I’ll probably increase the number in the title when I think of more reasons on another day 😉 Before you read on, please know that I have only been to 4 out of 47 prefectures in Japan. Japan is my favorite country to visit; I’m far from being sick of it yet! There’s still a lot more places which I’ll never be able to cover in this lifetime, therefore, what you read here is based on my personal experiences so far.
Here are some of the reasons you’ll love Japan!
1. You’ll feel welcome as a visitor.
Japanese hospitality is based on anticipating consumer needs. As a customer, when you buy something, the staff will be so polite, bringing your paperbags right up to you after your purchase, and walking you to the door, while at the same time thanking you and bowing relentlessly. The Japanese welcomes everyone, no matter local or a foreigner, or they’re brought up with such good manners that they’ll at least make you feel welcome.
To be honest, the Japanese hospitality used to be felt more acutely in Tokyo. In recent years, the hospitality level has kinda dropped – perhaps due to the sharp increase in tourist numbers within a short time, and also because a lot of customer service staff are not Japanese (you won’t be able to tell because they’ll still wear name-tags of Jap names). You’ll feel the extent of Japanese hospitality stronger, at places further away from Tokyo though.
2. There are soooooo many things to buy in Tokyo.
Tokyo is shopping heaven.
Not sure about you but I love Japanese stuff and brands. In fact, I just did a check and confirmed that my current skincare and makeup are all Japanese brands – Labo-Labo (Dr. Ci Labo), Anessa (Shiseido), Haku (Shiseido), Kate Tokyo, SK-II, Maquillage (Shiseido), Canmake, omg. Which means I usually make many trips to the best drugstore in the world – Matsumoto Kiyoshi – when I’m in Japan, and will spend a bomb there.
| Shop now on Cosme-de.com, which has many Japanese skincare and beauty brands! |
Besides that, there’s Muji, Isetan, Kiddyland, Uniqlo, Onitsuka Tiger and moreeee. There’s something for everyone, from kids to ladies to men.
3. It’s a lot more affordable now to visit Japan.
In years 2010/2011, I went Japan for my first few times. Back then, the exchange rate was 1000 yen to S$16+. When people asked if Japan is expensive, the answer is yes, of course Japan is expensive! However, yen exchange rate has since dropped a lot. Between years 2015-2017, I travelled to Japan once every year. The exchange rate stayed at 1000 yen = S$12-S$13.
Many things in Japan also remained at the same prices through the years – an economic deflation instead of inflation. Which meant, that bowl of ramen which cost 890yen in 2010 (S$14+) is still 890yen in 2018 (S$10+). A 7-day JR Pass that brings you to Kyoto from Tokyo and back would be >S$450+ (28,300yen in 2010), compared to S$350 now (29,110yen in 2018). Apply this principle to hotel room rates and transport costs, and you’ll finally understand the difference in opinions. If you travel solo or if you’re rich, these yen and price differences might not affect you that much. However, if you paying to travel as a family, the yen differences (or savings) quickly multiply.
So, nowadays, people loudly proclaim that Japan is cheap to visit – simply because they’ve never experienced Japan when it was expensive, oops.
| Visiting Japan? Check hotel rates on Booking.com or Agoda first! |
4. Japan has the ONLY DisneySea in the world
Love to visit Disneylands all over the world? How about something special, like DisneySEA?!? Designed with nautical theme, plenty of adults have problems deciding between Disneyland or DisneySea when they visit Tokyo. Well, I say do both Disneyland AND DisneySea if you can! It’s said that kids prefer Disneyland, while adults will always love DisneySea more!
5. You can expect wonderful service in Japan.
The Japanese people take a lot of pride in their work. If you give tips (you’re implying you had expected worse service) or offer to help the chambermaid push the suitcase trolley at the ryokan onsen hotel (you’re implying she’s not doing it well enough), it could be taken as an insult, simply because what they do is their job and excellent service in Japan is to be expected.
| Read about my first onsen ryokan experience in Kyoto! |
6. There’s no bath like an ONSEN bath.
You might have experienced hotspring baths in Taiwan, or taken a Korean jjimjilbang in Seoul, or a Turkish haman in Istanbul, but trust me, there’s no bath like an onsen bath. A soak in an onsen filled with minerals is a unique, liberating experience which you have to try if you’re going to Japan.
| Read my guide on how to use the onsen in Japan! |
7. Your lives on the road won’t be too endangered by morons.
You don’t have to worry about a cyclist or moron on a e-scooter / unicycle crashing into you.
