With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

10 Things I Will Miss About Japan

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 30, 2017

  1. Conveyor Belt Sushi

They come in both the expensive and inexpensive varieties. Mark and I mainly stick to the more economical kaiten sushi places like, Hamazushi, Sushi Meijin, or Sushi Ro. They charge 100 yen (1USD) for a plate of sushi with 2 pieces of regular (or one sumptuous) cuts of sushi or rolls. I usually eat about 4 to 5 plates with a side or dessert. The cheaper restaurants also have special days for discounts. Hamazushi’s sushi plates costs 10 yen less on weekdays. Sushi Meijin gave women 10% off on Tuesdays. Although sushi is the main attraction, they also serve fries, ice cream, cakes, soups, salads, and other dishes.

  1. The Kei Car

It’s like driving half a car. They are not as fast, big, or powerful as regular cars, but they’re also not as expensive. Kei cars burn less gas. It costs less to drive a Kei car on a toll road. Both insurance and taxes for Kei cars are about half that of regular full-sized cars. There are also more parking spots around town for these smaller vehicles.

My first Kei car cost about $1,500. That price included all the taxes and both mandatory and optional insurance for a year. It didn’t have much power though. I would have to turn off the air conditioner when going uphill with more than two people in the car.

My second Kei was newer, cost about $2,500, and had a turbo something. (I don’t know that much about cars.) It had more power than my first Kei car, but it was still not as fast as other regular cars on the toll roads where you can drive faster than 80 kph. But in Japan, there are very few roads where you can drive that fast. The speed limit in and around town is about 50 to 60 kph, so it doesn’t matter that some cars can go 180 kph and mine can’t.

The only real reason to get a regular car over a Kei car, is if you have to drive around with several passengers. Kei cars can fit 2 adults comfortably, 3 adults less comfortably, and 4 adults uncomfortably. Four is the max capacity for most Kei cars. There is one make of Kei with 2 extra jump seats in the hatch-back trunk area. In general, no one ever wants to sit in a jump seat.

This happens so infrequently, we had to take a photo.

  1. Not pumping my own gas in the winter or summer

Self-service gas stations in Japan are not that common. When you find one, they seem a bit gimmicky, like a self-check-out aisle in the supermarket. Some people think that the self-service stations are cheaper, but I think it varies. The full-service place where I get my gas now, is on par with the self-service place I used when I lived in Okayama (and it comes with free stuff when you buy a pre-paid gas card).

In the winter I stay in my heated car as the gas attendant stands out in the cold pumping my gas. While he’s doing that, his co-worker cleans my windshield and mirrors. When I pay, they ask me for any trash I might have in my car that they could dump for me. This is the closest thing to a cleaning my car ever gets.

  1. Apples

Apples in Japan are just more delicious and apple-like. They only have Fuji apples, though.

  1. Calpis

It’s the drink with the funny name that also tastes kind of funny, but in a good way. If you’ve never had Calpis, let me explain the flavor this way:

Imagine you live in a little town or village somewhere. Your community doesn’t have a lot of things that most places in the world have, like pizza, the internet, newspapers, or milk. One day your neighbor, who spent a few weeks out in the world several years ago, sits by the big tree to regale the village with tales of the Outside. Everyone likes his stories so they sit at his feet to hear about ink pens, fax machines, and disco music. But, the most popular yarns are about milk.

“Tell us again about milk!” The townsfolk beg, almost whispering the word “milk” to show reverence. Everyone is fascinated about this white juice that doesn’t come from a fruit. “It feels like drinking something smooth and soft,” your neighbor tells everyone. “I would say it’s creamy, but I come from this milk-deprived village and know nothing about cream or creamy things. So I would say it’s not uncreamy because I know more about things that aren’t creamy.”

You go home and retell your neighbor’s stories to your mother who has never heard the tales before. She works in a lab and she is very curious about this “milk-juice”. She asks you to repeat everything you remember hearing about milk. She asks you, because she refuses to talk directly to the neighbor. She was engaged to him once and he stood her up on the wedding day. He ran off and went to the Outside and she has never spoken to him since.

