lifestyle

21 things people miss after leaving Japan

74 Comments
By Philip Kendall, RocketNews24

Sometimes, even when we love a place with every fibre of our being, we just can’t stay forever. Family anxiously awaiting our return; work commitments; financial constraints and more mean that, at some point or other, many of us have to wave goodbye to Japan and return to our respective homelands.

Some of the things people miss about Japan will be immediately obvious, but others tend to sink in only a few weeks or months after returning home. Today, we’re taking a look at 21 of the little things, in no particular order, that Japan does so uniquely or so incredibly well that foreigners really start to pine for them once they finally say sayonara and head home.

Pooling the responses from my fellow RocketNews24 writers and talking with a number of people who have recently moved back to their homeland after living in Japan for anything from six months to more than a decade, I came up with this list of things that people really start to miss after heading home.

Make the most of these things while you have them, folks, because you’re gonna miss them when you’re gone!

1. A set, non-weird, phrase for thanking your colleagues for their hard work

True, otsukaresama (お疲れ様 - “you’re tired”) is uttered millions of times each day across Japan regardless of whether the speaker truly believes that their coworker put in any real effort. But there are times when you just want to say, “Hey, guy, you worked hard today, buddy. I appreciate that, friend,” without feeling all weird and awkward about it. Otsukaresama lets you do just that in a way that no English phrase really could, and it’s a phrase that many returnees feel quite lost without.

2. Moist towels in restaurants and cafes

When you think about how dirty and germ-ridden your hands must be after wandering about town – holding onto escalator handrails, handling cash, clinging to overhead straps on trains and secretly picking your nose – sitting down to eat a sandwich or overpriced bagel at your favourite trendy cafe suddenly doesn’t seem so appealing. In Japan, though, at pretty much every restaurant, cafe, or Japanese-style pub, you’ll be provided with a moist towel (called oshibori) to wipe your hands with the moment you take your seat. Many returnees I spoke to about oshibori have bemoaned the lack of the hand-towels in their homelands, with some even taking to keeping packs of moist towelettes in their bag as a makeshift substitute.

3. No tipping, but getting first-class service anyway

Even when the staff are getting just 800-1,000 yen an hour, you can still expect to be treated like some kind of minor celebrity at restaurants in Japan. Honorific phrases, bows, dashing – actually dashing – to serve you if they see you waiting to pay, and rarely if ever is there a problem with your order. But arguably the best thing of all is that, despite this first-class service, you don’t have to tip a single yenny for it, because people just do their job – really, really well – without expecting anything extra from the customer.

Eating out in a country where tipping is either obligatory (how ya doin’, America?) or kind-of-expected-but-not-really-required (what’s up, Britain?) can be a huge shock to the system for returnees. Especially when you feel pressured to tip even when the service was really nothing special or – far worse in this writer’s opinion – so cloying that you feel like you’re being groomed for your cash the second you walk through the door.

4. Japanese (home) baths

“People go mad about Japan’s fancy toilets,” said one of my colleagues when asked what she’d miss about Japan if she were to leave, “but what about those amazing bathtubs that automatically fill up to a certain level, stay at a constant temperature and talk to you in another room to let you know when they’re ready? I LOVE those things!”

And she’s absolutely right. We gaijin do enjoy marvelling at Japan’s futuristic toilets, what with their water jets, heated seats and the sound of applause that plays each time a sizeable deuce is dropped (OK, maybe I made the last one up, but it’d be cool, no?), but more luxurious home bathtubs in Japan have just as many bells and whistles, and better yet they can be operated from the next room. Using a control panel (usually installed in the kitchen), bathers can decide when they want their bath to start filling itself up, the exact temperature the water should be, and for how long it should be maintained. You get to enjoy your evening – eating dinner, watching TV with a glass of wine, listening to music in a comfy chair while the cat incessantly kneads your lap/misters with its razor-sharp claws – and then, just as you start thinking it might be time to get yourself all cleaned up and into your jim-jams, your bath calls to you by playing a soft jingle, inviting you to take a deep, luxurious dip before bed. What a magical age we live in.

5. A greater feeling of personal safety

Crime does, of course, exist in Japan. But even so, few would deny that walking the streets at night or arriving in an unfamiliar Japanese town with little more than a backpack and a rough idea of where you might stay is, generally speaking, perfectly safe. Add to that the fact that lost property more often than not ends up being returned to its owner, and you can understand why so many foreigners start to miss that heightened sense of personal safety when they leave Japan.

6. The little money trays in shops

When you pay for something in a shop in Japan, you don’t place your cash directly in the cashier’s hand; you put it in on a little plastic tray. When you get your change, too, the coins are usually presented to you the same way so that you can check you’ve been given the right amount. The tiny rows of rubber nubs lining the base of the tray, incidentally, are designed to make it easy for you and the clerk to remove any coins placed in it.

This may all seem rather silly and unnecessary at first, but when you leave Japan after a lengthy stay and find yourself staring at the open, upturned palm of a cashier as they await your money, you’ll almost definitely find yourself thinking: “You want me to put it in your hand? What are you, a Dickensian fish monger?”

It’s the little things, isn’t it?

7. Clean, crisp money

Speaking of money, unless you’re returning to one of those countries that has switched to plastic notes, you’ll probably come to realise that the cash in your homeland is actually pretty gross. In my native UK, I’ve been handed five-pound notes that have been scrawled on with marker pen, are missing corners and are held together with a strip of tape, or look like they’ve been put through a spin cycle a few dozen times. Japan’s dogged loyalty to cash may be frustrating at times (why a country famous for its cutting-edge technology is yet to fully embrace debit cards is beyond me) but at least the money you use is almost always crisp, clean and entirely Sellotape-free.

