Japan

10 Things I Didn’t Know About Japan Before Visiting

posted by Courtney Jones February 12, 2017 18 Comments
Things I Didn't Know About Japan
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Things I didn’t know about Japan.

Japan is such an incredible place. I had a great time exploring the country earlier this month, and realised quickly that there were some things I didn’t know about Japan before I spent some time there!

Here are a few things I learned:

Check-in times are really strict

I found it really surprising that nearly all the hotels we stayed at in Japan didn’t have the option for early check-in. Other places I’ve travelled will generally try to accommodate an early check-in, if they have a clean room available – not Japan! At first, I wasn’t sure why, but I eventually learned that it’s because hotels clean the entire floor at the same time. It’s actually really efficient from a cleaning perspective, but it means all the rooms are being cleaned concurrently, so no rooms are available earlier than anticipated.

Japanese toilets are amazing

This seems like a weird thing to be writing about, but it’s true: Japan toilets are out of this world! They have heated seats, they have spraying water that cleans…you…and you can adjust the pressure, and they have a waterfall sound that immediately starts when you sit down to cover the sound of doing your business…they’re wild.

Things I Didn't Know About Japan

Phone numbers are used to program GPS

We rented a car in Hokkaido, and luckily the rental worker explained to us how to use the GPS, because there’s ZERO chance we would have figured it out. First of all, it was obviously in Japanese, which we can’t read/understand. Secondly, you use phone numbers to set your destination, not addresses! Never would have guessed.

Garbage cans are really hard to find

You’ll rarely see people eating or drinking outside a dining establishment in Japan, as Japanese culture tends to deem that as inappropriate. Unlikely western cultures where everyone will walk around drinking their coffee, people in Japan will drink in designated areas, rendering the need for random garbage cans unnecessary. There are generally always garbage bins beside vending machines, and you’ll see people buy a drink, stand beside the machine to drink it, and then dispose of the bottle!

Ice-cream is a big deal

I was also surprised by the fact that you can get ice-cream everywhere, even though it was the dead of the winter! Convenience stores, cafes, restaurants and outdoor kiosks all sell ice-cream, generally soft serve. You can find it on almost every block in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto!

Things I Didn't Know About Japan

There are no bills smaller than 1,000 JPY

1,000 JPY is currently worth about $10.50 AUD, and it’s the smallest bill that exists in Japan. There is a coin worth 500 JPY – $5.75 AUD – meaning you can literally buy yourself coffee and a snack for a single coin. It also means that you’ll have soooo much change at any given time!

Most stores don’t open before 10am

The cities in Japan definitely have a night culture. John and I are both early risers, which seems opposing to Japanese culture, as very few restaurants or shops open before 10am. We found that we ended up hanging out in our hotel for a few hours each morning before we could actually go out and do anything!

Japanese mirrors don’t fog up

Ok, that’s a generalisation as Japanese mirrors DO fog up (referring to bathroom mirrors, after showering), but every single hotel I stayed in had a section of the mirror that didn’t. I still don’t know how, but I am determined to find out before I own a house! I need this in my life.

Things I Didn't Know About Japan

People are super helpful

Within our first couple hours in Japan, two locals went out of their way to try to help us! The first time was to help us find the right train line, and the second time to help us find our hotel.

Google Translate is amazing

Google Translate is a fab app. I downloaded it before I left expecting it to be ‘okaaaaay, but not great’, but was pleasantly surprised with how good it was! Sure, it could’t always translate the text perfectly, but it was good enough to give me comfort that I knew if I was ordering ‘chicken’ or ‘eel’!

Cool, right? I love that there were so many unexpected things I didn’t know about Japan!

Want to see more about Japan? Check out this video!

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18 Comments

Allison February 12, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I hope to make it to Japan soon for a proper visit after just a few hours exploring Osaka on a layover inspired me. I knew the toilets would have to come up but I had no clue about the mirrors. I’ll have to make sure I try some of the ice cream while I am there.

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Courtney Jones February 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

Ohh a few hours is a tease! Hopefully you’ll get a longer stay sometime soon!

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Ed and Jenn Coleman February 13, 2017 at 1:43 am

What a fun and wonderful list. I would have guessed that timeliness and manners were important to Japanese culture. I never would have guessed ice cream or toilets. When I think Asian toilets, I think squatty potty. Also, I am for sure going to have to check out Google Translator on our next adventure.

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Courtney Jones February 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

Google Translate was a life saver!

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Jean February 13, 2017 at 2:07 am

Oh I love Japan. It was the first country I visited when I was 17! I love exploring the quirky toilets and eating ice cream. Ah not at the same time though!

It’s so true about trying to find a trash can. So friggen difficult!

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Courtney Jones February 13, 2017 at 8:26 am

Haha definitely not ice-cream and toilets together 😀

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Only By Land February 13, 2017 at 9:26 am

I guess rules are rules in Japan when it comes to checking in, I think when I stayed I had to leave my bags and come back too. The fact that the windows don’t fog up is great news for bathroom selfie fans, maybe after a shower when returning from the gym! I do remember eating ice cream when I was there in January which is unheard of in England! I have to admit with those toilet seat warmers in the cold, going to the bathroom was a great experience in Japan!

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Courtney Jones February 13, 2017 at 9:59 am

The toilet seat warmers are so great in the cold weather 🙂

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neha February 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Very interesting facts. Even I didn’t know most of them. Particularly the waterfall sound in the toilet..totally loved the idea

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Courtney Jones February 18, 2017 at 3:51 am

haha I love it as well 😀

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Promise Chika Maxwell February 13, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Interesting and unknown things to me. The Japanese are always sophisticated with technology giving folks that mesmerized face. Really would be a life changer not getting fogs after bath. Thanks for sharing!

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Courtney Jones February 18, 2017 at 3:50 am

They are definitely advanced!

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Katie February 13, 2017 at 6:45 pm

This is some great info about Japan! We visited and the people were so lovely! We loved the toilets too! Another thing we learnt staying in a budget hotel was to make sure you ask for a non-smoking room – our room smelt so bad!

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Courtney Jones February 18, 2017 at 3:49 am

Ohhhh good tip on booking rooms! We booked most of our hotels through Booking.com, which had the option to select smoking/non-smoking, luckily! I did notice that so many restaurants still had smoking options!

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Global Girl Travels February 14, 2017 at 6:55 am

Oh, Japan is truly one of the best places to visit in the world. I actually didn’t know some of these things and we’ve been to Japan before. It’s good to know that they have ice cream everywhere. It’s the perfect pick-me-up when strolling the city!

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Courtney Jones February 18, 2017 at 3:48 am

It’s such a cool place to explore – I was loving the ice-cream everywhere 😀

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Natalie February 15, 2017 at 2:32 am

The toilets look like aircraft cockpits! I would think that potty time would take so much longer just to figure out the buttons!! LOL! What do all the buttons even do, I wonder??????? We always travel with the kids and they love to explore…icecream would be something they would love to find on every corner!! That is a really unusual green color in the photo… What flavor is it??

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Courtney Jones February 18, 2017 at 3:48 am

It’s matcha flavoured ice-cream!

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