I'm getting keener and keener to visit Japan again soon(ish) and any blog posts about Japan are grabbing my attention with a vice-like grip. And so it was with a recent Enduring Wanderlust post on 5 Great Reasons to Visit Japan. They were great reasons: delicious food (even if they failed to mention okonomiyaki), the culture, the cherry blossom, the trains (oh! I love a speedy shinkansen!) and the landscapes and cityscapes.
Great reasons, but I came away thinking these reasons were kind of on the mainstream side and although Japan is a modern, more-or-less Western country, the main reasons I adore the place tend to belong on its quirkier side. Which led me to my own counter-post, with five quirky reasons to visit Japan.
1. Japan loves the English language
... and Japanese marketers are not afraid to use it, with little regard for how their weird and wonderful translations might come across. I found it so fascinating that the English language was so beloved and trendy there - and that some shops might use our alphabet exclusively for their names despite the fact that a significant proportion of (especially older) Japanese then wouldn't even be able to read it.
2. Japanese are shy people, but they LOVE karaoke
It takes a special personality trait to sing into a microphone in front of people who've never heard you sing before (and I have to admit at the start of my time in Japan, it also took me a few drinks!). But I love the fact that Japanese people will all have a go, no matter how badly they sing - karaoke is a moment when they can all laugh at themselves and have a heap of fun.
3. Authorities plant cabbages as flowers for New Year
These cabbage-flowers were at Yakushiji Temple in Nara. I suppose they do pretty much look like flowers, but I'm betting some people eat them.
4. In autumn, you can get deep-fried maple leaves
By rights, this quirky food should probably belong to Canada. Japanese are very keen on pursuing different activities depending on the season and the counterpoint to cherry blossom-viewing, six months on, is going somewhere to see the autumn leaves. I never tried a deep-fried one but my students assured me they had no particular taste.
5. In Japan, fishing can be very easy
Some friends were very keen to take me fishing and assured me we would definitely catch some fish for our lunch. I soon realised why - a man brought a bucket of wriggling fish and dumped them into our allocated section of the "river" and we then went about the process of catching them. Cheating? Yes. Full bellies? Also yes.