8. Amazing independent cafes

Great cafes aren’t usually something that spring to mind when people think of Japan. This is supposed to be the land of green tea and sushi after all, not cheesecake and cups of joe. But the Japanese do cafes – and coffee in general for that matter – so well.

You will of course find the usual big-name coffee chains dotted around the country, but you’ll also encounter a staggering number of independently owned cafes in Japan, staffed by people who dedicate their every waking hour to brewing the finest cup of joe imaginable, and the cafes themselves are some of the most stylish, comfortable and relaxing shrines to caffeine that you’re ever likely to visit. Somehow a trip to Starbucks of Caffe Nero just does seem the same after a handful of visits to Japan’s independent coffee houses, and even the cooler, privately owned cafes you do find in your homeland just don’t feel as charming or tranquil as Japan’s somehow.

9. The obligatory “kanpai” before drinking

No matter if it’s a quick beer after work or a farewell party attended by dozens of people, in Japan no one drinks until everyone has a glass in their hand and it has been cordially clinked. Live in Japan for any length of time and this custom becomes so ingrained that you’ll find yourself kanpai-ing your goldfish before sipping on a cheeky beer at home rather than drink without saying a word. If you head down to the pub with a friend in your homeland and they dare to take a sip of their drink before yours has been poured, meanwhile, you’d be completely forgiven for wanting to slap the glass out of their hand and call them a degenerate.

10. The amazing postal service

Just like in the west, if for some reason a package cannot be delivered to your home in Japan, you’ll receive a card through the door telling you so. But rather than this turning into a three-day-long debacle requiring trips to the post office or waiting around the house for hours on end, getting your parcel re-delivered in Japan is effortlessly easy. Either by calling the automated phone line (or sometimes even the driver him or herself as they often write their mobile phone number directly on the card), you can book a specific slot for re-delivery, choosing any of the two-hour windows right up until around 10 or 11 at night in some parts of the country. Some postmen will try two or three times to deliver a package even if you haven’t had chance to call, and when you do book a slot your stuff always, always, comes on time. No sitting around from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. peering out of the window and hoping for the best; Japan’s postal workers make it their mission to get your parcel into your hands.

11. Paying for stuff at the door

Speaking of deliveries, Japan’s cash-on-delivery (代金引換 "daikin hikikae," or often just "daibiki") is not only common, it’s also super convenient, especially for us foreigners. Say, for example, you just ordered a new video game or the latest realistic love doll online, but you don’t want to use your credit card because you’ll be charged a fee for overseas use or would rather not have a certain company’s name appear on your monthly statement. Well, if you choose the COD option, for a small fee (usually just a couple of hundred yen), you can book a delivery slot and pay the courier directly when he or she brings your new purchase to your door. Yup, online shopping just got even lazier.

12. The food

I mean, come on; Japanese food is amazing. Even if you live in a city where there are plenty of Japanese restaurants, rarely will you get the same level of quality for the same price, and places that you used to love before visiting Japan will – all pretension aside – probably come to feel decidedly sub-par after returning. I promise you: after leaving Japan, one of the first things you’ll dearly miss is the food.

13. Complimentary glasses of water everywhere

Just as you’ll get an oshibori hand-towel the second your bottom makes contact with your chair in a cafe or restaurant, so too will you be served a small glass of water. Even in establishments that would stand to make more money by pushing their coffee, booze or soft drinks, you’ll still be presented with a free cup of H20 when you sit down; it’s just part of that famous Japanese hospitality, and something you’ll really start to miss when your waiter looks down their nose at you for stressing the word “tap” when asking for water in restaurants back home.

14. Everyone making a big deal of the seasons

“Japan has four seasons, you know.” I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told this by Japanese people. “Yeah, we have four seasons in the UK too,” I would reply to begin with, but after few years I started to understand why the changing of the seasons means so much to the Japanese people: because pretty much everything changes with them. The food; the festivals; the fashions; you name it, you can see distinct trends and changes in Japan along with the changes in the weather and surrounding flora. And while my native land does indeed have four seasons to be proud of, Japan’s seasons really are just so astoundingly distinct and beautiful in their own ways that it’s hard not to fall in love with every one of them – yes, even the mercilessly humid summers and toothpaste-going-hard-because-it’s-so-cold winters.

15. “Zakka” shops

I never imaged myself falling in love with something like zakka (literally meaning “miscellaneous goods”) shops, but I must have visited hundreds of them during my eight years in Japan. From coffee cups to sofas to spoons twisted in some weird way that makes them impossible to eat with but look effortlessly cool on your coffee table, you’ll rarely need any of the stuff on sale in these Aladdin’s caves of crafts and homeware, but you’ll almost always come out with something. Those dextrous Japanese really do trinkets and crafts exceptionally well, and there’s something so charming about their take on Western designs that its hard not to miss these myriad stores after leaving the country.

16. Toilets and bathrooms being in separate rooms

Smaller apartments with “unit bath” bathrooms (a sort of plastic cube with fitted bathtub/overhead shower, sink and toilet) are, admittedly, quite common in urban Japan, but for the most part the Japanese bathe and do their business in totally different rooms of the house. Which makes perfect sense if you ask us – after all, why would you want to get clean barely a couple of feet away from the place you made number twos just a couple of hours earlier?

