If you haven’t checked my blog last week, please see that first and come back ☺️
3. Convenience stores – コンビニ
I must admit, 24 hour convenience stores are the light of my life. I not once had to think “oh no, I need to get food before the shops close”. I waltz up to the store any time I like. Living in Japan will never let you go hungry, the portion sizes might leave you peckish, but the option to buy more is always there.
I will truly miss the feeling of knowing I can go and buy an ice cream no matter what day of the week, no matter what time – with no consequences or problems other than the threat of noticeable weight gain. I remember my reverse-culture shock with shopping convenience most vividly, when I was in utter shock as my mother told me I couldn’t go to the shops 1am on a Sunday night as there was nowhere open at all. On week days, shops tend to close at latest 10pm, with some exceptions. On Sundays it’s even earlier, sometimes things will be closed by 4pm (which may shock many people who are either Japanese or are used to Japanese-level convenience).
4. Sakura – “cherry blossom” 桜の花
This is such an obvious choice, it’s just very “once-in-a-life-time” to see Japan during the Sakura season. I was lucky enough to move during the Sakura season, so I got to see both Kanto and Kansai prefecture at full bloom. Do I have a favourite region? Both Tokyo and Osaka (Nara) were beautiful, but the lack of people in Kansai won me over. In Tokyo it’s difficult to enjoy the Sakura as much when every step you take – you are accidentally invading someone else’s picture, getting in the way somehow because at every corner there are people posing for a photo.
But when you have the cherry blossoms to enjoy a little more privately, it’s honestly mesmerising. I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s like another world. The beautiful British countryside seems underwhelming in comparison.
5. Politeness 丁寧な文化
This is definitely something I will miss the most. The culture of being polite in Japan is what attracted me the most, the friendliness, helpful people, the kindness and plenty of “please” and “thank you”, which actually British people particularly appreciate as we have a culture of saying an automatic “sorry” whenever something little happens. In Britain you could bump into someone else and they would still apologise. It doesn’t matter who is in the wrong, that’s irrelevant – you both automatically apologise and remember your manners. We do really love manners in the UK, so this was an aspect of Japanese culture that really made me feel at home.
A very ingrained habit I’ve developed in Japan, is bowing my head as a way for saying thank you, or please, bye, sorry, excuse me – it’s the unspoken language of politeness. And I realise I’ve adopted this habit so hard, that I find myself constantly nodding. Whilst Japanese people see it as standard, I know British people would suspect that I’m crazy or just imitating a pigeon.
These are my top 5, and when I visited England briefly in December (the British take Christmas very seriously and it is dedicated to family time) I really felt the reverse-culture shock as I realised I couldn’t get a train every 5 minutes, the toilet seats were freezing, I had to rush to get my shopping before 10pm, a complete absence of bowing, cute characters, vending machines, and pretty much any convenient service. Wish me luck.