I always find it fascinating to hear about people’s everyday lives but I often think the little things get looked over. One of my current goals is to really emphasize the little tiny magic moments. It doesn’t need to be this big trip/adventure, but everyday little things that I appreciate.
The cool thing is that many of the things that I appreciate here in Japan are actually the same little tiny magic moments I appreciate in the United States – being away makes me realize just how much I do appreciate these things – like good breakfast and good food, coffee, exercising, yoga, making good friends, and exploring my surroundings in general. No matter what city or country I’ve lived in, these things continue to be the most important parts of my life. I’m starting to see a little pattern here…
So here’s a little taste of what it’s like to live in Japan and some of the tiny magic moments and things I love here.
They always have “Drink Stations” wherever you go.
By this I mean there are vending machines with soda, water, lots of other weird drinks I never try, and coffee on many many corners in Japan. These are hugely popular because many people ride their bikes or walk places instead of driving – or if they’re taking the train or bus they’re walking in between stations, their house, etc. I LOVE how many people I see walking here.
Everyone Bikes. I love that and I love that I can bike to and from work and to the grocery store, to go shopping, etc. I love that I am biking down the road and bike past an 80 year old woman pedaling up a steep hill. It’s refreshing and makes me want to be that cool too when I’m that old 🙂
(Pictures to come later on this!) OK, the public bathrooms are amazing. Not only do they have different sounds you can turn on while you’re doing your business, but many have seat warmers, an automatic bidet to wash yourself off with the ability to change the water temperature, as well as the angle of the water and where it’s spraying – all the conveniences you could ever want for the most comfortable bathroom experience possible. Seriously, they’ve thought of everything. Sorry if that’s TMI but seriously they’re amazing.
They have a raised path in the sidewalk to aid the blind.
It’s kind of like brail but for walking. Depending on the pattern in the side walk it will let you know whether it’s a straight walking path or if it’s a junction where you can turn left or right. The walk signs to cross the street also beep certain sounds and at certain speeds to tell you how long you have to cross the street and when.
There are air-conditioned waiting rooms at many of the subways.
In the heat of the summer, this is KEY. Waiting for your train to come while melting in the heat isn’t fun, especially if you’re trying to look somewhat put together when you get to your destination.
All of it. I love ice cream and I love soft serve (we all know this!) but the soft serve here is RIDICULOUSLY creamy. It is like the difference between drinking just regular milk or that good old-fashioned raw milk that has cream right on top – rich and delicious. I can’t even describe how good it is you’ll just have to come and try it yourself!
Sushi and pickled and fermented foods that go with it.
I’ve always loved sushi and here there are so many different kinds to explore! There are sushi rice bowls, regular sushi, sashimi, sushi conveyor belt restaurants, fish roe, and many meal sets. These sets usually can come with some or all of the following: some sort of sushi or sushi rice bowl, miso soup, a little sweet egg roll, something fermented like pickles or cabbage or both, fermented or regular beans, soybeans, etc., a side of rice or noodles, some sort of crunchy seaweed snack, and sometimes something a little sweet to end. I may be forgetting something, but that’s the basic idea. It’s fun and it’s exciting and it’s delicious.
The malls and train stations.
The malls are huge, extensive, and they have everything. I never thought myself to be much of a mall person, but it’s kind of fun to make a day of it and explore it all. There are extensive and delicious food courts and some of the best restaurants are found in malls and at certain train stops. A whole days activity can be picking a train stop or mall (many times the mall is IN the train station) and literally spending the morning and afternoon exploring shops, food, grocery stores and more. There’s EVERYTHING there and I love variety so it’s pretty perfect.
The temples and shrines.
I just think it’s cool that you can be walking down the street and all of a sudden you run into a temple or a shrine in the middle of the city. It’s a little calm away from the crazy and it’s sort of a whimsical and magical experience.
The cuteness of everything.
EVERYTHING is tiny and cute here – which is kind of perfect for me since I’m also small so I like to call everything “KateLyn sized.”
Book – off Bazaar.
This is an amazing chain that is basically a huge second-hand store. They sell everything from clothes, backpacks, jewelry, purses, household items, kitchen items, electronics, CD’s and shoes. The quality is actually pretty good and it’s fun to poke around in. Plus, I like a good deal so when I need something for my house, this is a perfect place to shop.
Daiso is basically your dollar store. They have EVERYTHING – much like Book-off, but all organized and sectioned off. So if you need any office supplies, kitchen supplies, gardening tools, shopping bags – you name it – you go to Daiso. Not always the BEST quality but many things work just perfectly fine and many things are actually really good quality! So much fun to go to and also very convenient.
Here they have a lot of Family Mart and 7-eleven. You can get a good old Yakitori (grilled meat skewer) for a snack, yoghurt, milk, coffee, full meals to heat up or salads to eat cold, and many many other things depending on how big it is – it’s convenient, they’re everywhere, and they have all your icecream needs if you really need a frozen treat.
When I came to Japan two years ago at Christmas time I discovered these mints and I still think they are the best. They’re tiny and come in these really thin containers, which is extremely convenient for sticking in your wallet – they have no sugar and they are super strong, so no matter how bad your breath, these always come to the rescue.
Public Transportation in general.
I love that I can grab a bus, light rail, or train and basically get anywhere. It’s convenient and wonderful to feel like you are still “free” to explore and get places even when you don’t have a car. Plus, since I’m not driving I can read or write on long train rides and use my time well.
The parks and flowers.
There are parks everywhere here and it’s just nice to walk or bike through a park where it’s clean, there are flowers and trees, and it gives you a tiny breather from the hot streets. It’s a really great feeling to be in an environment where most people “care” about what things feel and look like. Also, the cicadas are quite melodic to listen to as you make your way through.
They have all kinds of noodles here – Buckwheat (Soba) noodles, Udon noodles, Ramen noodles, noodles I don’t know the names of, and the noodles that aren’t actually made of any gluten or rice – so if I feel like having a lighter meal, I use these. Sometimes I mix them with Soba noodles to give it a little umph and substance. When going out to eat it’s fun to try new restaurants that serve all different kinds of noodles – or some have their specialties like just Ramen or just Udon. Super fun and super delicious.
I’m sure that I’ll think of more things that I love or come across more things that I love – but for now here’s a pretty good list.
Though not every day is easy, simply WRITING this reminds me how fun it is to be here and explore new things – and how magical life can be in general. When I was living in Portland I appreciated many of the same things, like the food and my favorite stores like Trader Joes, Goodwill, Gelato Fiasco, random knick knack stores in the Old Port, and all the tiny little stores up the coast.