If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that Chris and I lived in Japan for 3 years. It was almost immediately after I graduated from college and I went from being a college student, to being a graduate, a wife and living in another country — all in a matter of months. To say that I was caught off guard would be an understatement. I was literally terrified. I hadn’t ever even traveled away from the east coast and I really didn’t know what was going to happen on the other side of the world. In retrospect, I’m so glad that I went because it shifted my view of life and the world really. I started working at a Japanese school teaching English as a Second Language and this experience exposed me to even more Japanese culture! I even made a few Japanese friends, which was really cool. I wanted to share some reasons you should take that long (did I say long) plane ride over to the far east. I think that you’d be surprised at how much you’ll like it.
The 100 Yen Store
Not to be confused with the dollar store here in the United States, the 100 Yen store has a massive mall of merchandise all for a dollar.(Give or take, depending on the exchange rate) The thing that makes this store amazing is that it is filled with quality merchandise. If you have an extra 1000 Yen ($10.00) to burn, this place is where you need to be! You can buy anything from mops, brooms, cleaning solutions, paper, pens, waste baskets and cute notebooks, all for a dollar. That list is in no way exhaustive, because this place had EVERYTHING!
Everything is Smaller
From the cars, to the restaurants, to the people — everything is smaller in Japan. If you visit a popular mom’s and pop’s restaurant, you most likely will have to wait in a line outside before you are seated. The restaurants are so small! One French inspired restaurant that Chris and I frequented called Marche’s was always packed and so was New Miyaki’s, Kurrumba’s….really everywhere! Also, the cars are super tiny. Seems like everyone had a smart car in Japan, but it was in proportion to the small roads and highways. Plus, things are cuter when they’re smaller.
I didn’t know what I was missing until we were long gone. The food is nothing short of amazing! Chris and I went out to eat several times a week back then. Most places give you the beef or chicken and allow you to cook it yourself. I also tried Kobe beef while I was over there. This is the most tender beef you will ever taste and is exclusive to Japan! I really feel like I’ve been spoiled because now when I eat at the Japanese restaurants here, I’m disappointed most of the time. I have found a few Japanese restaurants that taste amazing stateside. There was Tokyo One in Lorton, Va and Fujiya House in Fredericksburg, Va. Also check out my delicious Sesame Chicken Recipe that will give you a taste of Japan!
Japanese people have such a rich culture. They actually have traditions and customs — an authentic way of doing things. Everyone knows that no one wears their shoes in the house and that they usually have inside slippers for the house. Same thing with brooms, one for outside and one for inside. I was told by one of my Japanese friends that if your boss ask you out for drinks, you have no choice in the matter. It’s seen as disrespectful if you don’t have a beer with him/her. The architecture of the buildings is very distinctive, with layered levels, triangular roofs and striking colors. The geishas of Japan are another facet that I found to be fascinating. I fell in love with their gorgeous kimonos and jet black hair decorated with vibrant flowers. Living here also made Arthur Golden’s book “Memoirs of A Geisha,” come alive.
Soda Machines On Every Block!
This may not seem like an amazing thing to you, but there are soda machines right on the sidewalk every block or few blocks. I found it so comforting that I would never be thirsty for long on the streets of Japan! There was soda, juice, water, and tea!
One Country All Climates
We lived in Northern Japan, almost at the tip, in a place called Misawa. It snowed three fourths of the year. Being from the East Coast, this definitely took some getting used to. However, I went snowboarding at Appi Ski Resort to see what all the fuss was about. I wish I could tell you I had a great time but I started crying about halfway down the mountain. I had never had lessons and Chris thought it was a good idea to go with his friends anyway. It’s really funny now, but it wasn’t at the time. We also traveled to Tokyo and visited the Roppongi district, which is filled with clubs and bars. Okinawa is another beautiful place in Japan. It’s like Hawaii, but in Japan. Chris and I vacationed there and literally did not want to leave!
You Get To Be Nude In Public
One thing that was starkly different from our culture was the public onsens. These are indoor or outdoor hot springs that are said to have a healing effect when you soak in them. I loved going there because it made my skin and hair feel softer. There is one side for men and one for women. You go in with your basket that is filled with your soap, washcloth, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. You bathe at these small sinks before you get in the super hot water! There is a sign that says you are not allowed in the springs until you have washed up from head to toe first. There was also a cooler bath that had a milky white color to it. It only cost 300 yen (3.00) to go. People would stare but I wasn’t really uncomfortable. There were people of all sizes there and they all seemed to be pretty comfortable in their birthday suits.
I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventures across the world and I hope that you take a trip to Japan one day to see it for yourself!