I have always measured travel not in distance but in time. How long it will take to get there, how long we will stay in a place – these are more meaningful measures to me than kilometres or miles. While I was in Japan for less than a month it has taken me three times that long to sift through my memories and wrap up this series of posts.
I’ve been keeping a list of things I wanted to write about that stood out in my experience of Japan for one reason or another. Quirky, silly things that I loved or found odd enough to be worthy of mention.
One was my massive crush on Japanese cars. I’ve always had a penchant for small cars, driving a Nissan Micra for years, but I’ve never seen anything like these models before. Little breadboxes on wheels, apparently these ‘kei’ cars have their fans.
This make was my favourite:
The technology that the Japanese truly master is the toilet. Reluctant at first to even try to navigate all of the instructions, curiosity got the better of me. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I have tested the waters and am a convert. I want a Toto!
The Japanese love their brands, from convenience stores to coffee. There is a Lawson Station or 7-Eleven on every corner, usually opposite a Starbucks, Mister Donut, Wendy’s or KFC. Suntory has the corner on the lucrative vending machine market. Plus, clothes shops like Patagonia and the ever-present Disney. It’s a small world after all.
This childlike obsession seems to be a strong influence for women. I was shocked by the fact that feminism in Japan seem to be decades behind the west. The nasal, baby-like voices you constantly hear from women on commercials and recorded announcements. Their often self-effacing behaviour in public. The fact that men still make up the majority of executives in the business world.
I loved how Japan was so full of surprises while simultaneously remaining so true to stereotypes. We saw the famous groups of men in suits getting drunk on a Friday night. The extreme fashion on the streets.
Things I liked less: the overpackaging of everything. Sometimes even a single piece of fruit would be shrink-wrapped for sale. No garbage cans on the street – you just had to carry your rubbish with you. The fact that there was no way to dry your hands in public toilets (although some women seemed to carry a small towel for this purpose).
On our last night in Tokyo, we followed a friend’s directions to their favourite sushi place. It was complicated — the first location had closed, then reopened nearby. It wasn’t on Google maps and the address was nearly impossible to locate. We almost gave up a couple of times until we finally found it, tucked into a corner. Like most restaurants in Japan, it had a plastic model of the food just outside, hardly a sign of high quality for a European. What a surprise! We sat at the counter and watched the two sushi chefs slicing the fish, chopping and rolling their creations. It was all freshly made and truly amazing. We ordered a selection, ate it, then ordered again and again. Then rolled ourselves back to the hotel.
All good things must come to an end, and so it was for this trip.
Perhaps the other time-based measure of travel is how long your memories linger afterwards (I’m tempted to add: along with the extra weight but this is untrue; it was only after I got home and went through the holiday season that I saw the effects on the scale). I have the feeling that Japan will stay with me for a long time. For now, my only destination is Switzerland. We will be moving at the end of May. Not where we initially thought. But not too far either. Fingers crossed it will all fall into place by the end of the week.
Where will you go next?
That is a measure of enjoyment for me… how long the memories linger. We’ve been on quite a few Caribbean cruises and there are only a few stops that we still talk about. I went to Tuscany way back in 2016 and I am still reminiscing and trying to figure out how to go back.
Your Japanese trip sounds amazing and methinks you will be savouring the memories for a good bit 🙂
Ah, Dale, I could use a dose of Caribbean about now! (And I don’t even have the excuse of a Canadian winter…). We went to Tuscany once and it was indeed memorable — especially as our beautiful country rental had mice! Sometimes I think it’s the unexpected stuff that makes the best memories. Japan had plenty of that! Hope you are able to plan new travels soon. x
You and me both!
Yes, I think the unexpected “glitches” are what keeps those memories alive. If nothing else, I have April 2024 for my 60th that will happen come hell or high water 🙂
Again, the comparisons with Korea leap to mind. Yes, the on-brand marketing, the Starbucks et al – but only in the bigger cities we found. But we saw not one piece of evidence that drunkenness or drug taking was a thing. My daughter said punishments for this are severe. I was grateful for photo menus, and they don’t have the negative connotations that they do over here.. Good luck with That Move. It’s been quite a saga, hasn’t it?
