I have wanted to visit Japan ever since I took a year of martial arts as a little kid, way before the recent world wide Pokemon and anime craze even began. But after 26 days in the country I can easily say that I have had my fill and won’t be needing to return to Japan for quite some time.
There are some things I have noticed about Japanese culture that are both positives and negatives from my perspective. Most of these points have been kept out from previous posts and are just a random collection of my musings from the time spent in the country.
If you ever want to spend time in Japan, the following things might be important to you.
-“Outdoor” shopping districts with a roof overhang are a great place to pop into for an A/C break, getting away from rain, and for a vast assortment of reasonably priced restaurants. The music isn’t half bad either with orchestral Beatles and Disney songs being very common.
-People in these crowded shopping districts don’t understand the concept of minding people behind themselves, and will often stop, cut through, or reverse direction all without bothering to check if someone is in the way. (May be common in most cultures, but it stuck out to me here after hitting a few dozen people within 15 minutes).
-Bowing and cultural politeness is my new favorite thing. In fact, I think all cultures should bow during greetings and require removing shoes when entering living areas and places of worship.
-The cuisine is very limited and most dishes are accompanied with heavily soy based sauce. Four weeks of this was a bit much and I craved some acidity worse than ever before. But with that being said, it is all incredibly delicious and I could eat yakitori about every meal of the day and still be happy.
-My Hello Kitty fascination has grown to ever more momentous proportions than at home. I hate the franchise with a passion, but love its use in Japanese advertising. Personal favorite is Hello Kitty inside a takoyaki dumpling found throughout Osaka. (Second place goes to Stitch from Lilo and Stitch dressed in a Deer costume in Nara)
-I never once saw a sumo match, watched a Japanese game show (I tried!), witnessed people dressed up in random cosplay outfits, heard the phrase ‘itadakimasu’ in active use, called a ‘gaijin’, met a member of the yakuza, or got glared at for blowing my nose in public, much to my dismay.
-An attempt to see the new Miyazaki film resulted in failure as all theaters in Japan charge 1800 yen for admission (roughly $22 US). The first day of the month is discounted to 1000 yen ($12). No thank you.
-Being called “Jeremy-san” once at my hostel in Nagasaki made my entire day. While on that topic, all hostels in Japan that I’ve stayed at have no ensuite dorm rooms and at most a maximum of 2 showers per building as most are converted houses (exception of which is K’s House Kyoto which was gigantic).
-Souvenir shopping in Osaka is vastly limited compared to the rest of the country. Prices are also inflated upwards of 50%, assuming you can actually find a store that sells good items.
-The crazy gadgets on the toilet seats are both disturbing and awesome. I did not try the bidet massage feature out, but putting music to the flush and heated seats are quite possibly the best thing ever in the terms of potty usage.
-Overall, Japan is the cutest country I’ve ever been to. The adorable characters used in advertising (outside of Hello Kitty) is matched by no other country ever in the history of this planet. Period. If we were all as cute as the Japanese, there would be no war.
Onward to some more important financial aspects from the 26 days in Japan. The following is a break down of some of the important topics that you might want to know regarding my stay in Japan.
Cities Visited: Tokyo, Nikko, Nagano, Nagoya, Matsumoto, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Iwakuni, Saijo, Nagasaki, Ioujima, Osaka, Kobe
Favorite City: Kyoto
Favorite Foods: Okonamiyaki and Yakitori
Favorite Alcohol: Japanese Plum Wine
Favorite Hostel: Hostel Ann in Nagoya
Least Favorite Hostel: Koma Guest House in Osaka
Best Attraction: Nikko Shrines
Offbeat Must See: Kyoto Monkey Park
Biggest Disappointment: Imperial Palaces and Castles
Must Visit Cities: Tokyo, Nikko, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka
Most Expensive Meal: 5,000 yen Kobe Steak for Lunch (8 oz sirloin + salad + soup)
Cheapest/Most Expensive Sleeps: 2,000 yen/night Asakusa Smile in Tokyo and 4,000 yen/night at a converted temple in Zenkoji area of Nagano with private room and tatami mat.
Number of Pictures Taken (total overall): 1609 (1624)
Duration of Videos Taken: 0 hours, 48 minutes
Average Overall Daily Cost: $72.91 (without rail pass) or $96.98 (with rail pass)
Total Spent over 26 Days: $1,895.74 (without rail pass) or $2,521.49 (with rail pass)
Note: Spending does not include inbound flight and outbound ferry, only including the money that was actually spent in Japan from the moment of arrival to the moment of departure. Values do not include ATM fees assessed by bank for removing money as well, and assume an approximate conversion rate of 85.7 yen per $1 US.
For more information regarding my financial spending in Japan, check out the updated On the Road Spending spreadsheet which has a breakdown of daily figures for things like food, site seeing, transportation, hostels, and more! Based on my initial estimate of $70/day without including the rail pass, I would say that I did pretty well; only going a few dollars per day over. Keep in mind my drinking was kept to a minimum in the country with roughly 10 drinks purchased at an average price of around 275 yen each; only when found for the absolute cheapest prices. When considering that this value includes the Cirque du Soleil show ($83), Kobe Beef ($60), and sending a box of souvenirs home ($40) it is quite impressive as those were originally omitted from the daily expense budget.
Don’t think that just because I have left Japan that my postings on this country are over! While I am keeping up real time postings in the various countries that I am in, I have a significant backlog of posts ready for the break in between travel time at home. Some topics we’ve published since launching this guide include:
Japanese Geisha – Hunting the Geisha Hunters in Kyoto
Onsen Experience – Bathing with 20 Japanese Men
Saijo Japan – The City Where You Can Drink as Much Sake as You Want
Kobe Beef in Japan – Making the Journey to Kobe is So Worth It
Street Food in Japan – Takoyaki is a Must Try
Peace Parks in Japan – Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Kyoto Japan – Unusual Temples and Other Incredible Attractions
Japan First Impressions – Organized Chaos
Tsukiji Fish Market – If Only Every City Had One
Miyajima Island – Day Trip to Mount Misen and the Floating Torii Gate
If you are reading this within 24 hours of the time of posting, I am currently floating in the Sea of China onward to Shanghai to start my 4 weeks in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao. During this time there will be a stay with Michael from Art of Backpacking in Xi’an and a meet up with Kirsty and Poi from No Place to Be somewhere near Hong Kong as well!
Have a question about Japan or about my time spent in the country? If so please comment below and I’d be happy to respond to all inquiries!