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Why I Love Japan

No place in the world is perfect– not even my favorite country, Japan. Every country and culture has its pros and cons, and things you may like or dislike depending on your personality. There are some things I don’t like about Japan, and I did begin to notice these things more after being in the country for a couple of years. But at the same time, I felt more at home there than I’ve ever felt anywhere else, and there’s a big part of me that will always be Japanese at heart. So today I thought I’d share some of the things I love so much about the land of the rising sun.

1. Japanese is a beautiful language. I first fell in love with Japan through its language, and I don’t think it’s very hard to see why. I’ll admit I’m a little biased, but still… I find the sound of it very pleasant, and much softer than a lot of other Asian languages. It feels so nice to speak it too, because the sounds are so simple and easy to pronounce. And yet the sounds are beautiful in their simplicity– there are really no harsh sounds. And the writing system, although difficult to learn, is beautiful in its complexity! Japanese also has so many nice words and expressions that are just impossible to translate into English. One of my favorites is the word natsukashii. It describes a feeling of nostalgia about something, of missing something or just looking back on it with fond memories. For example, when you pull out a dusty old photo album and see pictures of a much younger you with people you haven’t seen in ages, in a (now) silly looking outfit you’d completely forgotten you had– that’s natsukashii. And now, since I’ve been back in the states for a couple months I can say that Japan is natsukashii to me. There is just no single word in English to express this concept!

Here’s me in a yukata.

2. Japan has wonderful traditions. There’s nothing else like the Japanese tea ceremony, or the art of putting on a kimono (yes, it is an art!). Then there’s Japanese calligraphy, flower arrangement, martial arts, haiku… And the list goes on. Japan has so many nice ceremonies and art forms that really help you to relax and appreciate the beauty of the simple things in life. We just don’t have things like this in America. Then of course there are all the festivals (omatsuri) and the great firework shows in the summertime! It’s so natsukashii just thinking about it now. You really have to experience these things for yourself to appreciate them though, so I highly recommend you try them out if you ever get the chance!

3. Japan has the best customer service in the world. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t make such an unequivocal statement since I haven’t been to every country in the world. But somehow I don’t think the phrase “the customer is king” applies more anywhere else than Japan. Actually, in Japanese they say that the customer is God. Really. Japanese employees go out of their way to help you and make sure you get everything you need, and they are almost never rude. Any mistake or delay will get you a profuse apology, and they will do whatever they can to make it right! Once I spent over $100 on a new purse, only to find after using it for a couple of days that I didn’t like it because of the way the zipper scratched my hands when I reached into it. To my dismay though, I couldn’t find the receipt! I was almost certain I wouldn’t be able to get my money back, but I really wasn’t happy with the purse and thought I might as well give it a try. So I went back to the store and explained my situation. The employee was so nice, and she said that although they didn’t normally give refunds without a receipt, they would make an exception for me– and I got all my money back just like that, no questions asked! I’m not sure I could have gotten away with that in America (and I certainly couldn’t get away with it in a place like France where, from what I understand, the concept of customer service is virtually non-existent).

4. Japan’s transportation system is excellent. The trains in and around Japanese cities are amazingly convenient. They are very frequent and almost always on time– and of course, a delay of even just one minute will result in profuse apologies from the conductor! Train stations are always staffed with employees who are ready to answer your questions and do so very well. City buses are also great, and you can even pay their fares with the same card you use to ride the train. Naturally though, the transportation systems in rural areas aren’t quite as good. I lived in Gunma prefecture for two years, and most people there drove cars everywhere because you couldn’t get around town by train (trains were just used to travel to other towns or cities), and the buses weren’t very frequent. This actually didn’t bother me at all though, because I just rode a bicycle everywhere! Bicycles are much more common in Japan than they are in the US, and you can see people of all ages riding them everywhere. It isn’t considered “lame” to ride a bicycle to work like it is here in the states. I love riding a bike, and of course it’s much healthier and better for the environment than driving. Japan also has lots of special paths for bicycles, as well as bicycle parking lots!

