Following up on Kuro’s 5 things you’ll miss from Japan I found a few extra things that I really miss from Japan now I’ve returned to The Netherlands after my first trip to Japan. And I suspect this will be recognizable for the ones who have been to Japan at least once.
1. Never a shortage of CDs!
The many interesting CD shops filled with music of my taste: the Tower Records and Closet Child CD are my personal favorites, the last because I can get my hands on second-hand CDs and merchandise that isn’t available as new&sealed anymore. In Tokyo alone you can find several departments which have this kind of stores. The one is bigger than the other. At Tower Records Shibuya you even have an option to sit in the café. And in Tsutaya you can drown yourself in the manga situated next to the music and games. When I talk about buying CDs people look at me strangely. Here in The Netherlands there aren’t really all that many stores where you can get CDs, let alone the CDs I like! Normally I only order my CDs from my favorite bands through sites like CDJapan, but it’s even better to buy them in Japan yourself. Even better: buying them at the concert yourself.
2. Heaven for concert lovers
That makes me end up at this point easily: concerts! There’s an interesting concert every day in Tokyo. Tokyo isn’t exactly small, so that’s not so weird now is it! It depends on your taste, but I had a week myself in which I attended a concert one after another. I had some trouble with this too. I had a (for me) important concert on my schedule, but I saw another cool band was playing on the same day. That’s a bummer! But choices have to be made. And on top of that I think it’s an advantage that concerts start early, so you don’t have to rush yourself to catch the last train. That doesn’t go for when you attend a party that goes on a little longer. Then you really do have to rush for the last train, or wait for the first train or metro leaving the next day.
3. Being solo isn’t uncomfortable
Sitting by yourself somewhere to read a book or drink a cup of coffee. I never feel comfortable in The Netherlands to go somewhere by myself. I always have the feeling that I’m being watched because of it. Now I have been to Japan by myself I had to go to a lot of places by myself most of the time. Veloce is my favorite place where I’m not the only one who’s enjoying a cup of coffee by themselves. A lot of people take this time to read something, learn, or work. What does happen is that this location is used as a place to learn English. The coffee isn’t very expensive (a caffè latte is 270 yen) and there’s always something yummy that goes with it. So if you are staying in Japan for a while this is definitely the spot to give a class in the English language, but you can also enjoy your cup of coffee and yummy goodness by yourself.
4. Time to go home, children!
The calming music that you hear is intended for children in Japan. During the summer months, I heard a sweet melody in Nakano around 5 PM. I was told that this is to inform children that it will be getting dark soon and they should head home to not worry their parents. How cool is that? Would something like that work here?
5. The search for that one store
Finding stores can be a real pain, but I thought it was fun above all. I made use of a smartphone app to see where I am and how I had to walk to get to my destination. But when you arrive in the street where the store is you still have to look around really well. It’s amazing to see how restaurants, cafés and stores are on top of each other. Looking at the signs to see which floor it’s on. Taking the stairs or the elevator. Keep your eyes peeled, because you’ll walk by your favourite store without realizing it. You also have warehouses stocked to the brim with stores and whole floors with restaurants. There’s something for everyone.
6. The melodies of trains and subways
I do miss the public transport in Japan a little bit. Kuro had written about the public transport being on time and clean already. What I miss the most are the melodies you hear at stations that announce that the train is about to leave. I heard a lot of songs in Japan that one month, one being happier than the other. You can’t rush through the crowd, but for a lot of Japanese people, that jingle means a quick sprint to make it on the train or subway anyway. Missed it? Extra advantage about all of this is that the trains are on a solid schedule, so you don’t have to wait all that long. There has been an article on AVO Magazine about the various tunes already.
7. Travelling in silence
I travel with headphones in my ears all the time. I listen to my favourite music while the environment around me changes. Travelling itself was easy and calm for me, if I stayed out of rush hour or didn’t have to catch the last train. But at all times it was silent on the train. It’s announced regularly, especially in English for foreign visitors, that you shouldn’t call while you are travelling by public transport. And people follow that rule too. People are more focused on their chat applications like LINE, or they take a nap. You won’t find people talking to each other that easily either. I didn’t run into screaming people, and kids were calm at all times. But maybe I was just lucky during the month that I was there.
8. Kawaii everywhere
Japan loves kawaii and you see it pretty much everywhere. Even at roadblocks to tell you that you can’t walk there they often made use of Hello Kitty. You’ll see it in commercials as well: anime and manga seem to be embraced. The anime hypes are found in nearly every store, especially if you are in Akihabara, Sunshine City or Nakano Broadway. Because these locations have been designed for it. You can find enough merchandise from these cute mascots in all kinds of stores.
9. Tokyu Hands
During the second day of my first trip in Japan, this was one of the first stores I visited. It was a warehouse with something different and interesting on every floor, or rather, very elaborate and stocked to the brim with fun gadgets. What I embraced, in particular, were the many stationary things which my hands start to itch already. I understood immediately how my Japanese penpals could send such fun and original letters. Because there was so much to choose from regarding paper, stickers, washi paper, pens and cards. Think about those 3D cards you can construct and put on your closet. But also gift wrappings.
10. The many walks
While I rather grab my bike in my home country or take the public transport when the weather is really bad, I walked for miles in Japan. The first few days I really felt that in my legs, because I don’t walk that much in The Netherlands. After a while it’s doable though. Some can keep up quite the pace -while I still had to catch my breath- because walking and talking at the same time does take some practice, especially if you’re like me and can talk a lot. Walking in Japan is made pretty easy for you; you walk out of your home and go to the nearest station to travel to your next location. You step out of the station and walk on. If you ever wondered why it is that so many Japanese are so thin, maybe this is why! By the way, what I really wouldn’t dare is get on a bike in Tokyo. There’s not that much room for cyclists just yet, so the sidewalks are being used by both pedestrians and cyclists, which makes me believe that it’s not the safest idea to ride a bike. No, I’d rather walk!