Japan its a really interesting place, they have the best food in the world, fascinating history, and a really refined culture with some incredible people, but for your first time there might be a few things that surprise you, here are the top 7 things that surprised and shocked me during my visit.
The first thing that surprised me about Japan was its population, a lot of you know that Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, with something like 28 percent of it being made up of people 65 or older which is a lot, and the funny thing was I went out to bars and clubs in Japan and I found the crowd to be pretty mixed, you had people in their mid 50s still partying at like 1:00 2:00 a.m. which was totally awesome, and I see that in Japan more than any other place, where the population may be old but they’re still out to have a good time, this’ll be really cool about sitting down in the bar in Tokyo and having a glass of whiskey with a retired cop.
Whiskey was brought to Japan in the late 1870s by a guy named Shinjiro Torii, he used to import Western the cords and they didn’t even really open their first proper distillery until like a decade later, and if you cut from then to now at Japanese whiskey is some of the best in the world, and it’s a lot to do with the Japanese attitude towards outside influence, they see something that they enjoy and they take it and make it their own and try and develop it the best that they can, and you see this in tons of other things too, cars, electronics, and there’s a real loyalty to the craft, like a Japanese friend of mine told me about us restaurant owner who cooked the yakitori for his entire life, and he cooked it for the same customers every day, it kind of guy and the doctors said that because of the constant smoke inhalation, he’s like 70 something now, that if he continued to cook he would only live for another like 20 years, and he thought about it and decided that he would rather cook for the people that he knows and loves than to retire, and step away from the business, it’s that kind of dedication that really makes you respect what they do.
For this one I’m really talking about Tokyo specifically but it can also apply to other parts of Japan, Tokyo is the largest metropolis city in the world was something like thirty eight million people, you compare that to New York City which has a population of like eight and a half million, New York City is very loud, you walk down the streets, you’re hearing traffic, you’re hearing commotion, people yelling, there’s a lot of energy there, and Tokyo has that same energy if not more, not to mention the absurd amount of people, and yet when you walk through the city it’s almost peaceful it’s like quiet and calm, even though it has no right to be, like you’ll never see road rage in Tokyo, which is a big thing in Japanese culture, respecting others space, understanding other people and what they’re doing, and all that creates this surprisingly calm City for what it is.
After I visited Japan it made me realize how good at Japanese food is outside of Japan, what I mean by that is that you’re a fan of Japanese food and you’ve never been in Japan you kind of view, it as this like mythical place where they have the freshest fish, the best ramen all this stuff, which is totally true, but after going there it does make you realize how good it is elsewhere, like I had sushi on the coast of California that was pretty close or on the same level as some restaurants in Tokyo, I’m really talking about coastal cities, I mean cuz once you get into like Kansas or Oklahoma not entirely sure what it tastes like there, but it really goes to show how good the Japanese are at exporting their culture, because most of these restaurants are run by Japanese people and that kind of goes back to the loyalty to the craft, even though they’re cooking for people who aren’t from their culture, they want to put on the best show possible, they want you to have the best experience and make sure they honor where they come from.
The thing that surprised me wasn’t really a big idea as more into specific individual things and those are the small innovations, the Japanese seem almost fanatical about coming up with little tiny things that can slightly improve your life or slightly make it faster to do something, like the crazy toilets for example where they have heat Cedars and automatic flushing and all this some of them sing songs it’s crazy, or the copious amounts of vending machines, I swear there’s at least one vending machine for every of the 38 million people in Tokyo, where you cannot just buy stuff like drinks and food, but umbrellas, clothing, toilet paper why not, or even ordering stuff in a restaurant, will go up to a machine and you click on the food item you want and it prints out a ticket and you go and hand that to the waiter and he comes back with your food, and these are like really nice high-end ramen places, it’s the kind of thing that no one would think to ask for, and then once you see it you’re like huh i guess that makes sense that’s kind of cool.
The thing that really surprised me about Japan, was that you can see its ancient culture still playing an active role in society today, and what I mean by that is when you go to other countries their ancient culture is there kind of as a token to let you see to let you glimpse what it was like to be there, like ceremonial dresses, or ancient traditions stuff that is set up there for you as a tourist, but isn’t actually practical today, with Japan on the flip side of that you see a lot of its ancient culture, totally having an impact today not just traditions and ideology, but in architecture, in art, Japanese have a real respect for history and you see that play out everywhere you go.
People Are Nice
The last thing that surprised me about Japan was how nice everyone is, I say that that’s surprising because Japanese people can get a bad rap for how xenophobic they are, like they think they’re a little bit above everybody else, and I’m generalizing here, but my point is that despite some of their views like that they’re still incredibly nice to you as a tourist or as a foreigner, you know seems like they understand that you come from a different culture and different place, they trying to commentate you the best way they can, so it’s kind of a paradox it’s almost like they’re looking at you as if you’re playing a different sport entirely, they’re like yeah we’re over here playing this sport it’s cool that you’re over there but you know kind of different or I don’t know something like that, you get what I’m trying to say it’s just that because of the xenophobia because of the older population you expect people to be way more standoffish than you are, like I met tons of Japanese friends while I was in Japan and I had a great time with all of them.
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