I Love You, Japan, But What the Heck? A Collection of Random Observations from My Time in Kyoto

I Love You, Japan, But What the Heck

Being in Japan has been an amazing experience so far, but there have definitely been some things that have stood out to me as bizarre, out of place, or just downright hilarious.  Rather than trying to make these into some sort of deep cultural analysis, I thought I’d start by compiling them into an amusing list.  Enjoy.

1) English phrases are super popular, but may or may not make any sense whatsoever.  Examples from t-shirts I have seen: “Is the cost of world domination too high?”, “Each need sun she need need son sea,” and “Hearts as one brave aspiration.”  Signage is often not much better.

English Does Not Compute

Thank you, I really want to eat those now.

2) The toilets look like something out of Star Trek, with heated seats, privacy music, and lids that open and close automatically.  Yes, I’m being serious.  You can google them if you don’t believe me.

3) It’s 95 degrees outside with 85% humidity, but everyone is impeccably dressed in long sleeves and pants.  It’s also a normal thing to carry at least one fan and a towel to wipe off sweat.  (Could these possibly be connected?)

4) Convenience stores actually carry edible food.

Conbini Bento


5) Items in the 100-yen store really only cost 100-yen. Shocking, right?


6) Everything is streamlined and efficient, except all transactions are done in cash.  (P.S.  1-yen coins are known to spontaneously multiply in wallets.  You will never be able to spend them all, so just give up and buy a coin purse.  It will be your best friend.)



7) Learning to properly recycle is an involved and essential skill for survival.  But don’t expect there to be recycling cans, and especially trash cans, in any public places.  You bought that plastic bottle, so you will carry it with you until you go back home.

8) At 5’ 3”, I’m taller than most of the women and many of the men, even though platform shoes abound.

9) Fruit in general is expensive, but you can literally buy a $50 cantaloupe at the supermarket.

— Gion Matsuri

10) My strawberry-blonde hair is so unusual that random strangers walk up to me and ask to take my picture.  (Note the two kids in the background giving me awkward stares.)

Squid Snack


11) Ice cream comes in red bean, sesame, and matcha flavors, and dehydrated fish and squid fill up an entire shelf of the grocery store snack aisle.

12) I have yet to go somewhere and have hand towels, paper napkins, or tissues provided.  Except at restaurants, where you will usually be given a moist towelette to wipe your hands.

13) This conversation: “Where in America are you from?”  “Colorado.”  “Oh… So, is that in New York or Los Angeles?” :/

14) There is no such thing as a “too small” parking space.  You just need to try harder.

Mad Parking Skills


15) But really, why do I even live in America, we have NO CULTURE.


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