A view of Tokyo.

5. Japan is very convenient. Japanese convenience stores (or combini) are open 24 hours a day and you can find one just about anywhere. A combini is a lot like one of those little stores we have next to gas stations in the states– except there’s no gas station. What you can find is some food, basic toiletry items and magazines. You can also do things like pay your bills, use the ATM or even send a package in the mail! Admittedly combini food doesn’t taste very good (it’s probably not very good for you either), but it’s great when you’re in a rush and didn’t have time to eat a proper breakfast. Another thing that’s very convenient in Japan is the vending machines. Vending machines are even more common than convenience stores, so if you don’t see one you’re sure to find one by just walking a block or two. Most of them just sell drinks like water, coffee, tea, juice and soda. They’re usually quite cheap (100 yen at the cheapest!), and you can get them hot in the winter or cold in the summer! I personally bought drinks from vending machines all the time, and probably ended up spending a good portion of my salary on them. But they were worth it. You also might be surprised how easy it is to find different kinds of foods in Japan, especially in the city. Looking for a special ingredient for some exotic Ethiopian dish? You can probably find it somewhere in Tokyo. Japan has everything.

6. Japan is a very safe country. I always felt like I was safer in Japan than I would be in the states. Of course, Japan does have its share of crime and you can never be completely safe anywhere, so you should definitely follow common sense safety rules wherever you go. But still, Japan’s crime rates are quite low compared to most other countries. Although this may not be advisable according to common sense and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to anyone, I often went out walking around or riding my bike in the middle of the night by myself and never felt any threat to my personal safety. I actually had several Japanese people tell me it was perfectly safe for me to do this even as a single young woman! And I know I would never be able to do such a thing in lots of other countries. What really amazes me, though, is that you almost never have to worry about getting anything stolen! If you accidentally leave your wallet somewhere, chances are someone will turn it in to the police station for you. Speaking of Japanese police stations, they’re really great too. For Japanese police officers, it’s actually part of their job description to help people who are lost. At any train station (and at a few other places around town too), you can find a place called a kouban, where a friendly officer will always be ready with maps and everything else you need to get you where you want to go! As someone who gets lost easily, I took advantage of this numerous times.

トンカツ (tonkatsu) – a common pork dish

7. Japanese food is healthy and delicious! The Japanese don’t have the highest life expectancy in the world for no reason. A large part of it is due to their healthy diet. In fact, even in the West some doctors will recommend a Japanese-style diet to prevent things like heart problems. Japanese food isn’t just healthy, though. It also tastes great! Somehow I always felt more satisfied and energized after a Japanese meal than after a Western one. If you are in the mood for Western food, though (or any kind of food for that matter), you can always find it in Japan. There are plenty of Chinese, Italian, American, and Indian-style restaurants, as well as just about any other kind of ethnic restaurant you can think of.

 

8. Japanese people are very attractive. Okay, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is partly just my personal opinion. And of course, there are both attractive and not-so-attractive people everywhere in the world. But personally I get the impression that there’s a higher ratio of attractive people in Japan than there is in the US! Japanese people also tend to be very stylish and pay a lot of attention to their appearance, which helps a lot. Another thing I like is that some things that are generally not considered attractive in Western countries (such as very pale skin on women, for instance) are actually considered very attractive in Japan! Different cultures have different ideas of what beauty means, and I think it’s very good for people– especially women– to be exposed to these different ideas.