17. Decent food at the convenience store

Few convenience stores in the west offer much in the way of nutritious snacks and meals. In my native UK, you’re mostly faced with rows of sad-looking sandwiches, questionable sausage rolls, crisps (chips to the rest of you), chocolate bars and sugary drinks, all offered as part of “meal deals”. (Spoiler: crisps and coke do not a meal make.)

Japan’s convenience stores, though, don’t mess around when it comes to food. Yes, you can find a huge variety of junk to thrust into your hungry face-hole, but you’ll also find freshly made snacks and whole meals containing rice, meat, noodles and wholesome vegetables – all day, every day. A combini bento lunch may never truly compare to a proper, home-made meal, but it’s not a bad second choice, and rarely do you have to feel especially guilty after eating it.

18. Sitting under a kotatsu

Nothing – I’ll say that again, nothing – compares to the feeling of sitting at one of these wonderful heated duvet-fitted tables in the middle of winter. More luxuriant than a lengthy Sunday morning sofa session, yet vastly more comfortable and practical than even the sturdiest blanket fort, and it comes with a place to put your TV remote, snacks, drinks, laptop, smartphone, comics, book, whatever. Kotatsu, dear reader, are simply amazeballs. I know that’s a ridiculous word, but it’s the only one that comes even remotely close to conveying how great these things are.

19. Onigiri

Yes, we’ve covered Japanese food, and yes, these are essentially just balls of rice with a little bit of something in the middle, but they deserve a special mention nevertheless.

Onigiri, even the machine-made ones you can buy at convenience stores, are super tasty and wonderfully satisfying. They’re cheap, they’re filling, you can eat them morning, noon or night, and they’re tough enough to withstand being thrown in the bottom of a bag without turning completely to mush. “But what of sandwiches, Sir Philip?” you might say in an attempt to find a Western equivalent while sounding like an insubordinate servant girl from the past. But sandwiches simply don’t have the same wholesome, comfort-food feel that onigiri offer, and they’re nowhere near as simple.

20. Shoes off in the house

One of the worst things for anyone who has returned to their homeland but sticks to the Japanese practice of removing their footwear before coming indoors is when someone visits their home and walks in wearing their dirty old shoes or trainers. It’s a moment of terrible awkwardness that few will understand: friend or not, their footwear in your home might as well be a molting, mud-splattered labrador bounding across the couches and rolling around on the rug. Yet you don’t want to come across as uptight or “that guy who won’t let the Japan thing go” by asking them to leave their footwear at the door. Worse still is when repairmen visit your home and you find yourself staring at their boots while wondering whether it would be crossing a line to ask a perfect stranger to take their shoes off before entering your beautiful, unsullied abode.

But seriously, guys, outdoor shoes in the house is really, really gross. Let’s stop that madness right now.

21. And finally… The “time to go home, kids” jingle

Known as “iriai no kane” (入り相の鐘) after the bells that were once rung at temples as the sun began to set each day, many towns and villages in Japan use their old public address systems to play a short jingle early each evening as a way of telling the local kids that it’s time to head home. (It’s also, purportedly, a way of testing the speaker system so that it can be used in times of emergency.) Where I used to live, a wobbly, elevator music-style version of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” used to play at 5:30 p.m. (or half an hour earlier in the winter) every single day, until it was suddenly and inexplicably replaced by the annoyingly catchy “It’s a Small World” a couple of years later. Kind of like a town clock but groovier, "iriai no kane" are the kind of endearing little pieces of Japan that many foreigners miss after returning home. That it, of course, unless the town or village that they used to live in also played their selected jingle at 6 a.m.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- The top 10 instances when Japanese people feel thankful to be Japanese -- 10 handy products – The best 1,000 yen you can spend at the 100 yen store -- Saitama cafe offers outdoor baths, books, beer, massages, hammocks, and no reason to leave

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74 Comments
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I feel like we had this issue just a few weeks ago. This may seem odd because Japan has a huge amount of totally unnecessary noise. But what I really miss is the fact that Japanese never repair their houses nor work in their gardens so there is not the constant noise of power tools, lawnmowers and hammers in quite neighborhoods.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Wow, what a massive and comprehensive list! I have nothing more to add.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

But kotatsu? There is just something so bleak and pathetic about the device. I always felt like, "God, how have I come to this?"

16 ( +23 / -7 )

I would add "takyubin," convenience stores, vending machines and warm toilet seats to the list.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Uh... is getting complimentary water not common everywhere else?

10 ( +16 / -6 )

That's a pretty good list. But being a UK male myself I'm surprised you didn't add missing the beautiful Japanese women you see every day. And I'd add that drunk Japanese people are not a threat to others (generally). Maybe chuck in trains being on time - Brits will know what I mean.

14 ( +17 / -4 )

Jonathan, in areas of the U.S. that are suffering from drought, you don't get complimentary water.

This is a great list! I didn't know about the iriai no kane. Learn something new everyday!

1 ( +8 / -7 )

For jaded cynics such as myself, it's nice to start the day with some positive comments about how nice life is here.

16 ( +16 / -1 )

I m gonna miss 'train commuting' in Japan as its good to see people stand in a row and wait for people to first get down and they enter and that too in a manner. I cant see that in any country. People just rush and don't even wait for passengers to get down of the train and try to enter.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

I have some things to add. Cheap secondhand cars in fantastic condition, absolutely amazing nature, cheap 5 year warranties on electrical items, lots of pretty girls to look at on the street and mmmmm on the net. Yeah!!!

