10 Things I Didn’t Know About Japan Before Visiting

posted by Courtney Jones February 12, 2017 22 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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