Traveling to Japan has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt an inexplicable attraction towards the Land of the Rising Sun: its culture, history, art, people... And recently, I was able to fulfil my dream!
The excitement I felt when boarding the plane that was to fly the Frankfurt-Narita route is difficult to explain. Many of the people that were traveling with me were Japanese, the menu was written in Japanese, the announcements of the crew were in Japanese... Yes, I was starting my journey! I could already imagine the sensation I would feel when I set foot on Japanese soil...
Let me tell you that the sensation I felt when I landed in Japan for the first time in my life was not what I expected. I didn’t feel any magic nor profound feeling, I didn’t have an epiphany, nor did I feel like I was in a movie. After almost 15 hours of travel I had only one thought, one feeling, one dream in mind: to go to bed.
No, my long lost dreams weren’t fulfilled. They weren’t fulfilled because Japan was a thousand times better than I could imagine.
I could continue describing all the feelings I had during the trip as I relive every minute of those wonderful days. I could tell you about Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, the Japanese Alps... But that’s not so entertaining, and you'd better see it with your own eyes. So I'm just going to tell you 11 things: 11 amazing, funny, strange things… that you'll only see in Japan.
1. WC: The first photo I took in Japan was in Narita Airport’s bathroom. If you look at the photo, you will understand why.
2. Order: If you are obsessed with order and cleanliness like me, Japan is your paradise.
3. Punctuality: If your Shinkansen is meant to leave Tokyo Station at 16:04, it will leave Tokyo Station at 16:04; not before, not after. The same will happen in Kyoto, and Osaka, and Hiroshima... So don’t be late!
4. Tipping: Tips can be a headache, and when traveling you always have to know how they work if you don’t want to offend your waiter, or worse! In Japan you don’t have to worry about it, since they don’t expect any tips. If you feel like tipping, you must put the money in an envelope and hand it in the most polite way, holding it with both your hands.
5. Irasshaimase!!!!: You will hear this welcoming word every time you enter a shop, a restaurant, a bar... You will be startled every time you hear all the clerks shouting in unison IRASSHAIMASEEEEEE!!!! This is definitely a warm welcome!
6. Karaoke: Karaoke in Japan is much more than singing songs with a couple of drinks. It’s the ultimate fun experience. Guaranteed.
7. Cosplay: In the streets of Tokyo's busiest neighbourhoods every day looks like a Carnival party…
8. Kawaii: The love for cute things is omnipresent in Japan. There are stores that will overwhelm you by their corny decoration and excessively cute products. Believe me, you're likely to come back with more stuffed animals, figurines, and cute little things than you can imagine.
9. Cat cafe, owl cafe, rabbit cafe, hedgehog cafe…: Do you like animals? If they’re cute, the Japanese certainly do! Going to one of these cafes is one of the most curious things you will do.
10. Deer: Petting cats and hedgehogs in a cafe is an interesting experience, but it’s even better to pet the deer that wander freely in some parks (just be careful, they may try to eat your shirt!).
11. Arcades: In Japan, arcades are not just for children. Grown-up businessmen also frequent these huge buildings where you can find hundreds of games: from simple claw cranes to highly sophisticated fighting games, dance contest games, musical games… And my favourite machine, purikura! The best photobooths ever.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Japan is a land of contrasts. But actually experiencing it is something from another world. From amusement parks for adults to perfect ascetic retreats, in this country you will travel from one extreme to the opposite, in every way.