9 ( +11 / -2 )

What really struck me going back home (and helped me decide to come back),

The complete lack of culture and interest in history.

For all those gaijin who go on about how everyone dresses the same here, "Casual Friday fashion". Yes, even when free to dress as one likes, "Casual Friday fashion". Plus guess what? Business people there also wear suits and ties, and the commuters are just as grumpy (Hey, going to work is not going to make most people happy, right?)

The overpriced, tasteless food (and I'm not even a foodie), that restaurants try to compensate for by serving 2-3 times the volume that any non-bribe taking doctor would recommend not to become obese. This might explain why 2/3 of the population looks like a hippo and has difficulty climbing on / getting off a bus.

The joggers / cyclists / gym goers here don't talk about themselves as much here.

How exceedingly hard it is to buy reasonably priced clothes you are not embarrassed to wear outside and fits you. Which is why one of the first stops on a trip back here was Uniqlo. No matter that the seasons were 6 months apart, I'd buy stuff anyway.

The television shows are getting better here. The television shows are getting better back home too if you think reality TV is the apex of human contribution to the universe.

It's true housing here is not cheap, but I'd prefer something "cosy" and convenient, over the "designer" houses that the lemmings back home can't afford, yet still drool over.

The attitudes of station staff and bus drivers (ferry crew are cool) and how tired the public transport is.

The "convenience stores" do not compare. And they're not convenient either.

Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but it clicked real quick going back home, that Japan has a lot going for it.

Should I add short skirts and boots?

-9 ( +14 / -22 )

yea...i totally agree..... still missing my days in Japan...

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I agree with most of the list, I'd add the obligatory "Irasshaimase!" when walking into a Lawson or some other chain store. You really get used to that! Every employee would chime off and even though it was not really heartfelt I still always enjoyed it in spite of myself. Irasshaimase, Irasshaimasssssse, 'mase, IRAsshaimase...

People take their shoes off in a lot of countries. We do in Canada, although maybe not everybody. Makes sense though due to Winter, Post-Winter, Half-Way-To-Winter, and Almost-Winter. Mud, rain, snow, why would you keep your shoes on?

14 on 4 seasons is weird. It's like Japan insisting that other countries don't exist. Forget about axial tilt. It doesn't matter what you say back. I've had to train myself to not respond to it

13 complimentary water is common.

5 only relevant to Americans AFAIK

Probably good to filter list on Unique items. Other quibbles here and there. Overall lots of good times in Japan and a pretty good list.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

14 on 4 seasons is weird.

I've heard more foreigners mention Japan has 4 seasons than the locals. In fact, I can't recall anyone Japanese ever bring it up in conversation during the 20 years I've lived here.

-28 ( +5 / -33 )

Won't miss most of those when I leave. Numbers two and five, possibly.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Bidets!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yes, I definitely miss the toilets. And the vending machines that are everywhere. And the cleanliness. Nothing made me sadder than coming back to America and seeing all this trash EVERYWHERE.

8 ( +7 / -0 )

Cheap car insurance

omiyage from people

second hand shops/flea markets selling cheap, unused stuff

clean highway service areas

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The writer is easily pleased.

-4 ( +10 / -14 )

How about service stations, where there is a real service, changing the ashtrays, garbage, wiping the windows, you don't even have to get out of the car, and they assist you in merging back into the traffic. When I went back to Australia recently I filled up, then I had to line up for about 5 minutes obviously after filling up myself, whilst the people in front of me were not only paying for the gas ,but also food too..Yes Japan is the land of the convenient and customer..

9 ( +10 / -2 )

Onsens, tachi-nomi, fuzoku, yaki-imo trucks, kids calling out "ohayo" in the morning on their way to school, the countryside and quaint small villages, swerving around snakes while cycling on tanbo-michi, idobatakaigi, one cup sake, keep-bottles at izakaya and snacks, beautiful ladies on the streets. Just to name a few more.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The writer is easily pleased.

Apparently you're not.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

@Reformed,

Apparently so :-)

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Escalator etiquette.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The writer is easily pleased.

the most outstanding comment of the day (so far) !

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

GREAT list they almost nailed it.... BUT:

Japanese (home) baths -WHAT! No way! Unless you want to be folded into a preztle in order to fit in their square TINY bathtubs. “Zakka” shops - yeah those get old REALLY fast. Sitting under a kotatsu - yeah... I would take ACTUALLY using the AC and heater at appropriate times when needed. kotasu should not even really exist anymore, for the most part they are relics left over from a long time ago. I would rather turn on my heater over in the corner, sit back in my recliner and enjoy my TV and PC the same way I do everyday year round.
-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Not sure about some of those but I would add 'being able to cycle on the pavement without pissing people off'

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"Cheap car insurance"- Let me tell you. I know from experience in Japan - you get what you pay for. Japanese car insurance is great until you need it.

-5 ( +1 / -7 )

Really good list, I agree with most of them!

The little money trays in shops

They have them in Osaka, but they seem to prefer to put it directly into your hands. Friendlier, perhaps?

(why a country famous for its cutting-edge technology is yet to fully embrace debit cards is beyond me)

Seriously, this. But at the few places where you could use a debit card, you would still need to wait for them to give you the slip of paper to sign for them to stash away. How inefficient! Just use the electronic signature panels!