I was in Kyoto and noted how road crossings were split into 2 lanes: 1 for pedestrians and the other for cyclists. Very simple yet effective. In my country, cyclists are not required to dismount when crossing roads. Pedestrians, cyclists, and people using e-scooters will use the same path area to cross the road – accidents waiting to happen! In Singapore, you’ll also see the craziest people with no safety gear, whizzing through heavy traffic on roads and expressways – madness. They don’t need to stay away from cars, because cars had to take care and avoid those reckless people. Not in Japan though. For some reason, the PMDs trend has not caught up in Japan yet.
Even if it’s not about using the roads, the Japanese are generally really considerate. On pavements, cyclists will ride with caution, making sure to keep a safe distance from pedestrians.
8. Cars on the road are quiet.
Sometimes it gets so quiet as I walk neext to a road, that I wonder if the cars that have stopped at traffic lights have had their engines killed.
9. Nature is a huge part of living in Japan.
More than 60% of Japan is forested (source). Forest bathing – being in the presence of trees – is part of the Japanese’s lifestyle. I had my own experience hiking through katsura forests at Mount Takao.
Fancy this mountain in your backyard? I walked past this little farm after leaving Chureito Pagoda, and was really moved to imagine how wonderful it’ll be to open your door every morning or evening with this view. Is this why WWOOF Japan is so popular? I don’t mind WWOOFing at a place like this, or in Hokkaido! =p
WWOOF which is a program where hosts will provide accommodation and meals in exchange for the volunteer helping with work at farms.
10. Tokyo is busy and filled with people but it’s far from being unpleasant.
How do they manage it? Simply by being respectful of their surroundings and considerate of others using shared spaces.
| Wanna know when’s the best time to visit Tokyo? |
11. Japan shows you the beauty of embracing the modern life + retaining part of the old world.
My design company used to give us incentive trips to Tokyo, so that we can observe new trends and apply them to design campaigns. My hairstylist goes Japan to receive trainings of new color and hairstyle trends. Japan is also no doubt, a leader in modern technology, Yet what I find really amazing is how Japan retains and merges parts of their old world – such as the geisha culture – with the modern world. It’s not uncommon to spot a Japanese lady wearing the kimono in the city, or heading to the shrines at festivals.
| Read: How to See A Real Geisha in Kyoto |
12. Everyone minds their own businesses.
Dining solo? Hiking solo? Travelling solo? No one will cast you weird looks – that’s how the Japanese are programmed to mind their own business. As an Introvert, this is a very welcomed aspect for me. Solo travelling can be stressful enough on the first day – I don’t need extra attention thank you!
13. You can dine without the burden of your bag.
At many restaurants, other than hangers for your coats and scarves, there might also be bag baskets so you can put your bags, briefcases, shopping bags and whatever loads you have been carrying around. Those bag baskets also prevent your bags from getting dirty if they had been on the floor. The thoughtfulness!
14. Can’t read Japanese menus? Not to worry. You can ‘preview’ the food before ordering them.
Instead of just photos on paper or screen menus, many eateries have realistic-looking plastic models of their menu at the entrances, so you can visualize the food first before making your choice to order. Those models are also very useful for placing orders if you can’t read Japanese!
| Read: Why Tokyo is Perfect for Solo Travelers |
15. You won’t need to inhale second-hand smoke while walking.
In Tokyo, you’re not supposed to walk AND smoke at the same time – something I wish Singapore will implement asap. Smokers in Tokyo need to smoke at designated smoking areas, where they can also put out their cigarette butts conveniently.
The only strange thing I find is, some restaurants in Japan allow smoking indoors. Errrr.
16. Train rides (at off-peak timings) can be pleasant.
Train etiquette in Japan includes commuters being considerate and keeping quiet. Mobile phones are to be set silent. It’s considered very rude to make noise, from having very audible conversations or blasting music from your headphones. I totally love this aspect! There’s no need for me to even put on noise-cancelling earphones to block out the noise. With the lack of noise, I can totally practise mindfulness.
