Many people talk about the things travelers should know before going to Japan – what’s polite to do or not, table manners, how to behave on the streets etc. What I’d like to share though, is what happens when you live there; the little things that make Japan Japan, that say: ‘You are living in Japan, and this place feels like home to you.’

For example, the fireworks in summer; everything being strawberry flavored in winter; all the vending machines showing off their new hot drinks as soon as autumn arrives; and kids getting bugs as pets in spring. Here are some of the most Japanese things I cherish about my new home:

Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

1) Going with Seasons

Japan is a society that lives with the seasons, yes, but the ones written down on the calendar, rather than the actual current climate. There is a time and date for everything. Changing the clothes that are hanging in your wardrobe for example. It doesn’t matter whether the afternoons in October are warm or not, there is no space for summery clothing in your wardrobe past October 1st ! It’s not people being anxious to wear their new stylish clothes, just a traditional behavior called “koromo-gae” (the same thing happens, but the other way around, on June 1st).

 Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

2) Limited Editions

Sometimes you’ll go grocery shopping, and find there is a new flavor of your favorite snack – great, this one is even more delicious than the original! But beware; a month later, it’ll be gone and you won’t ever see it again. That’s the “limited edition” marketing strategy of Japan. If you’re lucky, and that snack sold a lot, it may make a comeback a year later; if not, just bid farewell to those tasty cookies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because you do get to try new things all the time !!

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3) Ghibli IRL

When we picture Japan, we all think of the busy and hectic streets of Tokyo and Osaka, or the peaceful atmosphere and all the historic sites of Kyoto. There are all the small villages too, those that look exactly the same as the ones you see in Ghibli’s animations. Where traditional houses are surrounded by rice, tea or oat fields.

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4) Life with Convenience

Whether in the city or the countryside, even though Japan is home to some of the biggest car manufacturers, the most common vehicles are those cubic cars (known as yogurt cars). They’re said to be very convenient when parking anywhere. Japan is a country that cares about convenience – even in the deepest countryside, you’ll always find one or two convenience stores open 24/7.

What else is super convenient ? Your mail being delivered three times a day! You do get used to this very fast. When you’re abroad as well, every time I send postcards to my friends, those for Japan always arrive first.

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5) Temples Everywhere

For those who have traveled to Japan, you may have noticed that there are many more temples than those listed on travel websites – nearly one on each street. People usually go to their local temples to pray on a regular basis, only going to the biggest, most well-known ones once or twice a year, or on special occasions. Buddhist priests are usually loved by everybody, as they represent goodness. They’re called out for weddings, births and (most often) for funerals; and also to get rid of old ghosts hanging around your house. Before becoming priests, people need to graduate from the related major at university.

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6) Who are the Locals?

What about pop culture? TV shows? Well, Japan has a conservative enough government that likes to focus on local traditions, and domestic tourism is very well promoted. Autumn leaves and cherry blossom sightseeing, for example, isn’t only for foreign tourists – it’s widely appreciated by locals as well.

This introspective culture fosters some curiosity towards foreign countries, and what life is like outside Japan. The most popular shows are all about Japanese people living abroad, or foreigners living in Japan. Of course, just like anywhere, you’ll meet many very open-minded people who won’t stop at basic stereotypes about foreigners.

Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

7) Gatcha

If you really want to know what THE pop culture craze of the moment is, just take a look at all the gatcha machines – you’ll see them everywhere. Every corner, every convenience store. There are even gatcha stores, with floors filled with various gatcha machines. For a few coins, they sell all sorts of themed goods related to the currently popular animes, idols, or mascots. Yes, mascots! This is something people should know about. There is a mascot representing each town of Japan, and they’re every single child’s first idols.

Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

8) From Mountaintops to Karaoke bars

If you want to hang out or have outdoor fun with some friends, Japan – being a fairly mountainous collection of islands, with richly varied terrain – offers all sorts of outdoor activities, from snowboarding and surfing to hiking and cycling. If you’re more of an indoor person, then you’ll be pleased to find shops, bars and game centers everywhere, and even karaoke clubs with private rooms – so you don’t have to sing in front of people you don’t know. You’ll also find museums in every city, offering amazing art exhibitions, and take note that you can find the world’s biggest planetarium in Nagoya.

Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

9) Puricula, anyone?

This is another popular fun activity – it’s aimed more at teenagers than adults, but well, who says we can’t get a little silly just for fun past 20?! Puriculas are those photo booths that people enter in groups, usually with accessories, to take some snaps. There are screens outside for editing so that you can then customize your pictures with glitter, stamps and captions, and finally you can print them or turn them into stickers.

Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

10) Airing out spirits

To finish my list of things I love about living in Japan, I’d like to return to the initial subject of getting immersed in the culture. One important occasion not to miss if you want to do this is the annual house-cleaning day, during the last week of December. It’s not that people don’t clean their houses the rest of the year, but at this very specific time you are supposed to just clean every single inch inside your house, with not a speck of dust left anywhere, whilst leaving the doors and windows open to let out all the bad spirits of the past year. Not everybody believes in the «spirit» side of this event; but nevertheless, the tradition has been passed on for so many years that it has become a cultural thing, and people always clean their houses very carefully before the new year.

Many talk about the do's and don'ts tourists should know about Japan, but what happens when you LIVE there? Here are 10 amazing things about life in Japan.

I could keep telling stories, but I guess it’s easier to hear your questions in the comments – feel free to ask me anything you’d like to know about living in Japan! For more inspiration about my life in Japan, head over to my photo blog.

Wishing you all a beautiful time in Japan – whether you’re going there for a long, or a short stay, I hope you enjoy yourself!


This is a guest post by Cyrielle.