The amazing postal service

Coming from America, I find this the MOST inconvenient! Sometimes, they just need to deliver a card or small object, and even though I tell them that it's OK to stick it through the mail slot they insist on delivering it to me in person. Instead, I have to call the number on the slip of paper they left behind, waste more time telling them the delivery number, then wait for them at an appointed time to receive the item. Not only is it inconvenient for me, I feel that it's inconvenient for the postman since someone would have to make at least two trips to the same address. Just leave it at the door! Japan is safe, so theft should not be a problem!

Onigiri

While I like onigiri, I feel that it's one of the few items that have a huge profit margin! I might as well make it at home!

Shoes off in the house. But seriously, guys, outdoor shoes in the house is really, really gross. Let’s stop that madness right now.

I couldn't agree more.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I am not going anywhere. I do wish they would change the order though of how you buy goods here. Please let me pay first and get my change. Then bag it and hand it to me followed by the receipt. That is convenient and no need to juggle things.

Other stuff here is totally cool. I love the place.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Some of these I disagree with, but most I think I would miss either immediately or given time. Would definitely miss the Japanese bathtubs (not so much the toilets, but maybe a little), the convenience store selection (not so much the 'amazing food' there), the non-tipping, the oshibori, and numorous other things mentioned. I wouldn't mention the four seasons being mentioned -- and despite ReformedBasher not hearing it, I hear it very often, and I if asked I will say Canada also has four seasons. There are other things I would miss more than these, probably, like the ease at getting places without the need for a car (granted, not in rural parts of Japan, but still), and the efficiency of the methods for doing so.

Anyway, I hope there are things anyone misses when they leave a place they have resided in, regardless of where it was, because it means they will take that back with them and in some way apply it to the new (or old) culture they have decided to live in. It's part of the beauty, and bitter-sweetness, of living or experiencing somewhere else.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Uguisu Mejiro Tsutaya Dekopon
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tipping isn't expected everywhere outside Japan ya know. It certainly isn't expected in New Zealand and customer service there is generally a lot more personable than what you get in Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The things I miss most about Japan are definitely the amazing local food and the fantastic service. Also, everything is so clean. It's hard to find a dirty public restroom over there. The T.V. shows and commercials are definitely ten times more entertaining in Japan as well, they're just so weird! When I come back to America, I can't watch normal television because its just not as exciting or hilarious. This list is pretty spot on except for the last one, which maybe I've just never noticed but I don't remember ever hearing a "go home kids" jingle at the end of the day, and I lived and went to school there every summer. Maybe its just in certain prefectures? Anyways thanks for the list, now I'm even more excited to be returning to Japan in a week!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Living in Odata, Akita Prefecture they blast a siren at 6.00 and 21.00 everyday. That I will not miss. I know that I would desperately miss my local onsen, the convenience stores, the 100 yen sorry 108 yen shops, butter ,milk , cheese made in Hokkaido and Willson Ginger ale (Spicy Mouth) along with other Japanese foods. I just love the pre- fab bathroom with TV and other mod con, which can be purchase at a home-funniture stores. So easy to maintain and to keep clean of mould, Not to worry about how much water I am using. Baseball and my visit to my local Jinja. But I have to tip the Eneos staff each time I fill up.Those worker who fill your car and wipe down your car in the middle of winter and the heat of the summer. They so do deserve a Tip.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I would replace #5 (not so much any more) with takyubin service. Fantastic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Leigh Ivan Quintellio WightonMay. 22, 2015 - 02:50PM JST Tipping isn't expected everywhere outside Japan ya know. It certainly isn't expected in New Zealand and customer service there is generally a lot more personable than what you get in Japan.

Tipping point is true but the customer service point is arguable I find. The effort that staff go to in Japan to make someone happy is much greater in my experience.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some Japanese shows are entertaining, but I can't think of a single one that I would miss, and to say that "Japanese TV is better" is simply not correct, not even by opinion. Your average cable package in Canada, which you can get for roughly the same cost as NHK (which they demand here on top of any specialty channels) or a single specialty channel, or just about the same as a cable connection here (minus NHK fees), has HEAPS more channels, and all sorts of channels that focus solely on one thing: The weather channel, cooking channel, comedy channel, sci-fi channel, interior decorating channel... you name it! And the programming from Europe and North America is LORDS above anything Japan produces, with most stars from Hollywood or elsewhere nowadays going back to TV programming, and less and less people going to the theaters to watch movies. There is no way you can possibly compare ANY show here to Wolf Hall, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Sherlock, and heaps of other shows from a dozen genres that I could spend an hour or more listing. Not one show holds a candle to them. Granted, there is also a LOT of garbage like the reality shows, and many new shows that try to copy the success of shows that have recently ended their series', but still. Some shows are even recruiting Japanese actors once in a while and they make HUGE waves in the rental shops (or at least are advertised a lot) here.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

very good article. hope you can add a picture of each item if possible

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just wish I could stay !!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most of these are good. Will disagree with a few:

Before coming to Japan, I never longed for a non-awkward set phrase to thank my co-workers for their hard work. After I leave, I'm sure I won't either.

The bath technology is nice. Sitting with my knees touching my chin is not. Longer bathtubs, please.

The obligatory kampai: Nothing worse than half the group sitting quietly, staring downward at their drink while the other half patiently wait for the waitress to come back and serve them theirs. Toasting is nice. Making it absolutely obligatory is not.

Contrary to what someone mentioned above, I've heard PLENTY of Japanese people going on about their 4 seasons.... and many were more than surprised to hear that other places do too! Wow!!! Zzz. Japan's distinct seasons are nice. What I'm not going to miss is people talking about them as if it's a distinctly Japanese thing.
1 ( +7 / -6 )

I dearly love Iriai no Kane.

