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5 Things I Miss About Living in Japan

You never know what you miss until you don't have it anymore.

By 3 min read 24

By the time I was in eighth grade, I knew that I wanted to move to America. So I ended up going to college in America and I have been here for over half of my life.

Growing up in Japan, I felt a sense of bitterness about growing up as a hafu (slang for a half-Japanese person). So I was relieved when I moved to California and didn’t have to deal with that pressure. But, on the other hand, I was homesick because my family and friends were back home. Still, I enjoy my new experiences in America at the same time.

Over the years, my perceptions of Japan have changed a lot. Living in a completely different western society made me appreciate certain things about Japan. I wouldn’t have enjoyed these things unless I moved to America. I visit my family in Japan every other year at least, and every time I go home, I embrace the qualities of Japan.

Here are five things that I miss about living in Japan.

1. Cleanliness

Even the trash is clean.

Japan is very clean. You rarely see trash in the street everywhere you go. As part of school education, children have to clean their school. Foreigners are often surprised to see how clean it is in big cities. Outside of places like Shibuya, you don’t see graffiti anywhere either.

There aren’t many trashcans outside in, and you’re expected to take your trash with you. My Japanese friends would just take their trash home to throw it away at home. Even the train stations in Tokyo have recently announced they will do away with trash cans.

2. Safety

Walking at night feels safer.

In America, I drive everywhere and even during the daytime, I wouldn’t feel safe walking in specific areas alone. There were multiple sexual assaults and robberies in my neighborhood when I was a student. Hence, I feel like I can never be too careful in America.

Of course, we still have to be cautious even in Japan, but I feel pretty safe even at night and alone in Japan. I miss just walking to the convenience store at night.

3. Shopping

There is so much shopping potential in Japan.

Shopping is a lot of fun in Japan.

In America, most major department stores are pretty much monopolized. So you see the same brands everywhere—GAP, Express, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc.

But in Japan, there are smaller retail stores that will make your shopping experience very unique. So many local stores sell super cute miscellaneous goods or Japan-made fashion, and they are everywhere.

4. Food

Every ramen shop is the best ramen shop.

America doesn’t display realistic-looking plastic food outside restaurants as Japanese restaurants do. These are called shokuhin sampuru (food sample). I think it’s a clever idea, especially for foreign tourists visiting Japan.

Also, contrary to popular belief that Japanese people only eat rice, sushi and miso soup, there are all kinds of restaurants to explore. I miss eating authentic udon, Hakata ramen, Japanese-style pasta and Japanese cheesecake.

5. Convenience stores

You’d probably never pick up dinner at a Seven-Eleven in America.

Konbini (convenience store) in Japan literally have everything. They’re clean, the store clerks are polite, and most are open for 24 hours.

Convenience stores such as Seven-Eleven are a joke in America. They sell coffee, donuts and junk food. And they are definitely not clean. On the contrary, Japanese convenience stores sell quality products and food—bentos, healthy options, everyday goods. Plus, the coffee is actually good.

These are the things that I miss about living in Japan, and I’m sure there are more. But, unfortunately, I’d taken these things for granted until after I left Japan and started to live in America. So, while life here can be wonderful and offers unique experiences, and there is no perfect place to live, I still miss Japan.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2015.
Do you miss living in Japan? Are you glad you left and are never looking back? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Anthony says:

    I agree with you about almost everything. My fiancé lived in Japan for 6 months, and not once did I find myself worried about her walking back from her eikawa at night, while in the states I’m worried about even raising my voice to certain people in case they have a gun and go on a shooting rampage.

    Also the FOOD – I spent so much money at conbini stores going wild on the amazing food…I know most Japanese people don’t look at conbini food as very sophisticated but being able to walk into Lawson’s and grab tasty and fresh onigiri for 100 yen is something you just can’t get in the States and I miss that intensely.

    Also, this is going to sound weird, but bidet toilets. Oh man, we need those in the states.

    Something I didn’t miss though was the lack of having a dryer. That’s my one “lazy American” trait that I couldn’t let go of…gotta have a clothes dryer!

