Don’t Be Surprised For You Are Now In Japan

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Imagine how the world would be if we took the quirks away. Boring, to say the least. Just as the loud celebrations, innate money-saving traits and the dramatic hand gestures make India what it is, Japan too has some peculiar ways to ‘lovingly’ call its own. As someone who had the privilege of staying in the Land of Sushi for two years, I got to experience a few of them first-hand and ended up creating a list that I like to call *drum rolls* – Why are visitors generally agape in Japan?’

Here’s the lowdown…

Messaging in English is problematic yet funny in Japan | Photo Credit: Gideon/Flickr

Yeh Dil ‘Manga’ More!

Are you besotted by the Manga phenomenon and often dream of Naruto, Death Notes and Samurai Champloo? In that case, your life is incomplete without exploring the sea of love for comics existent in Japan. Powerful enough to bring about a cultural change in this country, Manga has the Japanese population hooked. Offering a wide range in genres from comedy, action-adventure and love to historical drama and even fantasy, these comics are everywhere from books to TV to films. People read them in between breaks, online and especially on the metros, sometimes leaving them behind for others to pick up. I often felt this was an unspoken rule about the Manga brotherhood.

Photo Credit: Antonio González Tajuelo/Flickr

“Cosplay” short for costume play is another side to it. As the word loosely suggests, it involves die-hard Manga fans to dress up as their favorite comic characters with such precision that you will be surprised at their dedication. Called otakus, these comic-book fanatics don’t just wait for comic cons and are a common sight especially in Harajuku and Akihabara districts of Tokyo. Don’t hesitate if you want to get clicked with them. Just ask and they are usually happy to oblige.

In The Company Of Pooches & Cats

87% of the Japanese islands are mountains leaving a rather tight space for the citizens to inhabit. Pet lovers bear the direct brunt of it. Owing to the relatively small houses in general, not many can afford the luxury of keeping pets. That’s when Neko Cafés come to the rescue. Neko means ‘cat’ in Japanese and yes, you would have guessed by now that I am referring to meeting points dedicated to these feline creatures. A very popular concept in Japan, these cafés let you play with your favorite cats while sipping on a hot cuppah. Nowadays, Inu Cafés aka Dog Cafés are also gaining popularity. Oh, Cafe reminds me of another place that looks like heaven, the Unkai Terrace

Photo Credit: Selmer van Alten/Flickr

That said, there is a chunk of the population that does get to keep pets with the choice usually being limited to small dogs, cats and hamsters. But taking your pet out for a walk is perceived differently in this country. Chihuahuas are spotted very often in women’s handbags, cats are belled and leashed, while the elderly buy strollers to carry their little pooches in. The cutest sight is to see these furry friends sitting comfortably in the baskets of the owner’s bicycle without the least chance of them barking or jumping out like dogs in India.

Pet lovers prefer to keep small dogs in Japan | Photo Credit: David Lisbona/Flickr

Fitness First: Run In The Sun, Rain & Snow

A visit to Japan is must so that you can see how committed they are to fitness. Pretty much everyone in the country has a trimmed waistline and energy levels that will put you to shame. Folks going for walks and jogging any time of the day is a regular occurrence. Come sun, rain and snow, the Japanese stick to the regime religiously. Also, the eating habits play a very important role. Breakfast is as early as 6 am, followed by lunch at 12 pm and dinner anytime between 5 pm and 7 pm. Rice and noodles are common to most meals combined with nori (edible seaweed), vegetables, fish and other proteins. Binge snacking is rare. In fact, the government gives compulsory counseling to those having a waist beyond 36-inches.

Get Sane In An Onsen

Your trip to Japan is incomplete if you have not experienced spa therapy in an onsen. These hot water springs are rich in sulphur and other skin-soothing minerals. It is believed that bathing in them will make you younger, fitter and healthier. Several gyms have private onsens also called ryokans for their guests but communal onsens are equally acceptable in Japan. Yes, no one stares. But be careful if you have a tattoo because ink on the skin is not appreciated in this part of the world because of their association with the yakuza (mafia). Folks tend to cover their tattoos with skin-coloured tape. If you don’t hide yours well, then don’t be surprised if you are asked not to enter the water. Hakone Hot Springs, Nikko Yumoto Onsen and Minakami Onsen are amongst the famous hot springs in Japan.

An outdoor onsen overlooking the Shirahama bay in Shizouka | Photo Credit: Janne Moren/Flickr

Sing No Holds Barred

The ‘karaoke’ option that we took for granted in our music players while growing up actually traces its history back to Japan. Second to beer and next to Pachinko (the Japanese slot machine), it is a national obsession here. Folks love their beer from Asahi to Kirin and like to enjoy hanging out with friends and even business associates in karaoke booths specially designed for crooning ones favorite numbers in a close group. Don’t be surprised to discover one Karaoke bar after another in popular party areas of Tokyo like Roppongi, Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya and Akihabara. Fret not, there are plenty of English songs too and you don’t have to be a good singer to showcase your vocal cords. The whole idea behind a Japanese karaoke is to bond and like how!

Photo Credit: Raelene Gutierrez/Flickr

Wondering why should you travel all the way to Japan? My next blog will tell you just that.

Sayonara until then…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Saba Shaikh is a nomad at heart. Having lived in 12 cities and studied at 8 schools, she looks to experience different cultures and is dying to trot all over the world in more than 80 days (what’s the rush!). Daydreaming and baking are her other love interests!

 

Don’t Be Surprised For You Are Now In Japan
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Saba Shaikh
Saba is a nomad at heart. Having lived in 12 cities, she looks to experience different cultures and is dying to trot all over the world in more than 80 days (what’s the rush!). Daydreaming and baking are her other love interests!

1 Comment

  1. […] isn’t it? Japan is full of some incredible surprises. Check out these things you don’t know about Japan and 7 Reasons for Indians to travel to […]

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