Saga really does describe our home ownership experience over the past year. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrap it up on an ‘all’s well that ends well’ theme soon, but we’re not there quite yet. I certainly never felt threatened or in danger from anything other than an earthquake in Japan. And you’re right about pictures — they really do help!
One of my best times has been my stay in Southwestern England. But then I moved to Western Switzerland and I only ever spoke of my paradise. And now it’s the rolling hills and beautiful little lake in German spoken Switzerland. But I truly loved so many places I visited and it would be cruel to name some and forget others.
I wish you all the luck, courage, time and energy you need for your move. Gosh, rather you than me!
I know what you mean. Places we love sort of stay with us, don’t they? I will always carry a bit of ‘les monts du lyonnais’ in my heart. Lake Geneva for sure. And now Brunnen! (Will miss the crazy ‘guggen’ music for sure, but maybe not at 5 am?). As for the move, at least it will be done by summer. And I swear, after that, it will take force majeure to move me again!
To your closing question, my answer is BED.
Please don’t tell me to go to hell instead! 😀
To sleep perchance to dream, eh? I wish you happy travels!
My husband and I have loved all your posts about Japan, which mirror many of our experiences. It was also the first time my white husband was on the receiving end of discrimination – repeatedly, when trying to enter nice restaurants, almost empty, to be told “no, we too busy”. There is a US air base there, and there may have been resentment of our military personnel.
We’re flying to San Diego for a wedding in June, and will probably combine with other West Coast sites. Then I’m off to Budapest in November, for a Christmas market cruise down the Danube, ending in Bucharest.
Glad you enjoyed the series but sorry you experienced that! I sense it is a weird dynamic for the US military in Japan. I have felt discrimination in France for not being wealthy or chic enough to enter certain hotels and restaurants — it is not a pleasant feeling. Your travel plans sound lovely. I think you have Hungarian roots, right? I loved Budapest and have great memories of the public baths. Bon voyage!
My Japan memories still linger, they are never very far away and it’s been a great pleasure to read your travelogue (?sp)! I too wanted a Toto when I got home, and even went as far as finding out where I could find one – this was some years ago, and let’s just say that it wasn’t easy. Now several of the bigger plumbing suppliers have them in their showrooms!! I never did buy one, but…
Maybe one day, eh? We will have an excuse to buy a new WC in our new home soon, so if I can find a good supplier, Toto it will be! So glad my posts about out trip brought back fond memories. 🤗
I didn’t know about the Japanese love of brands, but you certainly shared some wonderful photos, easily recognizable. I wish you well on your move. Ever onward, eh?
Thanks! Ever onward, yes, but hopefully this time will be ‘une bonne fois pour toute’!
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your posts on and about Japan. My only complaint is that there isn’t more. Short of winning the lottery, I’ve finally had to accept that I’ll never get to Japan myself so vicariously travelling with you has been a joy. Thank you. 🙂
Ah, Meeka, if only life were more equitable! I know you’ve faced special challenges with travel since the pandemic, but I do hope you get the chance to experience Japan one day. Very pleased you enjoyed it vicariously! 🤩
Fingers crossed. 🙂
Yes, the packaging is an issue, and don’t even mention feminism. It will surely change but slowly… Amazing to be seduced by a toilet but I’m with you on that. Toto has become quite a big brand over here and we were going to install them in our renovation but then the issue of a sterile water supply became a thing, given we’re in an old house with rainwater collected from the roof as its main source… nah. Lovely news about your move and exploring a new part of Switzerland but I suspect you might be back in Japan at some point – it casts a spell.
It does indeed! Japan is a bit like Switzerland, a small country but so much to experience within its borders. I do hope that we will have a Toto in our new home. The house is lovely but some of the previous owners’ decorating choices were quite different from our own….à suivre!
Looks like you had a wonderful time in Japan and that it had a major impact on you. I do understand how you feel. There are places that are truly magical for all kind of reasons. Good luck with the move. (Suzanne)