Why is Japanese culture so unique
14 crazy things to expect in Japan
Is this your first time traveling to Japan? On our first trip to Japan, we weren't entirely unprepared. Of course, we have read about most of the absurdities beforehand and were prepared for the many crazy things that are very common in Japan.
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And yet it is something completely different when you see this craziness with your own eyes and experience this country in all its glory.
This article is all about those crazy things that make Japan so unique.
Of course, crazy is relative, because in Japan everything that seems strange to us is completely normal.
So, let yourself be carried away on a crazy trip to Japan.
Read all of our articles on Japan
# 1 Japanese toilets
The question of which point should be number 1 here has not arisen. That was just obvious: the toilets.
When we were booking our hotels for Japan, we came across a strange review on booking.com. A hotel guest complained at a hotel that there was no heated toilet seat.
What did we make fun of it until it hit us in our last accommodation: no heated toilet seat. We now know: a life without a heated toilet seat is possible, but pointless.
Japan wouldn't be Japan if heating was the only feature of a toilet. Using the toilet is a science in itself.
While we have one button for flushing or a maximum of two for short or long flushing, Japanese toilets are operated with a control panel. There you will find a lot of funny buttons with Japanese lettering.
Japanese toilets have an integrated cleaning function, but not for the toilet but for the toilet user. There are different types of water jets that can be set in different intensities.
Public toilets also often have various noise programs that you can use to drown out your own noises. Great right?
Whenever we have our own apartment again, we definitely want a high-tech toilet seat like this. You can of course buy them online. We checked it right away.
# 2 People everywhere
Japan is full. Full of people. Of course, this does not apply to the whole country, but at least to the big cities, especially Tokyo.
Have you ever seen those photos from the Tokyo subway with people sticking their faces to the window? There really is.
At rush hour, the trams are packed and there are long queues at the platforms, although the metro runs every two minutes. Completely insane!
Because it is so full, of course, it also needs rules. In many train stations it is very clear where you can walk in which direction and that you are not allowed to leave a step between you and the person in front of you on the escalator at peak times. There must be order!
We could have spent hours watching the major hybrids in Japan. Of course, the Shibuya intersection in Tokyo is particularly impressive, through which up to 15,000 people cross the street during every green phase at peak times.
# 3 Tiny rooms
Japan's cities are full and space is accordingly limited. We thought that our hotels in Hong Kong had the smallest rooms in the world until we were in Japan.
The room in our hotel in Tokyo was a total of 11 m², in our hotel in Kyoto it was only 9 m², including the bathroom, of course.
But it is not the case that we have saved on the room booking. No no. We spent more than 140 euros per night on the counter for both rooms.
So if you want to travel to Japan and preferably in the main travel season, then be prepared for small, expensive hotel rooms.
But hey, you don't go to Japan to stay in your room, so that's not a big problem. After all, all the rooms were very well equipped and the hotels were in a very good location. What more do you want?
It can only get a bit critical with large luggage, because there are seldom cupboards in the mini-rooms. So, don't pack that much! By the way, we show you how to pack as minimally as possible in our packing lists: Packing list for city trips & packing list for Southeast Asia.
Once you have your travel dates, book as early as possible. We have all booked our hotels through booking.com, where you can cancel most of the rooms free of charge until shortly before your trip. This is of course very practical.
Also read our articles:
Japan hotel tips: All accommodations on our trip
Tokio Hotel Tips: Where to Stay in Tokyo?
Japan travel expenses: This is how expensive a vacation in Japan is
# 4 Sorting waste
If you think that nobody can fool us Germans when it comes to waste separation, then go to Japan.
In our first hotel room in Tokyo we stood in front of our rubbish bin, a little dismayed, because there were two compartments: "Combustibles" and "Non Combustibles". Combustible garbage and non-combustible garbage. Phew, complicated.
Non-combustible waste is anything that can be recycled and combustible waste is residual waste in the broadest sense. This includes biowaste, but also plastic packaging that cannot be recycled. How do you know what can and cannot be recycled? No idea!
The division of our hotel rubbish bin is nothing compared to the sorting of rubbish that a Japanese household has to do. There are a lot more distinctions.
There are special bags and special pick-up times for each type of garbage, and woe betide you throwing your garbage in a garbage bag that is intended for a different type of garbage or that comes from a different city. Everything forbidden!
The paradox of the garbage separation craze among the Japanese is that there are no public garbage cans. At first we thought we were just too stupid to find them, but in many cities there are simply no public garbage cans. The Japanese usually take their rubbish home with them, where they then neatly separate it.
If you don't feel like carrying your leftover food and empty bottles with you all day, there is also a solution: In supermarkets there are always rubbish bins, of course also neatly separated according to the type of rubbish, and next to vending machines there is often a disposal option .
# 5 virtues
We have already mentioned waste separation in Japan and although there are no public garbage cans, Japan is incredibly clean. There is not a bit of rubbish on the streets. Everything is clean, everything is tidy, everything is regulated!
