14 Random Things I Loved About Japan


‘What you need to understand about Japan’, said Jai, a mountain of a man, with a voice so deep he could probably cause landslides on a couple, ‘is that the things you’ll end up loving about the country, will be more than just the famous places you’ve seen in photos’.

This conversation played whilst we were looking out over Port Phillip Bay on a cold Williamstown night, six months before our trip to Japan.

And Jai was right.

Whilst an evening of beers had turned him into. a philosopher, his experience of Jaoan turned out to be similar to ours.

Yes, there were some awe-inspiring places we visited, which I’ll remember forever, but there were also numerous little quirks, oddities and unique aspects of Japan that put a smile on my face.

So here are a few of those things, a personal, eclectic list of things I loved about Japan.

OUR JAPAN CREDENTIALS

The Reeves Roamed for 25 days through Japan, taking notes as we went. Our route was based on our typically thorough research, though we also found some surprises along the way. We only write about places we’ve actually been, so you can be confident that the details are first-hand.

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Ben Reeve
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Coins With Holes In

50 yen coin in japan it has a hole in the centre

I told you this list was random.

I enjoyed being forced to use cash again, and it led to a pleasant surprise – the Japanese 5 yen and 50 yen coins have holes in them.

When I did my research, there’s some debate whether it was originally to save metal, or to be able to string them together, and I also couldn’t figure out how many other countries have coins with holes in (Denmark seems to).

We brought a few home with us, and they now live in Grace’s coin purse, and get used in her playroom shop, a little memory of our time exploring Japan.

Bowing to Say Hello and Thank-you

If there’s one good thing Covid did, it was reducing the number of handshakes and hugs – I’ve never really liked either.

The Japanese have it all figured out already though – bowing is the answer!

And do you know what makes it really odd?

Even the deer have figured it out! I shot the video above at Nara, where the deer nod to tourists in exchange for specially cooked crackers.

7Eleven

a 7 eleven store in japan with a scooter and white van parked in front of it

Yep, as simple as that.

From food to photocopying, phone batteries for rent to luggage transfer – 7Eleven has countless bases covered. Oh, and the food is incredible!

Australia, why can’t you do convenience stores this good? I mean, you even have 7Eleven, how did you fuck them up!?

READ NEXT: The Best Foods to Buy From 7Eleven in Japan

The Smells of Incense

people surrounded in incense smoke at sensoji in tokyo

I guess we all make little changes to our lives after every trip, but often they drop off (our Thai cooking experiment didn’t last long!).

One habit I’ve picked post Japan though, is lighting incense. I loved the smell in the air around the temples, and now have incense sticks regularly burning at home.

Shops With Plants Outside

shop with plants outside it in tokyo japan

It isn’t so much the plants themselves, but what they represent.

Everyone seems to take care of their space in Japan, whether it’s technically theirs or not.

From the tour driver who got up and swept up around his bus while he waited for his guests to return, to the endless number of people we saw cleaning the streets outside their properties, the Japanese take seem to take care of their area around them in a way I’ve not seen before.

Jingles When Trains Arrive

One of my favourite quirks about Japan is the little jingles that get played when a train arrives.

Known as eki-melody, each station has a different, cute tune.

Pointless, random, but utterly uplifting – there should be more little moments like this in cities.

Toilets Everywhere

Handy, especially when travelling with a toddler, the public toilets seemed to be on almost every corner in Japan.

Oh, and they’re clean too!

It’s Cheaper Than We Expected

the entrance of ueno zoo

Considering how popular it is as a tourist destination, we expected Japan to be significantly more expensive than it was.

¥600 for an entrance ticket to Ueno Zoo!? For context, at the time of writing this Melbourne Zoo comes in at a whopping $46AUD or ¥4,500, nearly eight times the price!

We could buy an entire dinner for three from a convenience store for ¥1,400 – again I’d expect to pay at least double that in Australia.

There were many, many more examples of how good a value Japan was, which was a very pleasant surprise.

Using Cash Again

In a 2021 survey, more than 90% of respondents in Japan said that cash was still their preferred payment method.

In many situations, we found cash usage was forced – with some machines to buy tickets only accepting cash, as well as shops and restaurants. And we’re not just talking about small towns here, we found this to be the case even in a major cities, stations and airports.

I actually really enjoyed using cash again.

Yes, it’s a little less convenient, but it made seeing how much we were spending much easier, and it also was a great opportunity to teach our daughter Grace about the value of things, something that’s hard to explain when just tapping a card all the time.

Beatles

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s noticed that the Beatles seem to get played a lot in Japan.

Maybe my ear noticed it more because I didn’t recognise any of the Japanese music, but they seemed to be on almost everywhere.

And it wasn’t just the greatest hits on, we sat in a burger place in Toyosu where the White Album was played in its entirity. I had ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ stuck in my head the rest of the day!

The Buttons on ATMS

buttons on atm machine in japan

This one is real niche, but the buttons on many of the Japanese ATMs are a joy to use.

Think old school mechanical keyboard, rather than the more modern laptop style ones you find on the machines in Australia.

Manhole Covers

manhole cover in himeji showing himeji castle

In most cities you’re told to look up to appreciate the acrhitecture, and whilst this is certianly true. inJapanese cities, it also pays to look down (and definitely not for fear of standing in dog shit like in some countries!).

Japan’s manhole covers are incredible.

Each district or town has its own style, with some, having obvious nods to big landmarks, such as the one I saw in Himeji above, with others more artistic or abstract such as the ones that can be seen in this article ‘the curious story behind Japan’s manhole covers‘.

Bag Transfer Services

bag transfer service japan
Our bags getting wirghed before transfer at a 7Eleven in Tokyo.

One of the services that we had no idea about before visiting Japan was luggage transfer.

Speak to your hotel, guest house or even a convenience store, and they will take your bags and send them on to your next hotel, to arrive in often less than 12 hours.

They are generally quite reasonably priced, and takes out a huge hassle when moving from city to city on the trains. Japanese people even use it to forward their golf clubs to the course for a game the following day!

Why don’t more countries offer something like this?

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Train Snacks

train snacks in japan

I commuted to and from London from many years, so have done by fairy share of train snacking – The Marks and Spencer at Kings Cross station did good business from me.

But Japan takes train snacks to another level.

Customisable, full meals complete with a cute train-themed box.

Take. My. Money!

BEFORE YOU GO

We have a HEAP of great Japan content on this site, so if you enjoyed that you might enjoyed some of these.

Head over to our complete Japan guide for links to everything we’ve written about Japan.

Check out our best travel tips for Japan first-timers.

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AUTHOR – BEN REEVE

Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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