Worst and Best of Japan, Part 1

07.28.2011  |  Published in diary

So after five trips to the Land of the Rising Sun, I feel I’ve had a pretty decent intro to Japanese society and culture. Of course there are some things I will never understand, but I have to admit I catch myself saying ‘Sumimasen’ and bowing my head in submission from time to time. Still, I am American inside and out, and you will NEVER have to take your shoes off when you come over to my house.

There are some truly amazing and strange things about Japan, so I’d like to give you my perspective on the country, in list form. And since I want to end this series on a positive note, I’ll start with the bad.

So here it is, Valerie’s TOP 5 WORST THINGS ABOUT JAPAN. In no particular order.

1. Fish flakes

Who ever decided it was a good idea to sprinkle dried bonito flakes over perfectly good food? In Japan, these flakes are like a basic condiment – no one seems to mind them one way or the other. So I get laughed at when I order things ‘katsuobushi nashi de’ (without fish flakes). But come on, they MOVE when they’re on hot food. Gross! Katsuobushi nashi de onegaishimasu!

Here is a lovely slab of tofu tainted with katsuobushi:

2. Toilets

I have complained on this blog before about toilets in Japan, and I guess there are two parts to this particular rant. Part 1: the Japanese-style ‘toilets’ that are really just shallow urinals turned on their side. I can’t use them. I don’t know how.

Part 2: Toilet seats with gadgets! So confusing! I suppose it’s nice that there are pictures to go with each function but I swear, the pictures don’t match up! One time I was in an airport bathroom stall and just wanted to flush but ended up getting sprayed. My awesome reflexes caused me to jump up out of the water’s way, but then it got all over the place and I had to wait until the bathroom was empty to make my walk of shame out of the stall. Yes, I am a dumb American.

And as I have said before on here, I am not a huge fan of heated seats. I’ll take a cold toilet seat over a warm one that sprays any day.

3. Public transportation

I realize that an efficient, reliable public transportation system is probably a huge advantage of Japanese cities but I am a SoCal girl through and through, and the subway just doesn’t cut it for me. There are actually guys who are hired to push people on the Tokyo trains during rush hour. I’m not claustrophobic in the slightest and I still can’t stand it. I much prefer LA traffic. At least I’m in MY car, with MY stuff, and I can sing : )


Ugh. Is it that hard to serve red wine at room temperature? I’m no wine snob but I can’t even imagine serving a nice glass of California Cab directly out of the refrigerator. No bueno. I don’t know why I still order it. It’s an abomination!

5. Money, money money!

Have you ever been to a foreign country and the money looks and feels so different that it might as well be Monopoly money? And then you spend and spend and spend because, hey, it’s just play money anyway?

Unfortunately I haven’t gotten over that feeling, and when you combine that with $7 lattes, convenience stores, and millions of other shopping temptations, my wallet and I do NOT get along. Japan is an expensive country and US dollars won’t take you too far.

There you have it! Best of Japan coming soon so stay tuned!

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