Have I mentioned warmed seats too? On some trains, the cushioned seats are warmed so your butt won’t feel too cold in winter.
Other than regional, long-distance train rides, eating and drinking are not allowed in trains. You won’t have to worry about the dirtiness of trains, or someone munching food noisily next to you.
17. Design in Japan is thoughtful and intelligent.
I love observing the little details in Japanese design. It’s obvious that they put a lot of critical thinking into inventing and improving systems. For example, to avoid blockages of human traffic while crossing gantries at train stations in Tokyo, your card value is shown past the barrier. This encourages commuters to move ahead instead of halting at the front.
As a designer, I totally feel that design should improve lives and encourage better human behavior. Sometimes, the designs I see applied in my country are the opposite of achieving that.
18. Goodbye clutter, because minimalism is embraced.
In fact, you might feel quite miserable if you live in Tokyo city and don’t embrace minimalism. Due to a lack of space, apartments tend to be very small, which I experienced in an AirBNB near Shinjuku, so you gotta be mentally prepared ahead.
Thankfully, my favorite hotel in Tokyo is not so tiny.
19. Japan’s bullet train rides are awesome.
It used to cost a lot more to take the bullet train. Few years ago, I finally had the chance to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, and observe the experience.
Notice how the compartment overhead has no barriers to block bags from sliding? It shows how smooth the bullet train rides are! Each seat has a good enough pitch space in front of me to stow my huge suitcase. Each tray also has the necessary info to tell you where the toilets or garbage bins are located.
20. Japan’s recycling laws will make you a better occupant of this Earth.
Garbage needs to be sorted before being dumped. Generally, they’re sorted into “burnable/non-burnable”, “recyclable” and different materials, which you can read about in this helpful Tofugu article. Make sure you’re throwing your rubbish into the correct bins!
There’s a famous small village in southwestern Japan, called Kamikatsu, which produces near-zero waste. The villages sort their thrash into 34 different categories. 80% of the town’s rubbish gets recycled, reused or composted, while the rest goes to a landfill.
21. You’ll wanna get a gift for everyone.
Because Japan’s packaging is always over the top.
I know, it directly contradicts the above point about recycling, but I still need to include this point. Japanese have perfected the art of packaging design and gift packaging. If you don’t have time to observe this, simply check out the Japanese snack packaging at the airport. You’ll wanna buy many boxes for yourself!
22. Even their mountain is perfect.
One of the reasons that the mountain is so famous is because, Mount Fuji is almost perfectly symmetrical! And it changes looks every now and then. The best look of Mount Fuji has got to be when it’s snow-capped.
Despite it being so popular, I still have no wish to hike Mount Fuji. There’s a Japanese saying that you’ll be a fool to not climb Mount Fuji, but you’ll be a fool if you do that twice. I’m happy to simply catch glimpses of Mount Fuji from one of its surrounding lakes and towns like Kawaguchiko!
23. Japan’s toilets are the best.
I remember feeling fascinated by Japanese bidet toilets inside the cubicles, even at public malls. Not just about the different customization levels of the bidet, but also cool buttons like music or white noise to disguise any weird sounds you might have on a bad day!
24. Japanese food is delicious!
You know I can’t skip mentioning this in the post. I enjoy Japanese food even if I don’t eat raw. From [cooked] sushi to ramen to yakitori (grilled meat skewers) to tempura to Italian-inspired pasta and even ebi burgers at Mcdonalds, dining in Japan is always delightful times. Meals can be an artistic affair, known as kaiseki. Check out this breakfast I had!
Some people like to say you can’t find bad food in Japan. Well that’s not super true because, I did eat not-that-tasty ramen in Shinjuku once. It was so unappealing that I couldn’t finish my meal. Oh well, there’s always Ichiran Ramen – comfort food, which I wrote about in this article!
Hope you enjoyed reading this article! Have you visited Japan before or are planning to go soon?
More inspiration from Japan!
• Things to do at Kawaguchiko
• Tokyo’s cutest festival: Shichi Go San!
• Day trip to Kamakura (Tokyo)
• Hiking Mt Takao (Tokyo) in autumn
• Checking in Kyoto: Yumotokan onsen ryokan hotel
• Seeing a geisha finally in Kyoto
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Image credits: Onsen photo taken by 663highland, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, obtained via Wikipedia. All other photos belong to me.