Like every country Japan has it's good side and bad side. Overall, I have really enjoyed my trip here and I'm glad I came. The experience of traveling to another country, stepping out of your comfort zone and the bubble of your usual existence can be very enlightening. I've been challenged in ways that made me grow as a person and I feel like I see things with new eyes and a clear mind. I have found it's easy for people to make judgments when everyone lives in a bubble.
Below are my experiences of living in Japan for a month.
Things I Love
It's amazing how safe it is across the whole country. In the big cities people leave their bikes unlocked outside the station, at cafes, everywhere. I left my backpack sitting somewhere and came back to it still there. In Taiji, Scott left his camera at a shrine and as we are heading back up the hill to get it to construction workers are zooming down the hill to return it. You can walk around late at night in dark alleys and not worry about a thing. Traveling alone, this element of safety is a comforting thing.
The only public transport system I’ve experienced that is better than Japan is in London. The train system is fairly reliable and the bus system is too if you aren’t in a hurry. I only had one bad experience with the bus in Kyoto. I sat and waited for a bus to get me back to my hotel so I could make a train to Taiji, and waited for over 40 minutes before I grabbed a cab and spent way too much money (and didn’t end up making my train). Four of that bus came by the opposite way so I couldn’t figure out what was going on and my Japanese wasn’t good enough to ask. That was a very expensive mishap. The only thing is it’s not cheap to travel around Japan by train and if you take the cheaper trains it can double your travel time.
Every single place I’ve visited has been beautiful. The scenery, the buildings, the food, the people, art in the subway, even the manholes have beautiful motifs. It’s no wonder I have a fascination with Japan and it’s culture.
The only exception was on my way to Taiji. I had a stopover in this little town called Kii-Tanabe. I walked around and saw so many clubs and many girls outside in slutty clothing. The energy was really creepy. I got out of there as fast as I could!
This is a very clean and tidy country. They put a lot of pride in keeping the streets clean and business owners meticulously clean the front of their stores. There’s no trash anywhere on the streets, but there are no trashcans anywhere either. Weird. I was told that you aren’t suppose to eat on the street or in trains; it’s not polite. If you buy something from a corner store you are expected to take it with you to your house/job before eating or you stand outside, eat, then throw the trash away there. In bigger cities, “Smoking Areas” line the streets where everyone has to stand to smoke. My lungs are very thankful for this so I’m not inhaling smoke everywhere I go.
Japanese love fashion. I’ve even seen girls hiking in heels at different tourist spots. In Tokyo I spent many hours just people watching, and everyone was dressed to the nines. Another thing I noticed is that women do not show there shoulders. If they have a tank top on they would wear a shirt underneath. Also, most do not show their legs. So if they have a skirt or shorts on they would wear leggings, thigh-highs or knee-highs. Only young girls under 25 would ever show their entire leg. Women also love to layer. Even in the 90 plus degree weather I experienced in Tokyo, everyone would have many layers on. And many women even wear gloves with the fingers cut off to protect them from the sun.
I also DISLIKE fashion in Japan because I saw SO much fur at the stores in the big cities. So Japan loses big time there.
Whether is old traditional architecture or new modern style, the buildings and homes are really cool. And of course all the shrines and temples are magnificent.
Things I Dislike
Everything is wrap in plastic, store clerks will put your produce in a plastic bag if you let them, and rice crackers are individually wrapped in plastic. Also, vending machines line the streets and stations filled with plastic bottles. They seem to have a recycling program, but where do they put all the trash??! It’s a small island with very little space, so I wonder where it’s going. Into the ocean? Do they burn it? It seems to be a very wasteful country.
Everyone told me it was expensive here but I didn’t quite understand until 3 weeks into my trip. I added up what I’ve spent so far and already surpassed my budget I set for myself. I thought my budget of $1000 would be fine for a month in Japan since I’m staying on farms and couchsurfing. I’m not really paying for accommodations except one night in Kyoto and 4 nights in Taiji, which I scored a cheap deal of 2000yen a night. Even still I still have a week left and now I’m cutting into the money reserved for the rest of my trip. I was hoping I might be able to swing visiting Bali, but now it’s out of the question.
If you work here and make your money in yen then it isn’t so expensive. But using the dollar here with the awful exchange rate, even a glass of tea at a café cost $4-6. So most meals out are 1200-2000yen. The best way to save money of food is to eat food from convenience or grocery stores. If you have access to a kitchen this is even easier. I learned my lesson: don’t eat at more than one meal a day if that.
From fishing villages, to dolphin slaughter, to fur fashion, to delicacies of wild boar, and no concern about the animals they consume, japan has a long history of abusing animals. And they are proud of most of it. Having spent a month with the people of Japan, I see it's going to take a lot to change the mindset of these prideful, inflexible people.
But with all this I still love Japan and it's people. Don't think I could ever live there I've realized, but so glad I went. Here is the slideshow from my Japan trip if you haven't seen the photos yet. Enjoy!