Japan does things just a bit differently from the rest of the world. Here are five things about Japan that may surprise you.
1.) It’s not easy to find authentic Mexican, Indian, or other specific types of international cuisines
While the Japanese are quite famous for their own cuisine as well as their adaptations of many popular western styles of cooking, you might be generally disappointed if you look for an authentic taco, real Indian-style curry, or other types of ethnic cuisines. It’s not that they’re totally impossible to find in Japan, there just aren’t that many restaurants that serve authentic ethnic cuisines outside of French, Italian, and American styles.
Many authentic restaurants that do open quickly learn to cater to Japanese tastes, which while possibly resulting in a legitimately tasty dish, may not satisfy those looking for an authentic taste of home. In any case, it’s best to temper your expectations or prepare your own food, should nostalgia strike during your stay overseas.
2.) Smoking areas are usually indoors, not outdoors
While less true of younger generations, the Japanese are still some of the heaviest smokers in the world, and their tastes in tobacco lean towards bolder, more acrid preferences. This means that if you ever find yourself needing a smoke, you will probably need to do it indoors, and your clothes will smell more strongly of cigarette smoke than they usually do.
The usual reason given to why the Japanese smoke indoors has to do with the proper disposal of cigarette butts. It may very well be true because you probably won’t find a cigarette butt on the streets as you would in nearly every other country in the world.
3.) You probably won’t find your favorite breakfast cereals
While Japan is definitely no stranger to unhealthy foods, you may be surprised to find that the selection of breakfast cereals is incredibly sparse, compared to western standards. Breakfast cereals, if you can find them, are generally sold in small single serve boxes that are priced comparably to large boxes in other countries.
The Japanese also tend to prefer variants of cornflakes, so if you’re looking for something else, you may have to order it from overseas. The cereals they do have also tend to be too sweet for many westerners, even without added sugar. You’re not likely to see Japanese people drink a lot of milk either, as most Japanese are lactose intolerant. When they do buy cereal, it’s far more likely they will be used on ice cream or cold desserts like kakigori, rather than poured into a bowl of milk, as most of the world does with breakfast cereal.
4.) Open wifi hotspots are rare
Japan has one of the fastest internet connections in the world. That said, the trick is actually finding a reliable, affordable way to get connected. Open wifi spots that we take for granted in most major cities, even in much less developed countries, are quite rare. Occasionally hotels may have an open wifi hotspot, but these tend to be unreliable.
To avoid exorbitant roaming charges, your best bet would be to rent a pocket wifi device from Japan Wifi Buddy before you fly to Japan. They’ll set you up as soon as you land, giving you fast internet access virtually everywhere in the country.
5.) Public bathrooms are rarely stocked with paper towels
For all the high-tech toilets and general fastidiousness the Japanese are known for, you will rarely see a public bathroom stocked with paper towels or hand-dryers. It’s not unusual for these bathrooms to lack soap as well. For this reason, most Japanese will keep at least one handkerchief with them, for drying their hands on. Many Japanese also carry small bottles of soap or hand sanitizer for when they need to sanitize their hands.