紅葉 (kouyou) – autumn leaves

9. Japan has four seasons– and the Japanese know how to appreciate them all. I grew up in Washington state, where there are pretty much only two seasons: rainy and rainier. So when I moved to Japan, I was entranced by the showers of cherry blossoms in spring, the beating sun and the lively festivals in summer, the changing colors of the leaves in fall, and the biting cold of winter. What makes these seasons really great, though, is that the Japanese have gotten their appreciation down to an art. In the spring and fall, almost everyone makes the trip to a good spot to see the cherry blossoms or the autumn leaves. (Granted, much of this is simply an excuse to sit around drinking on a blanket in the park with friends– but hey, why pass up any excuse to have a party?) Japanese summers are very hot and can be almost unbearable with their humidity, but this doesn’t stop the Japanese from enjoying themselves! Throughout the summer there are festivals and firework shows all over the country, and you can see girls (and some guys too) walking around in yukata (summer kimonos) with fans tucked into their obi (waistbands). And in the winter, the northern prefectures have snow festivals and ice sculpture exhibits. Every Japanese person who cooks also knows exactly what fruits, vegetables and fish are in season at exactly what times of the year, so they can prepare the freshest and best-tasting meals for their families. Oh, and the Japanese language also illustrates how important seasons are in this culture. Japanese letters are always begun with a (preferably eloquent!) description of the weather, and comments on the weather (i.e. “It’s hot, isn’t it?”) are often used just like greetings.

10. In Japan, you can be weird and no one will care. This might be a funny thing to say, but it’s so true! In Japan you can sometimes see people walking around dressed like anime characters, or just wearing really bizarre outfits, or maybe twitching and mumbling nonsensically. But no one around them will even blink an eye. In a lot of other Asian countries, you might get stared at or pointed at a lot if you don’t look Asian. This does still happen in Japan, especially in more rural areas. But living in the city, this hardly ever happened to me and most people just treated me normally– in other words, they just walked right on by. Sometimes I did “weird” things like studying Thai (using a book written in Japanese!) while sitting on the train, but no one ever gave me strange looks or interrupted me. Japanese people keep to themselves, and sometimes this is very nice– especially if you’re the sort of person who also likes to keep to yourself and have your own space. The downside of this, of course, is that it can be harder to make friends in Japan, and people coming from countries where it’s normal to interact with strangers can end up feeling lonely. Personally though, I liked having the space to just be myself and do my own thing. It helped me to stop caring so much about what others think of me.

There are even more things I love about Japan, so I could keep going… But ten is a nice round number. If you’re someone who loves Japan too, feel free to add your own reasons in the comments!

P.S.: This was actually inspired by a post I read on Fluent in 3 Months, about why Benny Lewis loves Brazilians. I thought this was a lovely post, and reading it made me want to go to Brazil and learn Portuguese! So I thought I’d write something to promote my favorite country, too. 😀

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • You’d be very welcome here in Brazil, Jana! o/

    • Anonymous

      Muito obrigado! =P I would love to go someday.

  • Wow, great post! Reading this fuels my desire to go to Japan even more. You make it sound like an awesome place to live and have fun all year-round.

    Have you ever been to 秋葉原? I’m sure dressing up and wearing really bizarre outfits would be quite normal there.

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad you liked it!

      Yes, I have been to Akihabara, but actually there aren’t so many people in bizarre outfits there as there are in Harajuku! There are a lot of “maid cafes” in Akihabara though (or “Akiba” as it’s sometimes called), if you’re into that sort of thing. I did actually go to one once, but it was a bit much for me!

  • Thanks for this! 😀 Great to see my post inspire others – this makes me want to go to Japan a little more!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks to you for the inspiration! I hope you’ll be able to make it to Japan someday.

  • The most bizarre thing I’ve seen is this old man dressed in whatever loud, gawdy things he can find, while wearing two fishbowl earrings with live fish in them. I believe he’s in the Yokohama area, and can be seen riding his bike around parks, etc. Harajuku is the place where you want to see the most anime “characters.” Other things I’ve seen while riding trains are men in high heels and skirts. That was it too! No wigs, makeup or whatever, just a skirt and high heels.

