My arrival in Japan was due to a fortuitous combination of circumstances. I was a dazed twenty-something traveling in Hong Kong and trying to figure out life. I didn’t have any plans to live in Japan, nor had I been actively looking for a job in Japan when I met my then-boyfriend, now-husband.
Back then, I had already lived in South Korea for three years. I knew I wanted to leave but didn’t know where else I could go. And what do I usually do when things don’t go my way? That’s right, I travel. And traveling brought my husband and me together in 2019.
It’s been three years since I started living here. Although, I moved quite a bit at the beginning and lived in two different prefectures before settling in Hyogo, there are many things I still can’t get used to about living in Japan. However, there are also countless things here that make my stay delightful and convenient.
1. Scrumptious conveyor belt sushi restaurants
When writing this title, I told myself that I really am a Taurus. I can’t think of anything other than food to start this post. But honestly, who doesn’t like a delicious 100-yen plate (approximately $0.75) of sushi? It is a delicacy in my country, and I am sure it’s the same in other countries. I have never been to a sushi restaurant in Turkey because that would mean leaving a huge chunk of my paycheck at the restaurant if I did.
However, sushi is a part of Japanese people’s daily life and is far from being expensive. Well, there are high-end sushi restaurants all over the country, but they are few and far between compared to conveyor belt restaurants. My husband and I frequent sushi restaurants at least once a week. Our all-time favorite chains are Hamazushi and Sushiro.
If you visit Japan, don’t hesitate to visit a conveyor belt sushi restaurant! You don’t speak Japanese? No problem! Almost all chain restaurants have English, Korean and Chinese menus. You don’t even need to talk to the staff to pay your bill at the end. Everything is done via a tablet screen.
2. (Almost) Always Punctual Public Transportation
There aren’t many trains, trams or subways in Turkey, and I grew up on buses that barely came to our neighborhood on time. On the one hand, I enjoyed walking to my destination, but on the other hand, that was sometimes the only option. Japan has a fabulous public transportation system where spiderweb-like train and subway lines maps can be seen.
Getting on a train or bus can intimidate you, especially in big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. However, once you get the hang of the system, it is painless. I said they are “almost” always punctual because trains sometimes stop due to “human accidents” in Japan. When they say “a human accident,” Japan’s residents usually know what they mean.
They call this social problem “jinshin jiko—人身事故” in Japan. It means a traffic accident resulting in personal injury or death. Unfortunately, these types of accidents, where a person leaps in front of a train, are common in Japan. I wanted to write this as a cultural anecdote because it’s definitely not my favorite thing about Japan.
3. Majestic Nature and the Diverse Landscapes
The majestic nature and the stunning landscapes of Japan are the very reason I started this blog. It wouldn’t have existed without Japan because I draw inspiration from this country’s unique nature. Japan has it all: mountains, seas, forests, highlands, sand dunes, capes, gorges … you name it.
Another interesting anecdote for you—residents of Japan usually live in cities, and the population in rural areas has dwindled over the years. This problem caused not only a shortage of farmers but also the growth of forests and an increase in the number of wild animals.
We often hear of the monkey and bear attacks on residents on the news. That doesn’t mean you can’t go on hikes and discover the beauty of Japan safely. You need to follow the rules, read local websites before going to the mountains and take warnings seriously. I follow the rules and am still alive!
4. General Safety and Hygiene
I am aware of the fact that safety and hygiene can be subjective. What I consider “clean” in Turkey might be frowned upon somewhere else. Let’s just face it, though: some things are universal. If I don’t feel safe walking on the streets after sunset or can’t find a public toilet easily, I can’t comfortably talk about the safety or hygiene of a country.
Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world. I can vouch for that. At 3 o’clock in the morning, I can walk outside and return home safe and sound. I don’t have to worry about getting robbed or jumped, either. When Japanese people tell me a certain neighborhood is “unsafe,” I often smile at them and say, “I am sure it’s quite safe by Turkish standards!”
We have to pay for the toilet in my country—if you are lucky enough to find a toilet nearby. You can find toilets everywhere in Japan—and they are free here! It is common to use the toilets at convenience stores or public parks. They are mostly sparkling clean and well-maintained. I love Japanese washlet toilets (bidet toilets), too.
These are the four things I love about living in Japan. What about you? Have you ever visited Japan? What fascinates you about this country? How is it different from your country?
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