  • Alfred Rodriguez says:

    Anyways, it’s quite amazing the comments I read in the thread – especially regarding SAFETY and CLEANLINESS. I am hence curious where these “gaijins” spent their lives in Japan. Gaijin-infested areas? *LOL*

    In my case, I’ve lived in Japan for 17-years (recently moved back to SoCal in 2013). Started out as student then progressing to a Shakai-Jin. Been almost everywhere for studies or work – Tokyo, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Omiya (Saitama), Kobe, etc. Also, I’ve explored the archipelago way more than the average Japanese – and NO – am not with “Gaijin” tours (or with foreigner friends), but with the locals (N1 in the Proficiency Test here).

    And I’d say I’d agree with ALL your points!!!

    I miss Japan so much that if ever I visit (haven’t since 2013) – I’m afraid I might never come back. *LOL*

  • ShadowRegulus says:

    Mmm, while there may be a lot of chains in America, there are definitely a lot in Japan too. I’ve seen Uniqlo, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, McDonald’s, and BIC Camera everywhere I go. Not to mention brands in stores. Disney of Japan, AEON, Asahi, and others own everything, from scrub brushes to food. As for convenience stores, let’s not kid ourselves, there’s plenty of junk in them here in Japan. I give you cleanliness, but it’s a pain in the ass having to carry garbage around all day until I’m lucky enough to find a garbage can within the next 5 miles. I’ve also seen my fair share od graffiti here. Safety I give you, but then I lived in a very safe place in America.

  • Beatem says:

    I had a similar experience from you. I am originally from South America and now go to college in Ameirica. I would say its an improvement but some foods that I could get in my hometown easily-fish, rice, some kinds of meat- are no where available here.7eleven makes me mad! Since there’s no enough variety.

  • アディル アリ says:

    I miss all japan its amazing.

  • md12777 says:

    Your cleanliness part I have issues with:
    Streets clean? Yes.
    Rivers clean? Hell no.
    Graffiti? Yes
    Restaurants clean? Sometimes, sometimes not- you sit with smokers.

  • cyndi Di Manno says:

    I lived 8 years in Japan, Yokota AB. Cleanliness you have got to be kidding. Ive seen plenty of truck drivers get out of their trucks in traffic and pee in the streets, McDonalds trash litters the highway everywhere. Food is good, train system is excellent, where else can you put a seven yr old on a train by himself and he will get to his destination safely. You will feel safe anytime day or nite. Bakery items leave a lot to be desired as long as they are asthetic looking doesnt matter how they taste. The people for the most part are really friendly and always want to try out their English skills on u. Vending machines are on every corner selling beer, cigarettes and women’s underware. Throughly enjoyed Japan, Rappongi, Shinjuku, Kyoto and the electronics district and Tokyo fishmarket with it assortment of vendors, especially miss the street vendors food booths in Shinjuku, Ramen , Yakisoba. Amusement parks; Wild Blue Yokohama, Tokyo Disneyland. There are pros and cons to every country. Miss the hot and cold coffee machines. Dont miss the Japanese perverts on the train, always trying to grab ur ass, i actually had to knock one down. Betcha he didnt try that again. Gaijin in Japan

  • TND25 says:

    Hi Yumi, I really enjoyed reading post. How long have you lived in Southern California? I’m American, but my heart is Japanese lol. I currently live in NYC, but lived in Southern California from age 12-23. (Do you frequent Mitsuwa Marketplace in Kearny Mesa? That place was an oasis for my husband and me.) I liked how you shared the things you missed about Japan. I also miss this things and wish I could back to live again. I studied abroad in Okayama University for 6 months and it changed my life dramatically. I will definitely read more of your blogs, they seem very interesting and I love hearing about the differences in Japanese culture.

  • TND25 says:

    I really liked the way you articulated your response to Yumi. I also had the pleasure to live in Japan for some time and had a similar experience. I didn’t know peace and harmony until Japan. Im trying to get back there myself, thinking of creative ways to elongate my stay. I have been considered a “henna gaijin” as well, maybe not as much as I thought. I assimilated pretty well lol. Thanks for your reply 🙂

  • Marlin Hughes says:

    Cleanliness? Are you joking? Graffiti? I see this everytime I am in the city. Shopping? The vendors here get in your face like Korea and make shopping standoffish.