    The rarest people I’ve met are the friendly ones who want to speak to a foreigner but in Japanese! These people really gave me a workout in the language, but I love them for it. I wish I could meet these people again. 🙂

    I did have some trouble one year from a mentally retarded man. He kept following me around the train and platform until I finally had to get a coworker to go with me to the police. I guess he saw them because he never did bother me again.

    • Anonymous

      OMG! I lived in Yokohama for a year and never saw the fishbowl guy… But I believe you! I did see a guy wearing high heels once though. @@; And yeah, Harajuku is definitely the place for anime cosplayers. Akihabara is known more as a place to find electronic goods nowadays.

      Yeah, being addressed by strangers in Japanese is rare, but it’s really nice when it happens! It has happened to me a few times. Foreigners who had been living there much longer, though, told me that a few years ago Japanese people used to be a lot more curious about foreigners and try to talk to them. Nowadays though, it’s not even that common to be addressed by strangers in English. I guess foreigners are just becoming more common and aren’t as much of a novelty anymore.

      And wow, I’m sorry to hear about the trouble you had with that man. It’s a good thing you got him to stop bothering you with no problems.

  • Anonymous

    Oh no, not the “four seasons!” Seriously, the nice parts of spring and autumn last like 3 or 4 week if you’re lucky, and then it either gets really cold or hot and rainy.

    That said, I agree with most of the stuff on your list. And the Japanese language was my gateway, too.

    • Anonymous

      Haha… Yeah you’re right, the nice weather in the spring and autumn is all too short lived! Maybe that’s why people make sure to get out and enjoy it before it’s too late. It was kind of a love-hate thing for me, honestly. The extreme winter and summer temperatures are uncomfortable, but there are great things about those seasons too.

  • Hirohide

    Wow, I am very glad and proud as a native Japanese to read your post about Japan!

    You pointed out several appealing points of Japan that even Japanese people don’t usually notice in our everyday lives. Thanks to your post I am determined to cherish our own culture more and more!

    Thank you very much for your wonderful post! By the way, I would like to hear from you some things you don’t like about Japan someday. It’s just out of curiosity.

    P.S. May I share your post in my blog (http://canienglish.blog.ocn.ne.jp/blog/)? It’s written mainly in Japanese, though.

    • Anonymous

      Wow, I’m so glad I’ve inspired you to cherish your own culture more! That makes me really happy, so thank you for this wonderful comment. =D

      Hm, yeah, sometime I might write about what I see as the negative side of Japan. It might be a good way to balance out this post.

      And yes, you are welcome to share my post on your blog as long as you link back to me. When I started writing this post I actually intended on writing it in Japanese as well… But then it got so long and I was lazy, so I just left it in English. ^^; I might translate it later though if I feel up to it. I think it would be good for more Japanese people to hear some of the good things about their country from a foreigner’s perspective.

      I tried to visit your blog by the way, but the link doesn’t work! Maybe you should try using a URL shortener, like this one: http://tinyurl.com/

      • Hirohide

        I’m sorry for writing the URL that doesn’t work. I have just used the site you recommended. My new shorter URL is as follows. http://tinyurl.com/6hjfxbt

  • Great insight.ほとんど、あっていると思います。
     ・確かに、交通の便がいいのはいいですけど、朝の電車の混雑はつらいです。(苦笑)・世界中の食べ物を食べることができたり、日本料理もヘルシーだったりするのは、とてもよいです。
    ・四季によってほんとに紅葉がきれいだったり、春の桜がきれいだったりと、日本に住んでいても
    まだまだ全部みることができないほどすばらしいところが多いと思います。

    • 満員電車は確かにつらいですね。私も何回も体験したことがあります。^^;それをなんとかできればいいのですが…。

  • guest

    You wrote that Japanese people tend to keep to themselves. Does this mean that if I move there it is very unlikely a neighbor or stranger on the street would approach me for small talk? It’s more customary for people to just ignore you and pretend you don’t exist?

