12 Things I Love about Living in Japan
By Grace Buchele Mineta
On February 11, 2015
I like living in Japan. I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life here, but there are several distinct advantages to living in Japan as opposed to somewhere else. The truth is, each country has its own good and bad points. So far, I have lived in America (Texas and Philadelphia), Ghana (Accra), and Japan (Sapporo, Osaka, and Tokyo)… and I love different things about living in each country.
But for now, let’s talk about Japan. Here are the 12 things I love about living in Japan:
1. Availability of vending machines
Japan has the largest number of vending machines per capita, somewhere around one machine for every 23 people. I’m not sure if that is necessary, but it sure is convenient. The majority of these vending machines sell drinks (hot drinks in the winter; cold drinks in the summer) and sit in well-trafficked areas.
2. The public transportation is extremely efficient
My husband and I don’t own a car in Japan. We are able to survive easily enough just relying on busses and trains. The bus stop near our apartment can take us all around the ward and trains come every seven minutes. When we want to go on a road trip or buy furniture, it’s easy (and cheap) to just rent a car for the day.
3. Drinking in public is legal
In some countries, it is illegal to consume alcohol in public (streets, trains, parks, etc). Japan is not one of those countries.
4. It’s safe to walk (alone) basically anywhere as a woman
Japan is the only country I have lived or traveled in where I have felt 100% safe walking alone at night, regardless of the area. Yes, crime happens. You still need to be careful. However, I have never been approached or harassed by a stranger while walking home at night – which happened regularly when I lived in Texas and Philadelphia.
5. The complete convenience of convenience stores
Convenience stores really are convenient in Japan. You can pay your bills, withdraw money, buy a freshly prepared lunch, and pick up emergency beauty supplies in less than five minutes. Don’t even get me started on their ice cream selection. In large cities, convenience stores are on basically every corner and in the countryside, convenience stores are placed strategically.
6. Recycling is actually practiced
Recycling can be a hassle, of course, but it is nice to live in a country where people actually recycle rather than just tossing everything in the trash.
7. Heated toilet seats
Heated toilet seats are a beautiful, magical thing that should be adopted in more countries. They run hot water under the lid so it is less painful going to the bathroom during the freezing winter months.
8. Pockets of nature, even in the large cities
I don’t enjoy “city life” which really is a shame because I’ve been living in Tokyo for almost three years now. My husband and I both prefer the countryside. Thankfully, Tokyo has quite a bit of “countryside” even in the heart of the city. There are little pockets of nature (parks, temples, trees, etc) hidden between buildings. The key is knowing where to look.
9. You can get by (ish) without speaking the language
Of course, I recommend learning Japanese. It’s a fun language. However, if you are just going to be placed in Osaka for six months, you can get by using only English. And, of course, I assume if you’re reading this article, you can speak English.
10. Sanitation and general cleanliness
Most of the large cities in Japan are surprisingly clean. Rather than throwing trash on the ground, most people take it home and recycle it.
11. Delicious (and healthy) food
Sushi, ramen, okonomiyaki, nabe, mochi, udon – I could entertain you for hours with stories of my favorite foods in Japan. Most traditional Japanese foods don’t use milk (a huge bonus for lactose intolerant people like me), use plenty of vegetables, and are very “light.” I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in Japan, my skin has almost completely cleared up, and I feel much more energetic. Food makes a big difference.
12. Insane (polite) customer service
It’s almost unnerving how polite customer service is in Japan. Of course, this can also be a problem if you don’t speak keigo (formal Japanese).
What about you? What are your favorite things about living in Japan?