    The food? I agree. How about the festivals? I LOVE how much the Japanese get into their festivals, especially during the summer when they throw water everywhere. It is not considered a waste, but a spiritual cleansing. What about their hot springs? I love the Japanese onsens, they are the BEST. No where in America can you feel that relaxed while bathing.

  • Anthony Joh says:

    I also miss being able to have a friendly chat with a random stranger. That never seems to happen here, unless they are drunk.

    • Interesting… this happens to me all the time! My wife and I live in a Saitama suburb, so maybe that has something to do with it. Grocery stores, corner bakery…. But, even today, a man waiting for his son at T’s Tantan in Tokyo Station started up a conversation with me.

  • Mili Mili says:

    I agree. I quit smocking 3 years ago, I can’t really stand the smell of tobacco I don’t appreciate to share bars and restaurants with smockers but that’s the only thing I dislike about Japan.

  • Anthony Joh says:

    It’s in Shinjuku.

  • Anthony Joh says:

    Completely agree.

  • Liam Newton-Harding says:

    The cleanliness raised an interesting point for me, as I have lived in London, and Manhattan. Years ago, when watching the original, “Ringu” I felt there was something…off…about the outdoor scenes…it took me half the film to realise what it was…not one single piece of detritus on the city streets…not one…in film, and in real life it is always there, in Western cities, and towns. Japan is to be celebrated for this. The act of students keeping their town clean is also a feature of the biography, “Learning to Bow”, an American EFL teacher working in Japan.

  • Hali Brooke says:

    Those are all the things I’m going to miss, too! I unfortunately have to leave Japan by the end of next week. Also… herein was a misuse of the word “literally.” >.> Just saying.

  • Tofael Ahmed says:

    I wiil go japan
    and will be doing any traning courses
    plese help me
    my mail address

  • Mack says:

    I left japan this past may… I lived there for 9 years and loved it!!! Yes the convenience stores take the word “convenience” to a whole new level!!! The 7/11 stores in Japan have awesome food, and yes you can buy dang near anything. You can pay your utility bills! You can order products on amazon and have it delivered at the 7/11 and pay when you pick it up!!! And there is a store like on every block… Several different chains too… Family mart… Lawsons.. are a couple more chains… But there are several i cant remember the names of.

    If a country can have vending machines outside all over the place, with no threat to them being broken into or vandalized… That small detail tells you just how little crime there is in Japan. Oh and those machines sells hot and cold drinks in the winter time!!!

  • zoomingjapan says:

    Very interesting.

    I also have many things I miss about Japan. I’ve lived in Japan for 7 years and just recently moved back to my home country, Germany.
    I would second your list and add a few more things as well like the train system, for example.
    While Germany’s train system is still one of the best in Europe it sucks compared to Japan’s. 😉

    We don’t have conbinis in Germany at all nor do we have shops that are open on Sundays. Everything is closed on Sundays, so no shopping then.

    My friends in Germany don’t understand when I say that I felt much safer in Japan. They’re talking about quakes, tsunami and radiation while I talk about crimes. ^^;
    I’ve travelled a lot in Japan and as a female it was NEVER a problem to walk along dark, unknown streets at night. In Germany I would never dare to do that.

    • Mili Mili says:

      The same for me. I am French and I have never lived in Japan but I spend some holidays there, I love this country. My friends from France often ask me what is so good and so safe about a country with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity… They don’t understand that here in France, even if I love in a pretty small city, it is way more dangerous to go out by night than in Tokyo or Osaka.

      I also agree about the train systems : the Japanese one is the best ! And I love the Shinkansen (even if it is quite expensive…)

  • Kyaw Montana says:

    I am the most impressed with Japanese politeness, respect, and deference, even toward strangers. The Japanese respect the space and soundscape of others. This may be best illustrated during rush hour on a train – people talk in lowered voices, positions are adjusted to give newcomers room, headphones play and ketai ring softly, seats are given up for the elderly. I love the feeling when immersed in such communal selflessness, even if it is cultural construct.



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