    • It *is* very unlikely that a neighbor or stranger on the street would approach you for small talk, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people “just ignore you and pretend you don’t exist”. To the Japanese, it’s not that they’re ignoring you, but that they’re being polite and giving you your space. There are situations in which it’s considered okay to approach people, and situations in which you’re supposed to leave them alone. So strangers won’t talk to you on the train, but if you go to a party or something with a lot of people you don’t know, people will approach you and start conversations. So if you want to meet people and make friends, you just have to seek out situations like that. =)

      • guest

        So if I were to come home and run into a neighbor, it wouldn’t be considered “natural” if we were to exchange words unless we met at a big social gathering beforehand? I read somewhere else that it was customary for a new person moving into the neighborhood to greet their neighbors with a gift of some kind. Is being a foreigner a significant barrier for people to approach you and vice versa?

        •  No, that’s not quite what I meant. Sorry, but these things are difficult to explain! If your neighbors are people you see often and recognize, it would certainly be natural to greet them and maybe even exchange small talk. However, this sort of thing isn’t very likely to happen if you’re living in an apartment building in the city. I lived in apartment buildings and never talked to my neighbors at all, and I think this is quite normal. If you were living in a house, though, I imagine things would be different.

          I wouldn’t say being a foreigner is a barrier for people to approach you. People might even be more likely to approach you than they would a random Japanese person, because they might be curious about you or want to practice their English. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, but it has happened to me a few times! Once I got on the train with a Japanese friend, and after we’d been talking for a while the girl across from us started talking to me because she was apparently intrigued that I could speak Japanese so well. She even asked me to be her friend on Facebook! So it’s not like it’s completely taboo to talk to strangers on the train if you really want to. =)

  • I am a Indian and I heard that japan discriminates with indians very badly is that true?

    btw, I LOVE JAPAN!!! , especially for their anime,mangas,cosplayers and advanced technology and I want to study in a university over there, is good for me to live in japan?

    •  Hm… I’m not really in a position to answer that question, since I’m not Indian and have never gotten to know any Indians living in Japan. Racism is definitely a problem there, though (especially against blacks), so sadly I wouldn’t be surprised if some Indians feel they’ve been discriminated against as well.

      If you really want to live in Japan, I say go for it! You’ll never know if it’s right for you until you give it a try. 🙂

  • Zoe

    Wow i love this post! I will be moving to Japan for 6 years (or maybe stay there forever) because of my parents working there! I am really excited!! I love japan, culture and language and of course i am a huge anime/manga fan lol. I agree with most of the things you said and i believe i will enjoy myself there. I am from Singapore btw. Just curious, i only managed to learn some simple japanese only when its romaji and kanji and i find it hard to figure out the other one. The characters look very complicated, how long did it take u to learn them?

    • I don’t know what happened, but somehow I just discovered that you left this comment asking a question 7 months ago, and I never replied! Please forgive me. ^^;

      Your question is quite difficult to answer though, because I didn’t keep track of how long it took me to learn kanji. And what exactly constitutes “learning” them, anyway? Without getting too nitpicky though, I would say I’d been studying Japanese for about 5 years before I was able to read most things… But honestly I don’t think my methods were very efficient (Japanese was my first foreign language, and I was just learning it for fun in my spare time), and it is definitely possible to learn to read much more quickly. I would recommend looking up the book “Remembering the Kanji” by James Heisig, if you’re not already familiar with it.

  • Katty

    Hey, Your blog is just awesome. I am a Japan Maniac too, as you can see.. 😛 I really like the blog 🙂 Might really move to Japan someday 😀 You are so positive about Japan, really awesome, keep up the good work! Looking at you having so much fun makes me wanna come to Japan too! 😛

    And Maybe I can really fit in. I’m Indian with light golden tan skin. And my Japanese is getting better too 🙂 What you think?

    Anyway.

