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8 things I love about Japan

I recently had the opportunity to spend two weeks visiting Japan for the first time, and I don’t have to think twice about stating it’s the most fascinating country I’ve ever visited. Funnily enough, it was never one of my dream destinations. But for someone who has mostly travelled across western europe and the USA, my trip to Japan has been a real eye-opener. There is so much stuff I could write about, but I thought I’d start by pointing out some of the things I loved the most and that I believe make Japan such a great country.

1. Public transport

During my time in Japan, I got to use Tokyo’s underground, the bullet train (shinkansen) and various other forms of public transport in Hakone numerous times . Trains, including the underground, were incredibly clean and spacious, and always ran on time. Literally, for the whole of two weeks during which I was on the move I did not encounter a single problem, which is more than I can say for any other country I have ever been to. No delays, no unexpected changes, no disorderly passengers, no rubbish anywhere… Public transport in Japan equals perfection.

things to love Japan public transport
The Romancecar from Tokyo to Hakone

2. Hotels

With the exception of one ryokan, I always stayed in a standard double room at budget-friendly hotels, never spending more than 100£ a night. In every single room, I was provided with pyjamas, disposable toothbrush and toothpaste, a disposable razor blade and a door stopper among other things. Instead of little bottles of shitty shampoo, I’d also find normal size of really good shower gel, shampoo and conditioner (most times it was sephora no less).

These are the kind of little things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of, but that actually make the life of a traveller so much easier. How smart is it for a hotel room to provide a door stopper? It’s ironic that the only hotel rooms I’ve ever found it in, are in the safest country I’ve ever visited!

things to love Japan hotel treats
Some of the free treats I got in one of the hotels in Tokyo

3. Heated toilet seats

Another thing that puts Japan lightyears ahead of the rest of the world: toilets. Heated toilet seats are one of those things that you don’t know you need in your life until you’ve tried it. Once you have, there’s no going back! It’s not just the heated seats though. It’s the music, the sprinklers, and all the other features that come with it. I never thought I’d be saying this, but actually going to the toilet in Japan can be a whole attraction in itself!

things to love Japan heated toilet seats
One of the most simple versions of a Japanese toilet

4. Ramen

I arrived in Japan as a fussy eater, with food allergies, not speaking a word of japanese and by myself. I should also add that I had never eaten ramen before. My japanese food journey started by spending five days in Kanazawa eating nothing but rice and bananas. From there, I was welcomed at Kyoto station by a sign in English that read ‘ramen floor’. Maybe it was the desperation of wanting to eat something other than rice, but the first bowl of ramen I had on that ‘ramen floor’ is one of the best meals I’ve ever had while travelling. I think I would actually consider a trip to Japan simply to eat my body weight in ramen bowls for a couple of days. All I can think of now are all those ramen-less years of my life I will never get back…

things to love Japan ramen
My first ever bowl of ramen

5. Tokyo DisneySea

I had read many articles ranking Tokyo DisneySea as the best Disney park in the world. In fact I don’t think I had ever come across anyone that had visited Tokyo DisneySea and not come out making that statement. I was wondering what could possibly make it that awesome and whether it was true at all… but it didn’t take more than an hour or two inside DisneySea to agree. DisneySea is an amazing work of art and if Walt came back to life he’d be one proud man. The amount of innovation, creativity, detail and attention that has gone into that park is like nothing I have ever seen before.

things to love Japan Tokyo DisneySea
Part of the Mediterranean harbour at Tokyo DisneySea

6. Great cheap food

I believe that Japan tends to be considered an expensive country, from being compared to other really cheap countries in southeast Asia. However, coming from Europe I was amazed by how inexpensive a country it turned out to be! I think the most impressive thing of them all was the price of food. Remember the delicious ramen from Kyoto’s station I mentioned? I paid 550 yens for it (around 4€ or 4$). And that was not an exception. I don’t think I ever spent more than 15€/$ while eating out. I should also add that was not me trying to make an effort to eat cheap, those were the average prices I found wherever I went! Good luck finding good japanese food for that price somewhere like London or New York…

things to love Japan cheap food
A food cafe at Yanaka Ginza

7. Drink dispensing machines

My feelings about the drink dispensing machines are the same as those for the heated toilets. At first, I wondered why was there a need to have so many drinking machines everywhere (I genuinely don’t think you could walk more than 5 metres without finding one). Then I realised: you are out there exploring wherever it is you are exploring, you feel like having a drink and voilá! There’ll be a drink dispensing machine within eye sight to satisfy your need. Now, that is one smart move probably only the Japanese could pull off.

After coming back from Japan, we were wandering around London, and felt like having a drink… only to realise that we had to actively go and find somewhere to get one. Call me lazy, but that was one cruel realisation!

things to love Japan drink dispensing machines
Drink dispensing machines in Tokyo
things to love Japan drink from dispensing machine
My favourite drink from the dispensing machines

8. The people

The final point of the list is probably the most important one. The Japanese are, to put it simply, a wonderful bunch of humans. They have a sense of respect embedded in them that is not easy to find in other cultures. If you have a wander through one of London main stations at peak times, chances are you will be pushed around, you will get annoyed at somebody or you might even be screamed at. I’m sure that not only applies to London, but any other major city in the world. That just doesn’t happen in Tokyo. Everyone knows their place and respects everyone else’s.

