I am leaving Tokyo in less than a month and after a year of living in the center of Tokyo mayhem I’ve had plenty of chances to discover my favorite (and least favorite) things about Tokyo and Japan.
So let’s get to it ~
1. Tokyo is the safest city in the world.
Tokyo is such a safe city that many people will leave valuables at a table in a cafe or restaurant while they go to the bathroom or order food with no worry that someone will take their stuff. People will also leave their stuff sitting outside of a store while they go inside and grab what they need. The only things that get stolen in Tokyo are umbrellas. Trust me, during rainy season everyone is victim of umbrella theft AND the culprit.
Additionally, if i’m walking home at night by myself from Shinjuku, which is about a 30 minute walk, I never feel in danger at all. I usually end up having to walk through what people would consider the “dangerous” part of town as well and always feel very safe there. In the US, I would never walk home at midnight or 2 am, especially not by myself. But in Tokyo, so many other people are going home late as well that the worst experience I’ve experienced was a drunk office worker trying to say hello.
2. Japan’s love of limited edition items
Tokyo is a city of pop-up cafes and shops, special exhibits, seasonal specialties, and limited-time-only snacks. You might think that by seasonal specialties I’m talking about the 4 seasons. Well, in Japan it seems more like there are 26 seasons. Yes, that would mean there’s a new season every two weeks. Maybe not weather wise, but food wise, it feels like in Japan, there is always a new flavor of chip, ice cream, or sweet being offered. In addition, many restaurants and fast food places hop onto these trends. This week is all about mint chocolate but I swear just last week salty vanilla chocolates were all over the shelves. McDonalds in Japan releases a new mcflurry almost every two weeks as well. Right now they have a calpis (yeah, pronounced like cow piss) mcflurry and next week they are that out for a Pokemon themed mcflurry to coincide with the release of the newest Pokemon movie. With all the choices it’s nearly impossible to try everything.
3. The variety television broadcasts
You either love or hate Japanese television. A typical Japanese broadcast features a panel of about 10 famous comedians, actors, or personalities. The panel will do some kind of game or activity together or will watch another cooking or travel related show and the viewer watches the panels reactions to the videos. The studios that the shows are filmed in are bright and colorful and on screen there are tons a funny pop-up captions and subtitles. To me, there is so much going on in the show that even if I don’t understand every aspect of the show, it is still extremely visually interesting.
4. Japan has no open carry law
Japan’s drinking culture is drastically from in America. For one, there is no law against having an open drink out on the streets. Because of this, many people tend to just hang out on corners or popular areas where the streets are closed at night and people can walk around freely. Instead of going to a bar a lot of people I can hang out with friends outside. I find this more fun because drinks from the convenience store are cheaper. But more importantly, people-watching the Tokyo nightlife is hilarious and you always see something new. At the station close to my dorm, many of the college clubs tend to meet in the round-about across the street and play different versions of Japanese drinking games. Just watching the games being played is probably more fun than being involved in the games.
5. Kawaii or cute > Cool or sexy
One of the first things that got me interested in Japan was it’s kawaii culture. Kawaii literally translates to cute but it is much different to what western people would consider cute. It’s over the top and outrageous, and it’s everywhere. It’s not just for kids either. More often than not, you will see college kids and even adults and salarymen carrying bags with keychains featuring cute Japanese mascots, anime characters, or food with smiley faces. When shopping, the preferred aesthetic is always kawaii. Even if I’m at a shop that is selling edgier clothing the shop the shop employee will say something along the lines of “The clothes are so cute, aren’t they?”. If I say that I think they are cool I am instantly corrected.
To accurately cover kawaii culture I would need much more than just a paragraph in a blog post. Even a whole post to itself couldn’t cover it. The clash between Japan’s ultra cute and it’s intense work culture is one that could be deeply researched. This is what makes it so interesting. When I have free time, I find myself going to Tokyo’s Harajuku district just to walk around and look at the current kawaii trends. The magazines as well tend to heavily feature pastels and clothes that are not overly sexy.
I love Japan and living in Tokyo but I actually really struggled in making these post and finding five things to write about. Not because there isn’t much I like but because I realized that the reason I love Japan so much is that it’s so much different from my hometown and from Mississippi. I couldn’t even begin to describe the differences without having an hour long discussion on it. I feel more at home here than I ever felt in Nashville or Mississippi and I could definitely see myself moving back here after graduation and working here.