There’s so much more to Japan than your first impression of it. When you spend more and more time there, you’ll naturally start to notice new things – some good, some not so good – and you’ll also start to notice new things about yourself. Let’s face it, Japan is weird and after a while that weirdness is going to rub off on you whether you like it or not! It’s really not until you leave again that you realise just how much of an effect the Japanese ‘way of life’ has had on you…
Here are 10 of the most surprising things you’ll start noticing about yourself after spending time in Japan:
1. You’ll start questioning whether Crocs are in fact an acceptable footwear option.
Previous to your first Japan visit, you’d stick up your nose as a pair of these foul plastic slippers of shame squeaked past you. But then… it happened. At first it was just the occasional sighting; a little old lady wearing them in the supermarket – well that’s okay. A kid riding his bike to school – meh, he’s a kid so that doesn’t count. But then, hang on, were those teenage girls just wearing Crocs? Something isn’t right here.
When your mind really starts playing tricks on you however, is when you go to an event at a race track for the first time. A quick walk through the pits and you think to yourself, ‘Sweet Jesus, they’re everywhere!’ An AE86 pulls in off the circuit, the driver hops out and sure enough, Crocs. A cute gang of Japanese girls working on their cars in the pits, all wearing matching pink Crocs. Even MASATO KAWABATA is wearing bloody Crocs! After a while, you just get so used to it that it doesn’t become gross or weird anymore. And before you know it, the question slowly creeps into your mind: “Should I be wearing Crocs?” Then you shake your head and quickly dismiss the thought and carry on with your day. But the seed is planted…
2. You’ll always expect the toilet seat to be warm.
Nobody likes a warm toilet seat, right? Wrong. You admit, it was weird at first. But again, it’s just something you got used to. Next thing you know you’re back in your home country in the middle of winter, it’s 7.00am and your alarm is going off, you jump out of bed and head for the throne room… then a piercing scream of distress fills the air. THE PAIN! What is this horror? A cold toilet seat is simply intolerable now. Life will never be the same.
3. You’ll become a noodle expert.
Aside from slurping your noodles loudly without realising (it would be rude not to), you now know a ridiculous amount about noodles. As soon as you got home from Japan you promptly threw all of your Maggi 10-minute supply into the garbage in disgust, and your friends are highly embarrassed of your newfound OTT noodle snobbery.
In fact, they never suggest going out for ramen or to any Japanese restaurants anymore because they’re afraid you’ll make a scene. “Made with only 50% buckwheat flour? Outrageous! Are these NOT real soba?” You just laugh in pity at their limited noodle knowledge. Indomie mi goreng is all they know, after all. But then you cry as you start fantasising about the thick, fresh chewy udon and mouthwatering broth you no longer have access to. Sigh… it was good while it lasted.
4. You’ll get so good at squatting.
When you first arrived in Japan you began to notice a strange and unfortunate phenomenon. Where on Earth are all the seats? I mean, it’s bad enough that you have to carry your rubbish around with you, but not having a place to sit and rest for a moment when desperately needed just sucks. And so, the squatting commences.
It was hard at first (how do they get so low and stay down there for such long periods at a time!?), but it wasn’t long until you mastered it. You are now highly skilled in this art and find it ridiculous that other people aren’t; birds startle and flee from their nests to the skies from the echo of your evil laugh when your fellow gaijin brethren can’t ‘get down’ like you can. Instead they just stare, open-mouthed in utter confusion as you squat down mid-conversation like nothing weird is even happening.
5. You’ll be startled when people don’t yell at you when you enter/exit shops.
At first you made the fatal error of thinking they were actually talking to you. And do they really have to yell it so loud? It took a while before the old “IRASSHAIMASE!!!!” wouldn’t make you jump in fright, but you got over it pretty quick. Before long, shop assistants could yell straight in your ear and you wouldn’t flinch one bit. Soon you even began to like it. Then the time came to return home and you realised you actually missed it. Now you can’t walk into a shop without thinking, ‘WHY ARE YOU ASSHOLES NOT ACKNOWLEDGING ME DAMMIT!’ So rude.
6. You’ll start appreciating space.
Before Japan, you took space for granted. You’d often have thoughts like “Urgh, my 4-bedroom house is so small”, and “It really sucks that I can only fit three chopping boards on my kitchen bench at once”. Now you openly laugh at just how naive you once were.
One of the biggest initial shocks of living in one of Japan’s cities is just how little space you get to call ‘your own’. You start having weird thoughts like, “Wow, look at that all that space in that big car park”, and “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just walk outside my door onto some nice fluffy green grass”. After a while, you even start to question how much space you really do need to live comfortably. Your perspective will never be the same again, and especially if you come from a country where big houses and open areas are the norm, you’ll never take that for granted again.
7. You’ll get into the habit of making really weird noises.
Hehhhhh? Uh uh uh uh. So so so. Uwaaaahhhh? This does fade pretty promptly after leaving the Land of the Rising Sun, but when you’re there, you really get into it. The Japanese love to be OTT when it comes to reacting and being surprised, which at first you thought was pretty strange. But then, you started doing it too! Sometimes you’d find yourself thinking, ‘Oh man, if only the pre-Japan me could hear myself right now’.
8. You’ll forever compare convenience stores everywhere else in the world to Japanese Seven Elevens.
Japanese convenience stores are amazing. Not only are they always open, but they just have such a huge variety of useful items, and when you’re in Japan you just get used to having access to them. It isn’t until you head home and pop down to the local superette or dairy that reality sets in. Ohhh, that’s right, they don’t stock hot green tea or mochi ice cream or face masks or bento boxes. Not to mention emergency alcohol, (which now that you think of, you never took advantage of but it was just comforting knowing it was there). And no milk pudding? Oh the disappointment.
9. You’ll never be able to stop bowing. Like, ever.
Bowing is an incredibly strange concept to a lot of foreigners the first time they visit Japan. It sounds really formal and awkward, but then it just becomes second nature almost instantly. It’s actually pretty crazy to think how many times you nod your head at people each day in Japan. You do it so often, it’s like your brain gets re-programmed. Next thing you know you’re back home, at the supermarket and bowing at the checkout lady, then promptly slapping yourself on the forehead like an idiot. Months later, when you finally think this subconscious habit has left you for good, you accidentally bump into an elderly Asian woman on the sidewalk and then you start doing it again! There’s no stopping you. It’s engrained in your DNA now.
10. You’ll start appreciating more of the simple things in life.
The Japanese are such passionate and dedicated people. When they like something, they really love and appreciate it, and their enthusiasm catches on. Whether it’s getting really excited for a tasty seasonal snack, appreciating the beauty in nature, taking a nice hot bath, or even just the act of breathing in some nice fresh air out in the countryside. You start taking less things for granted in general.
Japan may make you a bit weird, but we’re all a bit weird somehow anyway, right? So it may as well be from having your eyes opened to a new culture and new experiences in an incredibly beautiful and hospitable country like Japan!