Another example is Disneyland. Every time I’ve been to a Disney park, there are always people annoyed and complaining about something, be it the queues, someone misbehaving, or god knows what else. One of the most noticeable differences we found at the Tokyo Disney Resort was that despite the crowds, everyone was just going about their business not complaining about anything. No queue jumping, no littering, no misbehaving anywhere at all.

And of course, I must praise their willingness to help as well. I remember getting off the bus in what felt like the middle of nowhere in Hakone, not having a clue where to find our ryokan. A lady came out of a building nearby to ask us what we were looking for and gave us much needed directions to our accomodation.

Japan shibuya

Therefore if you are losing your faith in humanity, or are looking for a wonderfully crazy and revolutionary travel experience, go to Japan. You will not regret it!

Have you been to Japan before? Is there anything you loved that it’s not on the list? Let me know!

18 Comments

  1. What can I say – I really love this blog post! You pics are so cool and you gave me some great inspirations. The Disney Park must be amazing there!
    Thanks for sharing this with us :*

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Thanks Martina! It really is mind-blowingly amazing =)

  2. Really interesting read and that photo in Disney World looks just like Venice! I’m really wanting to visit Japan but worried about how much it would cost. What do you think would be a budget traveller daily cost?

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Hi Josh! It depends – the most expensive parts would be accomodation and transport if you are planning on moving across Japan. For accomodation, the cheapest I spotted was probably for 30-40 USD/euro a night, so it’s not too crazy either, I’ve seen much worse places. If you are only moving within one place, like let’s say Tokyo, you’d be paying about 2 USD for each underground trip. When it gets expensive is travelling across country, where the cheapest option would be a 7-day Japan railpass which would set you back a good 250 USD. All in all, if you were to spend let’s say a week in Tokyo, you’d be looking at 50 – 60 USD a day I’d say! Hope that helps =)

  3. What a fun post! I have never been to Japan, but I love the pictures and it is definitely on my list to see in the next year or two!

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Thanks Laura! I’d definitely recommend it 😉

  4. I love the warmth that radiates off your post. It’s clear that you have a real (and totally understandable) love of Japan and the people you met. I’ve only been there once, and that a long time ago, but you’ve brought back some brilliant memories. Courteous and helpful people are a big part of my love for Japan too, and it was great to be reminded of all the reasons we should go back, and soon.

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Thank you for your kind words Bernie! Glad to see I wasn’t the only one to experience the kindness of the Japanese people. You should definitely go back, I’m sure a lot has probably changed! 😉

  5. I’ve lived in Japan for 2 years now, and I can agree with alll of these things!! I especially love the Tokyo Disney Parks….they are the most amazing Disney parks I’ve ever been to. My favorite part is all the different types of popcorn that they have…and all the cool popcorn buckets! Ramen is also incredible, but my favorite is udon. Especially the kitsune udon in Kyoto!

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Yay, glad to hear you are also on the ‘Tokyo Disney is the best Disney’ boat! Oh my god, the popcorn was so good… and I managed to come home with an Olaf popcorn bucket in my carry on 😛 Didn’t try Kitsune in Kyoto, but I will make sure to try next time I visit, as I’m sure there’ll be a next time 😉

  6. This is such kind of a post which would tempt any one to go to Japan . Thanks for the detailed post.Great cheap japanese food has always been a temptation to go to Japan . This is really helpful 🙂

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Thanks Rohini 🙂

  7. It sounds like you had a blast in Japan! Although I haven’t visited since 2006, I agree with you on so many levels- the shinkansen is the best invention ever (and more reliable any other form of transportation anywhere in the world), the beer vending machines are AWESOME, the people could teach many of us much-needed manners, and- WHAT?! I feel so sad that you’d never had ramen before. OMG. So good. On the flip side, I’m intrigued by your observations in terms of pricing, because I subsisted mainly on egg salad sandwiches from 7-11 (I wasn’t vegan yet) most of the time. I stayed in super-simple hostels for about $25 USD, which seemed steep at the time; I was used to traveling throughout Latin America and paying about $5 a night. Next time I go to Japan, I’m splurging on a 100 pound hotel and getting me some heated toilet seats and door stoppers! 😉

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Thanks for your comment Cristina! Yes, I think that’s why there seems to be widespread thought that Japan is ‘expensive’ – compared to other really cheap nearby countries perhaps, but for someone coming from let’s say Europe or the USA, I really don’t think it is! I think if you are travelling on a bigger budget these days you should definitely head back, you’d be surprised 😛 By the way your comment on egg salad sandwiches made me laugh, as that’s exactly what my boyfriend ate for the whole of his first trip to Tokyo ha! 😉

  8. Haven’t been to Japan yet, but I firmly believe that good ramen is proof that the universe loves us and wants us to be happy. I love all the touches the Japanese add to daily life. Lovely post!

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      I’m with you on the ramen all the way 😛

  9. I didn’t know the food was so cheap, thanks for mentioning that! And the heated toilet seats sounds hilarious and interesting. Probably nice though, at least in the winter 😉

    • Finding Upendi Finding Upendi

      Indeed it is, I was quite surprised by just how cheap actually! 😉

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