Speaking of order: In Japan there is also regulation how you get on a train.
Where in Germany a large crowd of people forms in front of the subway, in Japan people line up neatly in order to get on the subway in a decent manner after the other passengers have alighted. Very pleasant!
And not only that: In Japan, even the taxi drivers look like at most a chauffeur in a luxury limousine in our country. Every taxi driver wears a suit, tie and most even white gloves!
The Japanese are not only correct, tidy and clean, they are also extremely friendly and courteous. For example, the Japanese always hold the elevator door open for guests and let you get off first. Always!
# 6 cherry blossom
Although the Japanese are very composed, they all freak out once a year. During the cherry blossom season in Japan, the whole country is in a collective state of emergency.
There is even a separate word for it: Hanami. Hanami means looking at the cherry blossoms and everything around. This all around is called picnicking and often unrestrained drinking.
All dams break when the cherry blossoms, winter is shaken off and the beautiful season is ushered in. Thousands of the Japanese flock to the parks, sit on blankets and plastic sheets with the food and drinks they have brought with them and enjoy the splendor of the flowers.
When we went to Ueno Park in Tokyo one morning to photograph the cherry blossoms, it smelled more like alcohol than in the shabbiest corner pub in Neukölln. Apparently they really let it rip at the Hanami.
Also read the article: Cherry Blossom in Japan
# 7 rhythm of life
Otherwise, however, the Japanese are not quite as impulsive. We often had the feeling that only robots walk through the cities, not real people.
For many Japanese people, life seems to be all about work. On the way to and from work you sleep in the subway or stare at your cell phone and after work you put one or the other sake in your throat.
Pretty sad actually. Independent thinking doesn't seem to be that widespread in Japan either. Japanese people stay at red lights on every street, no matter how small. B stand good, although there is no car in sight.
# 8 The Shinkansen
Order and punctuality are actually typically German virtues, but the Japanese are definitely better at it. Especially the Japanese railways.
We only traveled through Japan by train and everyone, really every train, was on time to the minute. Madness!
Also read: Japan Rail Pass: Our experiences and tips
# 9 Endless train stations
Speaking of trains! We extrapolated probably spent a whole day of our trip in train stations. A train station in Japan cannot be compared to a train station here.
Train stations in Japan are huge and usually consist of countless underground passages and connections.
You can easily calculate a quarter of an hour to find your desired exit or platform in a train station.
This is completely normal, but can also be a bit exhausting in the long run!
# 10 themed cafes
The Japanese like themed cafes. There are cafes where you can cuddle cats and there are cafes where owls live. By the way, this sucks for animal welfare reasons, which is why we don't want to recommend it at all.
Similarly bizarre are the so-called maid cafés, in which the waitresses work in maid uniform and are particularly submissive and friendly to their customers.
# 11 Craziness
We actually had this head-shaking feeling almost every day, in a positive sense of course. But what really left us speechless and shaking our heads was our experience in the Robot Restaurant. It is actually impossible to describe what happens there in 90 minutes.
We'll try anyway. It's called a robot restaurant, but it's actually a show that couldn't be more funky. It's crazy, garish, loud and all in all pretty nonsensical.
And yet it was an unforgettable experience that we can recommend to every visitor to Japan. It is an experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and that you will not soon forget.
Admission is not cheap at around 60 euros, but you get that head-shaking feeling that is typical of Japan.
Our tip: You can book the tickets directly on the website of the organizer, but we recommend that you buy the tickets online beforehand, because at Get your guidethey are a few euros cheaper.
# 12 gambling dens
In Japan it flashes and shines on every corner and the so-called pachinkos are often particularly loud and bright. A pachinko is a gambling den and you can find it on every corner in Japan.
There are slot machines, video games and typical fairground games where you have to pull a cuddly toy out of the machine with a gripper. When it rains in Japan, a pachinko is always a great alternative.
# 13 smoking
A small disadvantage of many pachinkos: It is often very smoky. Japan is a smoking country. There are still smoking cars on the trains and in fact many restaurants in Japan still smoke.
It is all the more astonishing, however, that in many cities in Japan you are not allowed to smoke on the street without further ado.
Smoking outside is only possible in special smoking corners or smoking boxes, otherwise there will be trouble.
So while in Germany people are smoking more and more often in front of the bars, in Japan they are going inside. Wrong world!
# 14 Nobody understands you
What really amazed us is the fact that most Japanese speak little or no English. We would not have expected that in such a highly developed country.
Since tourism from the west does not play such a big role in Japan, you will not find anyone who speaks English even in many hotels.
But somehow you always get through. Anything goes with hands, feet and a smile!
Also read: Japan Travel Tips: The best tips for your trip to Japan!
More crazy things about Japan?
Have you ever been to Japan and seen or experienced crazy things? Tell us about it! We look forward to your comment, Jenny & Basti
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