Like a kid’s first visit to the zoo, my thrilled eyes widened accompanied with that crazy uncontrollable feeling of butterflies in my tummy as we deplaned from the 5-hour Manila to Nagoya flight. Wait! Thinking again, the butterflies might just be my hungry stomach growling for some ramen. Haha! But Filipino as I am, my rumbling gut was not my priority at the moment, but to take as many pictures as I could – depleting almost half of my phone’s memory in less than an hour of being in Japan.
I was traveling with fellow Cebu Fashion Blogger Marco Paulo Diala – his mom, Tita Diana, is a resident of Japan and came all the way from Nagano just to welcome us on our arrival at Nagoya International Airport. My unforgettable first fluff happened the moment I boarded the van and tried to shut close the door using all my strength, but I couldn’t. Kobe Chan -Tita Diana’s friend who was kind enough to drive us from the airport to our AirBnB address that night – gave me a straight face, pushed a button situated near the car’s GPS system and that instant, I felt my entire face turned tomato red as the door swiftly closed. Hahaha!
Alongside the trip’s bloopers, the entire Japan experience was a dream come true. The 15-day itinerary was originally to visit 5 prefectures, but ultimately sojourned to six prefectures. Thanks to the instagram’s #Japan hashtag, we were able to squeeze in an afternoon in the seasonal field full of tulip and sakura blooms and illumination display at Nabana No Sato.
It’s been over a year since my Japan visit, and my constant babble about the jaunt in a roundabout way somehow discloses that I miss and love the country! Well, what’s not to love? So to shut myself from jabbering time and again, let me just drop it all down on this blog entry. Without more ado, here’s a list of eighteen (18) unique Japan charms that is distinctively awesome!
1. The Food
I love Japanese food and being able to try my favorite Japanese dishes from where it originated was such a pleasure, and at the same time edifying. Ramen, tonkatsu, yakiniku, gyudon, takoyaki are a few of my faves; plus, for the first time was able to try the Japanese streetfoods doriyaki and dango.
The flavor balance is really noteworthy in Japanese cuisine. A harmonious blend of simple ingredients, creating a natural, clean zing in the tastebuds. Also, an interesting observation about Japanese dishes is that the taste and preparation varies from one prefecture to another. A good example of this is ramen; the noodle soup dish is prepared differently in Nagano and Tokyo – one with a clear, light stock and the other, thick and flavorful. Comparable to the Philippines famous adobo dish which is cooked in various ways from one region to another.
Though many Japanese restaurants in Cebu are tastewise at par with those I’ve tried in Japan, the sense of being served with Japanese hospitality somehow makes the experience unique.
2. Shrines, Temples and Castles!
Japan’s very interesting history is carved in these intricate architectures, each delivering a fascinating story. In Kyoto alone, you’ll be amazed of the apparent display of the Japanese culture and be impressed on how it has been preserved, alongside its exquisite shrines and temples. My personal favorite is the Shinto Shrine in southern Kyoto, Fushimi-inari. Well recognized for its thousands of vermillion torii gates, this shrine is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, Inari.
There’s something really magical about the cherry blossoms. I observed that even the Japanese are enthusiastic seeing the pretty sakura blooms – lovers, families and friends take turns in taking selfies and photos. Similar to my first Disneyland visit, the same exciting sensation cropped up when I finally saw a real cherry blossom tree. I got so used to the ones at La Vie Parissiene Cebu, so I never thought I’d feel so delighted when I eventually sighted on one. hahaha!
Sakura’s seasonal bloom happens in springtime, specifically between the last week of March ’til the second week of May in Japan.
4. Sewer Lids
Each prefecture having a distinct sewer lid design is a great excuse to capture a shoefie! 😉
5. Vending Machines
From drinks to chips, toys to books, vending machines are very much part of Japan’s charm.
6. Matcha, Sakura and Sesame Flavored food and candies
Japan’s exclusive Kitkat flavors are addicting. The sakura, red bean, matcha and black sesame are among the favorite Kitakat varieties in Japan. And no, these Japanese flavors are not limited to candies only, but also available in other food products like ice cream and streetfood dango, and beverages like coffee.
7. Trains that are never late
8. Keep Left
To the left, to the left! Everyone who’s not in a hurry move your arse to the left! I bet I got you singing! haha!
9. PET Bottles as Scare-cats
This came as a puzzle during the first few days of the trip. Good thing Tita Diana enlightened me with why there’s so much PET bottles lined up in the parking spots, garages and doorsteps. These are used as Scare-cats; pronounced as petto botoru, it’s used as a nekoyoke (scare-cats) in many prefectures in Japan.
10. Responsible Drivers. Responsible Pedestrians.
Most pedestrians cross only on the designated lanes, and drivers give way to crossing passengers. <3
11. Japanese to English translations
Come on! This is cute. I think only the Japanese can pull off a lapse and still typecast the oversight as something cute. <3
12. Amusement Parks
Japan, you had me at theme parks!
With two Disneyland Theme Parks (Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea) and a Universal Studio with Harry Potter Attraction, these serve as a good enough reason why one should go to Japan!
13. Cosplayers and friends who coordinately dress up
May it be at the streets or theme parks, it’s highly expected to sight on group of friends who deck up in a theme.
14. Japanese are genuinely nice people
Queuing at a counter at a fastfood, you’ll notice that the cashier gives out almost the same smile and energy to each customer standing in line. Also, when trying to ask for directions to a Japanese who can’t speak english, they’ll try their best to help you by communicating through hand gestures, map reading and even to the extent of accompanying you to a tourism office. <3
15. Too much cute stuff we wish we can bring home
With many 100Yen shops selling really cute and cool stuff, we could only wish we can fit the entire store in our luggage. hahaah!
16. Train and their stations are attractions too
The art on subway walls and installations are worth checking out. And have you seen the high-speed railway Shinkansen train? Looks like a train sent out from the future!
17. Convenience stores serves insanely good food items
711, Family Mart, Lawson, Mini Mart and Circle K sell really good pre-packed ready-to-eat meals. The desserts are pretty awesome too! And don’t forget to take advantage of the discount after 8PM on selected food items. 😉
18. Automatic Toilet
You are right my friends, we are at the end of the list. And as expected, we have come to the topic that ends all Filipino conversations. hahahaha!
Well, automatic toilet seats are common in Japan. They are even installed in some public toilets. So what does it do? It has a bidet with water pressure control and a flush feature. Upgraded models have the seat heater feature which is really convenient during the winter season.
Hope you had fun reading this blog post and hoping that you find this article helpful in planning your trip to Japan. Or if you’ve already been to the land of the rising sun and would have anything to add on my list of unique things that make Japan super awesome, let me know by dropping a comment! 😉
You may also want to check my post about my first real snow experience in Japan entitled, “That Winter Charm.”