Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Five quirky reasons to visit Japan

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.


  1. Japan certainly looks like a fun country to visit. Fried maple leaves? Cheats fishing? That is funny!! I always found Japanese to be very prim and proper, very educated.

  2. You're right Sami, there is a lot more to Japan than meets the eye! It is a country full of contrasts and the unexpected - a delightful place!

  3. I adore Japan <3, am currently there for a couple of months but also would like to counter-balance this Japan obsession many people have: Japan is an extremely conformist country, women have very low self-esteem and little chances in life, the society is the most superficial of all industrialised nations I have encountered.
    But yes - random fun things, food and nature make up for this, if you are visiting for a limited time at least.

  4. Great memories for me in this post also Amanda. the cabbages always made me laugh; I also wondered if people ate them! I will never get enough of laughing at the advertisor's use of English. I wish I had of known about the fishing thing for Jules - he loves fishing but is quite possibly the most unsuccessful fisherman ever. he usually comes home with nothing.
    @steffi -it sounds to me like you are ready to leave Japan. I felt the same way about Singapore after having lived there for over two years. I knew that if I didn't leave soon I would end up hating the place. I love Japan too - lived there for 18months and though I sometimes felt the things that you described I could always find something to appreciate and enjoy, which is what Amanda is happily reminding me of in her Japan posts.

  5. @Steffi - I agree that in my experience Japanese women are repressed compared to my culture - but I wouldn't call Japan or the Japanese superficial. I think by nature they're actually extremely genuine - but culturally they have norms which are definitely different to ours. Probably because they were closed off from the west for so long. Things will probably change!

    @Rachel - glad it wasn't just me wondering about the cabbages!!! When you go on holiday one day I'll have to tell you where to take Jules for guaranteed fishing success. We had a hilarious day out!

  6. Yes you must tell me! when i mentioned to jules his eyes nearly popped out of his head. lol! i think he can't imagine a successful fishing trip ;-)


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