. Also, another thing Japan got right: my wife!

7 ( +10 / -3 )

You can go to the park and drink a beer?! Drink while walking down the street?! I'm moving to Japan!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Most of this is all well and good, but taxis? Great, the doors open for you, but they cost more than just about anywhere else in the world, including about three times more than New York. And so many drivers just have no idea where they're going. I'm not talking about famous areas in central Tokyo, but in the suburbs and other cities. When they don't know how to get where you're going, you have to sit there and give them directions, because they're either unable or unwilling to use the GPS systems that almost all taxis have now. Considering how much they cost, the service is lacking.

Like another poster said, trains are a much, much better example of something Japan does right.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Sushi was mentioned. I would like to expand it a little further to KAITEN Sushi.

A personal favorite, and lots of fun.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@ Stewie,

You`re right. The postal service is fantastic in Japan.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Definitiely would include all train systems in Tokyo and Yokohama areas JR East trains, Metro Subways and the Shinkansen.

When I first visited Japan before accepting a 4 year expat posting, the first eight evening meals I had were in non-Japanese restaurants - American, Italian, German, British, Korean, Chinese, Indian and Mexican. In Roppongi, Tokyo there are many excellent "foreign" restaurants. Once I developed local friends and found where my Japanese coworkers ate I discovered all the foods mentioned in the article above. Some of my favorites in addition to those listed in the article are yakitori, tempura and pork bowl restaurants in Tokyo; Crab and Seafood restaurants in Tokyo and Sapporo and food at the many festivals allover Japan.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yeah the food's good but there's no need to get excited about it. As a foodie, all food is good. there's great Indian, Thai, Chinese and even yes, British cuisine. Miso soup is nice, so is white rice. But that's all. There's nothing 'magical' about miso soup or the overrated quality of Japanese white rice. After all, Thai and Indian strains of rice go just as well with their national dishes as white rice does with Japanese. There's no be-all-end-all in food.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

"I spent 8 years in Tokyo, don't know about the rest of Japan"

You missed a lot!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Taxis, yes! Taxi drivers, no! Super toilets, yes! Filthy, smelly public toilets, no! Recycling, yes! Incinerators in town centers, no!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Sitting on a warm toilet seat just isn't right

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

The customer service experience in Japan is good IF you follow the script. Try asking for something exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary or unforeseen, and you you will be met with little more than a sucking of teeth sound and much consternation. Ad hoc is not on.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I have heard that Japan does not recycle much. You separate it. You throw it out on the right day. But if it can burn, they just burn it anyway.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Agreed. All ten of these kick ass. Makes me miss Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I do not know a single person in america who leaves their shoes on while walking around the house. Is this limited to a specific state or something?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Michanne: watch more sitcoms/shows/documentaries....any type of media really? Its a common thing....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Who puts cheese on Mac burgers? It's not even cheese.

So I always have to ask for no cheese on the QP, I've tried asking for some extra onions, no way, but no discount either. This really cracks me up.

Still, the customer service is great here unless you have a special request.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They make one of the best engineers in the world. Oh the conveniences. As for customer service, a lot of people say the customer service is good. I find it annoying as hell. They over do things. Servers are all bowing at my table, interrupting my conversation. Everytime they bring something to the table, its like they try to make you stop talking to acknowledge their service. They need to chill out. I sure as hell wouldn't tip anyone with those skills. I miss the waiters and waitresses in the states. they always gave me a sincere and friendly chat. They weren't trying to put any karate kiai's in their service. Oh, and why is it that if it is someone birthday, EVRYONE has to join in? I am trying to eat. Let that table celebrate!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

what they doing so perfect in japan? taking the seratonin away from people and making them perfect slaves

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Public daycare.

Japanese hoikuen employs all career-track staff with daycare teacher qualifications who engage with the children, nurture them, and are caring. They employ nutritionists who ensure healthy meals. The children help grow vegetables that are later served in lunches. Lots of song, dance, art, excursions, sports and other activities.

I can't give enough praise to the staff at the hoikuen my children attended many years ago.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

No. 11 - Anime

2 ( +2 / -0 )

ROBOTS!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No. 12 - trashy female fashion

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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