5 Things You Won't Find in Japan
Many travelers will be anxious about preparing themselves for visiting Japan. In tour guide books you can find tips on what Japan has to offer in comparison to your home country. But let me give you a little insight into what you will not find in Japan and how you can even benefit from it.
Pick it up! Photo by U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Soo C. Kim on yokota.af.mil.
1. Japan Does Not Have Public Trash Cans
This is something you need to anticipate when you come, especially when traveling. Japan is very clean and there is almost no littering. But as you arrive here and go about your journey, it might surprise you to find that there are no government provided trash cans in public places. How is Japan so clean then? Well, Japanese take their trash home with them or dispose of it at the nearest convenience store. This is a great habit that every citizen here follows. Even when trash is disregarded on the street or in the park, often times the locals pick it up and throw it away for the benefit of a clean community.
Talking About Trash: Quiet Garbage Trucks
The trash pickup is always announced! The trucks drive though the street, playing happy music and everyone knows their city’s melody and can hum along. In Okinawa the garbage trucks play Mozart’s “Für Elise.” The benefit: you never miss trash pick up!
2. Japan Does Not Carry Some of Your Favorite Foods
Here are some things you will have to manage without, when coming: First of all, beloved artichokes. I have never seen them sold here, nor is it a part of any Japanese recipe I have read. Quinoa is also very hard to find. What I also miss greatly, is licorice. Neither black nor red is available in Japan. Sorry, Europeans and Australians! Add Cheezits, beef jerky, ranch dressing, Kool-Aid and flavored coffee creamer to the list of foods that are usually impossible to get here.
3. Say Goodbye to Hearty Cheese!
Oh yes, I have to break it to you, dear reader: block cheese is quite rare and expensive in Japan. There are no cheese wheels, no cheese fondues, and no bleu cheese. It is not impossible however to find some types of cheese. Supermarkets carry sliced, processed and shredded cheese. Real cheese is rare and it might be due to the fact that many Japanese are lactose intolerant. The upside: the common maxim that Japanese live very healthy is quite true. Tofu, fish, cabbage, rice, chicken, vegetables are the staple meals. Eat like the Nihonjin and enjoy the health benefit of a low-fat diet!
4. Beware When Travelling… Japan’s Roads are Not Parallel
Especially when traveling in Japan this is something important to be aware of. Japan’s roads are not straight or parallel. They curve and turn and go into unexpected directions. It is easy to get lost or end up wasting time when you are not aware of where you are actually going. It's good to have your phone maps open and ready. The cool thing about it: exploring is so much more fun! Maybe you will discover a new coffee shop or a secret beach.
5. Japan's Different Restaurant Culture
Japan is known for their limited space, their narrow streets and small apartments. Naturally you will not find oversized meals, jumbo soda cups or huge platters of food here either. Use this to your advantage like the Japanese do: it's a natural portion control and lets you enjoy your meal. Quality, not quantity will make your trip to Japan memorable. You will also not be able to tip staff here in restaurants or hotels. Tips are not accepted by staff and if you leave it on the table, chances are, a concerned waiter is going to chase you down to return the money to you.
Visiting Japan is exciting and fun. Even if you don't know everything about how things run, enjoy it! Embrace the differences! You will soon fall in love with this culture!