There is just something beautiful about marking the transition from day to night with a sweet little jingle telling good boys and girls to head inside for the day.

It's magic.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Being able to buy booze from the shops 24 hours a day would top my list actually. The licensing laws back home are complete rubbish.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Moonraker: But kotatsu? There is just something so bleak and pathetic about the device. I always felt like, "God, how have I come to this?"

Stifling my laughter in a quiet office....my favorite comment of the day

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I like everything Japanese... except one thing... Wasabi..it makes me cry every single time i eat it.. there is just no getting used to Wasabi...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The writer is easily pleased.

The writer is a happy person! He pretty much sums up most of the things I like about living in Japan :-)

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Leigh Ivan Quintellio Wighton. NO wrong, Kiwi,s have short arms and long pockets. That why they do not tip. And where in NZ can you get any kind service. Certainly not like the great Japanese service and you don,t have to converse with the nosy person try to find out which class you belong to. IN Japan the customer service treat all customers with great service.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I would add (because I really miss this): the bike culture. How convenient and inexpensive it is to buy a used bike (particularly an old dutchie style and in really good condition). With a little basket and bell. Anywhere you go, people will move aside for you when you "ring, ring"!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The food

Carbs-on-carbs with a lot of salt is the reason I tend to cook at home more often than not... Even after more than a decade here, I have no idea how the average Japanese person isn't constipated all of the time (or maybe they are?)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

John-san, I agree. Japanese servers are almost all of a good standard, but it's pretty impersonal and robotic. I have no complaints about it. I also mentioned that I think NZ customer service is generally more personal. Your mileage may vary but I can usually exchange in some light banter in shops in NZ. Very rarely do I experience that here though. I'm puzzled that you find NZ servers nosy and are trying to judge what class you belong to though. I've never experienced this. You weren't in Christchurch by any chance, were you?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have a list of one -- okomomiyaki. Everything else on the list is debatable and often only present because of compromises needed by Japanese society/culture. Like toilets and bathrooms being in separate rooms. Thanks, but I'll take one nice, big, spa-like, heated room anytime. (Maybe why Japanese folks love the bathrooms in U.S. hotels when they travel.) Or, those change trays. If the 100 yen and 500 yen denomination were not coins, they simply wouldn't need them. Or, everyone talking about the seasons. Never heard too many people in Tokyo bragging about rainy season or the meserably hot -- and getting hotter -- and humid summers. Reminisce about, yes. Miss, no.

-4 ( +3 / -8 )

I've heard more foreigners mention Japan has 4 seasons than the locals. In fact, I can't recall anyone Japanese ever bring it up in conversation during the 20 years I've lived here.

The article dealt with what foreigners miss about Japan. With regards to Americans, the majority of visitors to Japan are probably going to be from California or Hawaii. Hawaii only has two seasons - dry and rainy - with a temperature difference of only about 10°F between the two. Northern California gets to see all four seasons, but San Diego averages 55°F in the Winter. You could argue that San Diego only gets three seasons - Spring, Summer, and Fall.

3 ( +2 / -0 )

The feeling of peace at the shrines or temples.

At least for my experience

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What else did I miss in my time away?

The myth that Japanese people are the world's most polite (to the point of tolerating noisy bosozoku) and ethical (despite tolerating yakuza and anticompetitive practices) beings.

Sure, that American, African or Arab guy might seem brusque, but he won't look the other way if you're in trouble.

For all the "etiquette" window dressing on public transport, I was dismayed to have to intervene last night when someone was slapping his girlfriend in the train corridor.

I certainly didn't miss the misogyny, or the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil monkeys.

Just sayin'

0 ( +5 / -4 )

frank07 wrote on May. 22, 2015 - 01:18PM JST

But at the few places where you could use a debit card, you would still need to wait for them to give you the slip of paper to sign for them to stash away. How inefficient! Just use the electronic signature panels!

Few places? They are accepted almost everywhere!! You can use it at any store that accepts credit cards, which means supermarkets, convenience stores, drugstores, the vast majority of restaurants...

The only places I had to actually sign a paper was at some shopping mall stores. Everywhere else it wasn't necessary.

...Sometimes, they just need to deliver a card or small object, and even though I tell them that it's OK to stick it through the mail slot they insist on delivering it to me in person. Instead, I have to call the number on the slip of paper they left behind, waste more time telling them the delivery number, then wait for them at an appointed time to receive the item. Not only is it inconvenient for me, I feel that it's inconvenient for the postman since someone would have to make at least two trips to the same address. Just leave it at the door! Japan is safe, so theft should not be a problem!

That only happens when the stuff they have to deliver is tagged as "important". If the sender tagged it as such, they can't treat it as a normal deliver. They are only doing their good job, and it's better to be safe than sorry...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As I have left, I miss the most beside friends : ONE : Beautiful sceneries, incredible nature, bright sunlight. They tried to grow sakura locally but they are ugly with green moss on branches and flowers that blossom after the leaves, climate is too different. TWO : efficient transportations (I spend 3-4 hours a day stuck in late trains or jumbo traffic jams, you never know when you will arrive and the further from big cities, the worse). THREE : Having it all at reach, like being able to live in quiet and relatively green urban place, with mountain/woods/beach at reach within 1 hour, and still being in a vibrant 24/24 community and business center. Osaka shitamachi life had a great balance. Now I have to choose between noise+smoke+smell+life in city center and houses in the green that are far away and in totally 'dead' villages without any community life (everything closed at 7 pm).

