Things I won’t miss about Japan

Osaka by night

Writing this at the end of a month long trip to Japan, it’s fair to say that this has been one of our favourite trips of all time. There is a lot to like about Japan (much of which I listed in the previous post). No trip is perfect however and it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the more challenging aspects of Japan, for me at least. Here are just a few things that spring to mind that make the thought of coming home that bit easier.

Language struggles

Arriving in a place where the language is alien and where the alphabet is completely unfamiliar is part of the thrill of travelling. Having to mime your way to a get a meal, a bus ride or even a drink in a shop can all become memorable moments of confusion. After a month however the novelty wears off and it’s time to learn the language in order to enjoy the country any further.

It will be good to walk into a restaurant (it won’t be long before we go for a Japanese meal I’m sure) and order a meal without being totally clueless what it is that we’re asking for.



It’s not easy coming from the UK where the red/green lights for pedestrians are an optional guide at best and in most cases little more than street decoration. In Japan the pedestrian signals are strictly followed in pretty much all cases, leading to frustratingly long waits on empty roads in the dead of night. I have to accept that I’m better suited to the relative anarchy of London’s streets.


Eating and drinking while walking

There are vending machines everywhere in Japan. It’s a similar story with fast-food joints. Food and drink on the go – except that nibbling at that cake or drinking from that cold can while walking is taboo. Understandable and not inconvenient when there are benches close by, but often this is not the case. Do you stand out as an ignorant foreigner and satisfy your thirst/hunger while standing, or do you wait for the next bench by which time your purchase might be cold/warm? Of course I prefer to sit and eat when I can, but having lived my life in an ‘anything goes’ culture the Japanese way has proved very restrictive on occasion.


Rubbish Bins

Related to the previous point, there is a dire lack of bins in cities and around tourist facilities. There are recycling points around some vending machines but as you’re not supposed to drink standing next to the machine these are not always the most convenient locations. On several occasions we have walked for over an hour with our bag of rubbish before eventually dropping it into the bin on the train.



Japan has some strange smoking restrictions. Lighting up in many outdoor public places is banned, but walk into many coffee shops and the air is thick with cigarette smoke. There are non-smoking sections but too often the method of segregation renders the whole café a smoking establishment. It seems total nonsense that a smoker can’t smoke outside and has to wait until he steps into a cafe to light up.



Thank goodness for BBC World news. Only a few of our hotels have offered this but it’s been a blessing when we’ve had it. Flicking through TV channels around the world can be very entertaining even when you don’t have any idea what is going on. Japanese TV however appears to be particularly low-brow and frankly very silly.


Home cooking

This final point is not Japan-specific but more one that comes from spending a month in hotels. I can’t wait to get back to my kitchen, pull out those pots and pans and knock up some of our favourite dishes. However good the food has been here, the taste of your own home cooked food is hard to beat.

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5 Responses to “Things I won’t miss about Japan”

  1. All part of the cultural adventure eh. I’m with you on the smoking indoors. The Jaywalking is frustrating – spent 2 hours in a Tokyo cop shop for crossing on a red man at about 11pm which was very annoying….although I kind of respect the respect for rules if you know what I mean.
    Still not with you on the bins. There are bins all over the place especially at stations, convenience stores and by vending machines which is where of course you will be eating as you will not be eating and roaming.
    Hope you had a good time in Japan. From your posts, it sounds like you did. Safe journey back!

    September 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm
    • So they DO catch the jaywalkers then – sounds like you were very unlucky… yes, I know what you mean re: respecting the rules.
      Bins… I don’t know, this was just our experience. Perhaps we were in the wrong spots, but in all of our travels we’ve never found it so hard to dispose of our rubbish. It was worst in the smaller towns but even in Tokyo I don’t think there are nothing like the number of bins you’d find in any European city.
      Thanks again James for adding your thoughts (and again for your great suggestions!)

      September 27, 2011 at 8:42 pm
  2. Very interesting! I’ll have to read the previous article to learn more about where you visit, I expect. This is all very understandable, though. It’s all about whether the traveller is prepared for all of the differences.

    After a summer there, the things I could do without are:

    1) the huge crows which may as well be dinosaurs out of Jurrasic Park
    2) the folks, as accomodating as they try to be, not accepting I spoke Japanese half the time
    3) extremely punctual bus and train schedules I never quite got used to. I’m used to driving myself around at home and making the time, opposed to running to a bus stop to make it on time, to the minute.

    That’s sort of it, though. The stuff you mentioned didn’t bother me for long. I was a bit prepared for it. I mean, I heard from some local students there was a killer caterpillar too, but I’m pretty sure they were pulling my leg…

    September 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm
    • Ah yes, the crows! Pretty menacing aren’t they. Wouldn’t recommend watching The Birds before you go…
      Also the cicadas and their noise on the hot days. I’ll always think of Japan when I hear them again.

      September 27, 2011 at 8:44 pm
  3. I don’t think I could wait at a pedestrian crossing for the light to change if the street was empty. That would drive me insane!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:14 am