20 reasons why I love Japan

Success isn’t something that’s taught in school.

So if one decides to make success a study, where should we start?

Earl Nightingale talks about attitude, Tony Robbins talks about state, Robert Kiyosaki touches on mindset.

And they’re all right.

Success is based on building a strong foundation of fundamental concepts of which attitude, state and mindset are a part.

For me, I like to start with gratitude.

Why? Two reasons really.

First, as many of you already know, I was given a second chance at life.

And when that happens, you start to see things in a different light.

Second, it’s not hard to get to work on. All it takes is a piece of paper and a pen and some thinking.

The other day I came across an article on the Web talking about the things the author, Andrew Bender, believes Westerners love about Japan.

It’s always interesting to hear what other people like, or dislike, about pretty much anything.

I suppose we’re either looking for vindication for our own opinions or evidence to prove us wrong.

In the article he went on to list 20 things of which some I agreed with, and some not so much.

Since I’m closing in on my 20th year here (17 and counting) I thought why not make up my own list of 20 things I love about Japan.

First off I’ll share my list with you and then I’ll break them down one by one.

Here are my 20:

  1. The people
  2. Sushi
  3. Steak
  4. Fruits
  5. Bread
  6. Izakaya’s
  7. Club Harie
  8. Safety
  9. Convenience stores
  10. Hot springs
  11. The trains
  12. High-tech toilets
  13. Ume-shu
  14. 100 yen stores
  15. The healthcare system
  16. Cherry blossoms
  17. Autumn leaves
  18. Temples
  19. Oidaki
  20. Fashion

Let’s start off with the people. I have found them to be kind and accommodating, regardless of whether you speak their language or not. Punctuality, politeness and calm are three more words that come to mind when I think about the Japanese people. What I did find interesting is how curious the many Japanese were about other countries, their languages and their cultures.

Although Japanese people usually spend 6 years studying English they have very little chance to use it and therefore aren’t good at using English as a tool for communication, but my experience has been that they do try which I very much appreciated when my language ability was limited.

The second thing I love is the food…and I could go on and on about the incredible quality and attention to detail at many restaurants, but I find that when it comes to sushi and steak there are no equals. I also have found that Japanese fruit is incredible, albeit quite pricey. And the bread, simply the softest I have ever eaten. I’m getting hungry just thinking about my food tonight…

Club Harie is a confectionery few foreigners know about, but definitely deserves mentioning because the Bamkuhen (a German style cake) is to die for. It is so good that it actually beat out all other competitors in an International Bamkuhen contest so that says something.

Izakaya’s are something that every person who comes to Japan learns about within a short period of time. They are reasonably priced restaurants with a large selection of drinks to choose from.

Next we have safety. Never, in all the time I’ve been here, have I ever felt any danger for my personal safety. 99% of the time if you put your belongings on a table, then leave for a few hours, chances are they’ll still be there. It’s something that people take for granted living here, but it’s something you appreciate the minute you leave.

Convenience stores really are just that. They’re super convenient. They offer a whole variety of services including banking, mail, bill payment and more I’m sure. That on top of a wide range of goods of which the best might be their Onigiri (rice balls). They’re hard to beat at the price of around 100 yen.

And speaking of 100 yen. Some of the 100 yen stores here are pretty dang good. 6 highlighters for a buck. A huge variety of candies, toiletries and household goods. I’ve known more than a few foreigners to go on a mini spending spree upon hitting these stores and for good reason.

Hot springs are something of an acquired taste. I’ll admit I wasn’t too hot on them when I first arrived 18 years ago, but over the years I’ve learned to really enjoy soaking my body in nice hot water for about an hour. Many of the popular hot springs not only have a variety of baths, but also beautiful scenery as well. Definitely something people should add to their Must-Do List while in Japan.

Speaking of must-do things, no trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to a few temples or shrines. There are too many to mention but if this is your cup of tea, then Kyoto must be on your list of places to visit. The scenery there is lovely and great for photographers.

And what compliments the hot springs nicely is the changing seasons here. While I suffer from allergies in the spring I must say that seeing the cherry blossoms come out in spring and then watching the leaves change to reds and yellows in autumn is a highlight of any year. The weather at those times is most comfortable as well, so if you’re planning a trip to Japan, if at all possible, do try and work one of these in.

No list of what people like about Japan would be complete without mentioning the fabulous transportation system. Simply put, it works and it works well. It’s scary how on time the trains are here. You can put you watch to them.

Fashion is something that amazes me. In fact, it is often said that the world’s fashion starts in Yokohama and then moves around the world. Women, in particular go to great lengths to look their best each and every day. Most wake up an hour or two early in order to do so.

Ume-shu, or plum wine, is a personal favorite of mine. While I don’t drink that much I must admit that I do enjoy a nice glass of Ume-shu after a hard day’s work. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a sweet tooth like me then you might want to give it a try. FYI, ume-shu comes in numerous varieties, but I find Choya, Yuzu and Berry Ume-shu to be the cream of the crop.

While Japan is a mix of high-tech and tradition all rolled into one, I’m more of a tech guy myself and two things I love here are the toilets and the baths. When you first see a high tech toilet, it’s slightly intimidating. There are a whole host of buttons and if you can’t read Kanji you might be in for a surprise. But once you get used to them, it’s hard to go back.

As for the baths, they have a one-touch button to run the bath (to a preset temperature and depth) as well as the ability to reheat the temperature of the water you’re in without adding any new water. Very cool and super helpful for dealing with the cold winter months.

The train system here is a well-oiled machine that you can almost set your watch to. It’s so convenient that many people who spend their entire lives here never need to buy a car.

Finally, there’s the healthcare system. It’s nice to know that even if I need surgery, I won’t end up in the poor house thanks to the government’s support. Nor will I have to fight with my insurance company over some small technicality. One less thing to worry about.

So there you have it…what I love about Japan. Is Japan perfect? Maybe not…but what country is?

I simply choose to focus on the good.

Adrian Shepherd

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