After retelling your second-hand tales several times, your mom runs to her basement laboratory vowing that she will make this milk herself. After an hour she comes back with white-enough liquid that she added some ice cubes to. You taste it. It’s slightly too sweet, but it tastes like milk to you. You’ve never had milk, but you think this must be it.

That is what Calpis tastes like. It’s wonderful!

Salt, Denim, Sweet Potato, Gold Flakes

  1. Souvenir Ice Cream

I don’t see this as much I would like, but I’ve seen it enough times to look out for it. If you go to a town that is famous for strawberries, you will see someone selling strawberry ice cream. Of course that could just be a coincidence. But Mark and I have been to towns famous for figs and found fig ice cream. We went to an island that harvested salt, and the gift shop sold salt flavored ice cream. It was terrible!

I’ve had denim ice cream, in a denim manufacturing town, sake ice cream near a sake brewery, and asparagus ice cream near a farming village. The denim ice cream was actually ramune flavored but it had denim-blue food coloring and was sold next to The Gap.

Miyoshi is famous for its wine.

  1. Omiyage

In the states when your co-workers or friends go on vacation they will usually bring back souvenirs. They give out t-shirts, key chains, or post cards. When you get one you think, “Great, another refrigerator magnet…” In Japan the souvenirs are little cakes, cookies, or chocolates. They are either molded in the shape of some tourist attraction or have a picture of some attraction on it. Sometimes the omiyage tastes good, sometimes it tastes bad. Either way, it’s gone after two bites. You eat it and thank the person who gave it to you. And for that person, buying the omiyage was very easy. They sell boxes of the stuff at every souvenir shop and all rest stops on the toll roads. One box has anywhere from 10 to 50 little treats, so you don’t have to spend half your vacation wondering, “What should I get Kim from accounting?”

Cola & Soda KitKats

  1. Flavored KitKats

These are great. Even when they are awful, they are great. The best flavor I’ve had was sugar cookie. It had to be baked. The worst one was sweet bean cake flavored. I never found the illusive wasabi flavored ones.

His job is to protect Kobe.

  1. Everyone is so professional

At some point in time, you’ve probably needed someone somewhere to help only to find that they don’t want to. It has nothing to do with you personally. They just don’t care that much about their job and helping you is part of that job they care so little about.

This rarely happens in Japan. So many people in Japan take pride in their job no matter what that job is, whether they hate their job or not. Clerks at 7-Eleven are always well groomed and courteous. Bank tellers are happy to help you understand the Japanese on an ATM. Even full-service gas station attendants, after pumping your gas and cleaning your windows will put their lives on the line to stand out in traffic to stop cars so you can get back on the road.

No matter what question, problem, or complaint I have ever had, and no matter where I go for help, I have always been treated like my needs are very important. The people helping me have always been polite and friendly. This really helps when living in a country where I don’t speak or read the language very well.

  1. Daiso

This is the best dollar store in the world! (Though, it’s not quite a dollar store.) Most things at Daiso cost 100 yen which is roughly 1USD. This is the first place to go if you need kitchen supplies, stationary, and even electronic accessories. You need a cute box, preferably one with a cat’s face? Go to Daiso. Do you want an HDMI cable? Go to Daiso. A bicycle bell? Daiso! The only thing I would not recommend getting from Daiso is food, but only because the unit price makes the food from Daiso more expensive than the same thing at a grocery store. They sell, for example a one serving package of spaghetti at Daiso for 100 yen. At the local grocer’s, spaghetti is sold in 4 serving packs for 200 yen. If you just want to buy a small amount of something like, let’s say, umeboshi to try it. Then go to Daiso. If you like it, buy a bigger package of the stuff from the grocery store.

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One Response to “10 Things I Will Miss About Japan”

  1. […] is actually a drink from Korea. I couldn’t remember if it tasted like my beloved Calpis. It didn’t. It tasted like weakly flavored […]

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