    Japan Rocks! Watashi-tachi wa Nippon ga daisuki!!! (^o^)/ (^.^)/ (^o^)/

    • Haha, yeah I suppose you’ll be able to blend easier if you have a somewhat East Asian-looking complexion. It seems unlikely for an Indian to be mistaken for a Japanese person, but then again I don’t know exactly what you look like. ^^;

      I’m glad you like the blog, and thanks for commenting!

  • Vinny

    Last year I visited Japan for the first time. I fell in love with the country. The cities were so clean. The public transportation was awesome. The nature was beautiful. The people were delightful. Tokyo was so big and interesting. I would love to live and work there. Hopefully I’ll figure a way for that to happen. As far as customer service goes, I can’t say Japan was the best. There are a few countries in that region of the world that more often than not deliver outstanding customer service. If I had to choose, I’d say Vietnam was the best. Vietnam is also a bargain. Japan was so expensive, even more so than the US. I think Tokyo and Moscow frequently trade the title of world’s most expensive large city.

    • It’s interesting that you say Vietnam has better customer service. I’ve never been there myself, but I’ve heard some travelers say they found the Vietnamese to be quite rude! It’s amazing how different people can have totally different impressions of the same place. If Vietnam really does have better customer service than Japan though, it must be very impressive service indeed. 🙂

  • naoya

    hmm.i recommend you to go to hot spring tours in
    japan.hot spring is really worth spending all life time.

  • naoya

    hotspring is sooo good.foreigners mostly comes in city,but if you enjoy more,you should go to what is called “the seacret hot spring”.

    • Haha… What do you mean by “secret hot spring”? Where can we find such a place? ^^;

  • Even Last

    whenever i see a post like this, i just think… THEN there is Detroit…

  • Jiro

    What a beautiful post, I truly enjoyed this, thank you very much for sharing.

  • Ashish

    I love the way you explained everything. i am thinking about moving to japan now

    .

  • Okami Zoku

    Probably what makes the Japanese language so beautiful is that basically most of the words end in a vowel (same with Italiano), a-e-i-o-u. It’s a very soothing language when sung even compared to English. It becomes very easy to prepare melodic rhymes when preparing poems or singing. The level of rime & rhythm in English does not exist to the level degree in Japanese.

  • Okami Zoku

    In an effort to exterminate, strip, humiliate, exploit, assimilate our Indigenous Americans (North & South America), our Colonial fore-bearers and subsequent descendants have failed to appreciate all the unique, distinct culture, clothing, cuisine, language of our indigenous Americans. You will find that as you dig through detailed books after books about our indigenous Americans, you will find that many tribes were very similar to the Japanese in how they celebrated the 4 seasons, how they dressed in their traditional clothing (look at the Inuit/Eskimo or Haida Guai traditional dresses), how they valued the hunting of the whale, and other types of seafood.

    • Martine

      Like in order to kill of their Chinese neighbors, the Japanese started up a genocide campaign they called the elbow room war, when they allied with Hitler in WW2, when they committed some of the greatest atrocities known to mankind. Worse then the Nazi’s. Read up on unit 731 to find out what they did to any non Japanese people they could get ahold of. there is one particularly interesting photo of a Australian women whose fetus the japanese scientists burned from her living body. Or shall we talk about how they killed tied up prisoners, often by running them through with swords, because according to the code of bushido, a true warrior does not carry an unbloodied weapon. I read some of that code, and I have never in my life seen such blatant fascism. So, before you start leveling crap at the United States, think about what country you are extolling. And let us not forget that the native people of South America did wonderful things like human sacrifice, and that the Aztecs were so cruel to their neighbors that many of then saw Cortez as a liberator. Remember, that he had many, many native allies.

  • Martine

    I think you may have a hard time convincing anyone that Japanese people are attractive. Never heard that one before EVER. An I don’t think many people would find such a nasal language beautiful, but thats certainly an opinion. Convenient gas stations, they have that here. Ok, and they maybe won’t point at you? OOOKkkay. yeah. There is not much reason to go there.