“Zakka” shops The food

YES. Kuidarore and shopping in Japanese cities.... That's never so crazy and fun elsewhere. Choice and quality of supply is unmatched.

The amazing postal service Paying for stuff at the door

Yes, that kind of reliable services, Rakuten same day deliveries , etc... For the rest... well, that's really subjective.

A greater feeling of personal safety

I'm not nihonjin so I have no experience of being panicked just because I am in gaikoku. As a foreign woman, I was more a target of street harassment in Japan than elsewhere.

Clean, crisp money the cash in your homeland is actually pretty gross.

??? Money is not dirtier elsewhere, in most countries, we get new or seemingly new banknotes from ATMs all the time. I was glad to be able to stop carrying cash and going around with only my credit card. Ok in Japan at the end I used cash cards a lot.

The obligatory “kanpai” before drinking The little money trays in shops Complimentary glasses of water everywhere Everyone making a big deal of the seasons Shoes off in the house Etc.

You think it is all special to Japan ? It's not everywhere but many things are in most modern urban places on the planet.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I just miss the people, especially the children who raise the peace sign and then rub their chins to make an impression about my goatee. It's depressing, leaving Japan, and I suffer it every year. And like I say to my family in Sendai, 'mata kimas!'

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How can they miss the public transit? I miss being able to plan every ride/transfer right down to the minute.

The subways here can't even stop in the same place each time. Let alone arrive at the same time.

5 ( +4 / -0 )

There is a lot of shop in Japan without the money trays- for instance seven eleven combinis. Pies and real chips do make a decent meal that tarako can't. There are meaningless greetings in English. Have a good day. Thank you for your work. You can say a lot of meaningless stuff if you want- mindless Japanese speak is so packed into the language.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I just miss japan itself not any one thing but japan as a whole. Of course there are things I would rather leave behind but they are far outweighed by the good things for me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

vallum: "Few places? They are accepted almost everywhere!! You can use it at any store that accepts credit cards, which means supermarkets, convenience stores, drugstores, the vast majority of restaurants..."

Wrong. They are still accepted almost NOWHERE, and it's only recently that MOST ATMS will accept ALL Japanese bank cards (most still won't accept foreign cards; only 7-11 does). Major shops will sometimes have a debit card payment system that deducts directly from your bank account, but most do not. As for credit cards, it's also only recently you can use ONE visa card at most shops. Until recently many companies had their won visa card (ex. you could only use an Izumiya Visa to shop at Izumiya or buy at the shops in their department store complexes. Or you could only use a Skywalker Visa card to reserve and pay for a ticket at HIS travel, etc.). That's one reason why Japan is nicknamed "Ka-do shakai", because any one person may have 10 or so VISA cards because you can never pay with just one.

"The only places I had to actually sign a paper was at some shopping mall stores. Everywhere else it wasn't necessary."

That's not a good thing. My wife uses my credit card, and they never check the name or ask her to sign, and while it's fine because it's my wife, it shows how easily someone could steal a card and use it with no verification required, and there's no way she looks like my name. I'm more impressed when a place asks me to sign, and DOUBLY impressed if they check my signature on the back of the card while I do it, than I feel convenience that they do not.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I appreciate most of the items on the list, but I won't miss them. Miss is a bit too strong for me. What I'll miss are those precious moments I experienced, the feelings I felt when at a place or with people.

The crispness of money? A kotatsu? The money tray? They're just things, man. If you're thinking about that on your plane ride home over more substantial memories then I don't think you know what missing something is really like.

And this list is completely subjective but talks as if the listed items are fact. There are money countries where four seasons are celebrated and have festivals, or say cheers before drinking or a prayer before a meal, or have amazing shops and cafes. These things aren't unique to Japan, so I can't say I'll miss them.

What I will miss, something that can only happen in Japan, that view from Mount Fuji, when the clouds broke just long enough for the sun to shine through and for all of us up there to witness it, an awe inspiring sight.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As for credit cards, it's also only recently you can use ONE visa card at most shops.

What do you mean by 'recently'? I've used just the one (bank-issued) Visa card for the past 35 years, no problems. No shop has ever refused it for being the 'wrong' Visa card.

Recently (the past 5-10 years or so?) individual shops have started issuing their own 'in-house' cards that are basically point/discount cards with a credit-card function. For example if you shop at Aeon, if you want to take advantage of their 'customer kansha day' discount, you show your Aeon card and either pay with the card or pay cash: on a day when no discounts are available, you can use your usual Visa card and no one bats an eyelid. You can use the usual card on a discount day too, of course, but you get no discount.

Aeon and Yamaya (same card company) are the only places I've never been asked to either sign or key-in a password.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Only times I have seen overseas cards refused because the weren't International ones.

Most local cards are a no-hassle issue.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Never feeling the need to count my change

No honking and always courteous drivers.

