Traveling Japan is a special experience. There is so much to see and do that it is almost impossible to take everything in, and while the neon lights of Tokyo at night or the majestic sight of Mount Fuji rising through the clouds becomes indelibly ingrained in the mind, it is the little details that surface when thinking back on your trip. For those lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time in Japan, these aspects of life may even become accepted as an everyday fact, but they never lose their uniqueness. Here are 4 unique things to notice when traveling Japan.
Beautifully Presented Food
You do not need to spend a lot of money to eat well in Japan, and there will be many times you order a meal in a small, local restaurant only to be presented with a beautiful dish like those above. For less than ¥1000 you can eat a meal you would expect to pay 2 or 3 times more for back home. More than price, however, is the presentation. A brief stop for a simple lunchtime snack can be an encounter with something beautiful.
A kotatsu is a low table under which is a futon, and under that is a heater. Once upon a time the heat was provided by charcoal, but today is provided by the much safer form of an electric heater. In winter these are the hub of the Japanese home, with the family gathering around to share the warmth.
You may find using one of these strange at first, as sitting on the floor with only the top half of your body exposed to the elements can take some getting used to, but should you find one in your room you will eventually discover the biggest problem is dragging yourself out of the warmth to go somewhere!
Tanuki Statues (and other crazy characters...)
The trickster tanuki, the Japanese raccoon-dog, has figured in Japanese folklore for thousands of years, and statues of him can be found all across the country. Known for his hat, his bottle of sake, and his overly large scrotum (enjoy spotting that!), he is thought to bring both luck and fortune to those he favors. Statues such as this, and a thousand other unique characters, turn up in the most unexpected places.
Famously, toilet seats in Japan are a technological marvel. They have buttons that control both the strength and angle of the bidet function, that allow you to adjust the temperature of the water, that clean themselves, and that even play the sounds of running water for the more nervous user!
It can be quite a surprise to sit yourself down on the heated toilet seat only to realize that the controls appear more suited to a small spaceship than a lavatory, but fortunately, the most important buttons are clearly labelled with explanatory symbols, as you can see here.
One important thing to realize, however, is that sometimes the one button that is missing is the flush. This is often a manual lever, just like western toilets, so don’t panic if you can’t find the correct symbol! Just look behind you.
There are a million more details such as these to encounter on your travels in Japan. Have you noticed any others?