A car dealership where we have been treated extremely well through 15 years, with zero complaints

National health insurance

Very little graffiti & of course zero gang tagging

Super efficient package delivery

No potholes

Elevators in the trains & subways

Just-right portions in restaurants -- no bloat at the end, or guilt

Dog owners who (mostly) do doody duty
2 ( +3 / -1 )

There are so many things I would add to this list! I've been back in America for a year now, but I miss Japan every single day. My favs- Onsens! Matsuri! ¥100 shops! Taxi doors that open for you! 24/7 alcohol availability! Amazing shrines and temples! Mountains! (I'm from Florida, where it is flat flat flat) The people! (Kansai people are so nice and wonderful!) The shopping! Chu-hi! Hanami! (How is that not on the list????) Love hotels! Capsule hotels! Vending machines! I could go on and on!!!! I miss Japan so much!!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Here's what people miss the most when they leave Japan: their superb passenger railway system. Especially around Tokyo, Nagoya and the Keihanshin region, trains are very reliable with frequent, punctual service. Mind you, people don't miss the overcrowding of a number of commuter rail lines in the Tokyo area (though a number of changes, like the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line with through service from the Seibu Shinjuku Line, Tobu Tojo Line, and Tokyu Toyoko LIne and the new JR East Ueno-Tokyo Line connector, has reduced the overcrowding on many lines in the past few years).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

smithinjapanMay. 23, 2015 - 04:22PM JST

Major shops will sometimes have a debit card payment system that deducts directly from your bank account, but most do not. As for credit cards, it's also only recently you can use ONE visa card at most shops. Until recently many companies had their won visa card (ex. you could only use an Izumiya Visa to shop at Izumiya or buy at the shops in their department store complexes. Or you could only use a Skywalker Visa card to reserve and pay for a ticket at HIS travel, etc.). That's one reason why Japan is nicknamed "Ka-do shakai", because any one person may have 10 or so VISA cards because you can never pay with just one.

Well, that's exactly how a debit card works: it deducts directly and almost instantly from your bank account. If your debit or credit card is VISA, JBC or Mastercard branded it is accepted everywhere, it doesn't matter if it's from AEON, Rakuten or whatever store else. I think "ka-do shakai" actually refer to "point cards", no? A user above (cleo) have already explained it better.

"The only places I had to actually sign a paper was at some shopping mall stores. Everywhere else it wasn't necessary."

That's not a good thing. My wife uses my credit card, and they never check the name or ask her to sign, and while it's fine because it's my wife, it shows how easily someone could steal a card and use it with no verification required, and there's no way she looks like my name. I'm more impressed when a place asks me to sign, and DOUBLY impressed if they check my signature on the back of the card while I do it, than I feel convenience that they do not.

I can't say about other companies, but Rakuten Bank always send me an e-mail to tell me money has been deducted from my account. If it has some discrepancy, I can always fill a form to alert them. But I have to agree with you, it would be safer it the shop clerk actually checked the signature.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Very true the article!! Feel good,Absolute pleasure and wonderful exposure; Nihon daisuki desu...Love alwayzzzz

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Seems to me this person has only been to the UK europe is more than just Germany France and England.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Digging and cooking bamboo. Working in the fields and mountains. Getting in the wood-burning ofuro, then under the old kotatsu that burns charcoal, drinking atsukan and beer and eating fresh sashimi caught that day, listening to the cats fighting outside and growling at each other . . . Smoking a cigarette and taking a piss outside in the moonlight. Having whole days to do nothing at all . . .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I love onigiri, the combini food selection, the free water, the kindness of people, the postal service... BUT I gotta stop you right there kboychuk! I like almost everything about japan. There are only two things which go on the 'other' list. And leading the way by a huge margin, is the bike culture. This is a massive weak point. In a country where you have to follow rules on everything you do including walking up and down stairs, and having such an astounding population, I cannot believe the ridiculousness of the bike culture here. Japan is often considered not only a "1st world country" but The First World country. But you look at the bike culture and its like a piece of pre world war one culture they can't bear to lose or something. 95% of the time, japanese are very considerate, but put them on a bike and shit hits the fan. I ride my bike 1 hour each way to get to work, and several times each way, a japanese biker expects me to veer out of the way into traffic not knowing what's behind and yield to them going the wrong direction! Moms with 2 kids on the bike using their cellphone or holding an umbrella turning blind corners into roads with no sidewalks.... this is one of japan's biggest weak points!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You miss the historical aspects. The mix of pre war and post. You miss the musical aspects around the bus/trains. Yes food is amazing but you neglect the huge diferrences. The air, the buildings the people moving to and fro. The history meets the modern. Its different and indescribable. Its slipping away and were looking for that anchor to hold us in place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good list but I must reamrk on your "take" on tipping in restaurants in the US...It is not "Extra Money" it is how servers (and the ENTIRE support staff, bartenders, bussers, and sometimes other employees as well) make ANY money at all. Servers in the us make below minumum wage...around $4.25/hr which after taxes = ZERO,

The tip is how they make money. If the restaurant (an some are changing over to this) declared a "No Tipping" policy it would mean not ony that they incresed (significantly) the employees wages but would also therefore have to increase the menu prices as well.

When you tip 20% (which you should always do no matter what unless something is really amiss, then ask for a manager and things will be put right if you are in a respectable place) that does NOT all go that server. The server, out of his/her tips then has to "TIP OUT" their support staff, which includes at the least: bartender and busser, but sometimes more. Sooo..say your bill is $100. You tip $20. Ok That server must give around 40-50% out to support. SO about $10 of that will go to the Bar and $5-$8 to busser and maybe a couple to the dishwasher or some other staff.

Many people do not realize any of this. You may not like it, but that is the system we have. But it's not some kind of situation where the servers are trying to get you to give them "Extra money". Hardly. ANd any place where the staff is over ingratiating is probably just doing what their managers are wnating them to do and so many restaurant goers expect that and want to feel "special"..a good server should be able to feel out the guest and sense how to approach them. There is an art to it. Or at least there can be.

Oh, and you forgot one:

22. No Idols. No Idol No Life.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

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