From its food and style to its architecture, history, and customs, there's no denying that Japan is an intriguing destination. As with every destination, there are things that we look forward to every time we visit, and a couple of factors that make us cringe (the latter being exploitative animal cafes, for example). As for the things we love in Japan, the list goes beyond typical visits to gorgeous temples, delectable sushi, the cosplay of Harajuku, and tea ceremonies, all of which are amazing. But, from toilets to photo booths, it's the little things -- the subtle differences -- that get us excited to return to the country. Here, a list of 10 things we love about Japan.
1. The Toilets
Rarely, if ever, have we ever actually looked forward to using a toilet, but Japanese toilets are an exception. By now, you’ve probably seen videos of these automated, heated, and high-tech bathroom fixtures, but it still doesn’t prepare you for your first encounter. Other than some type of standard bidet-style feature, there’s no guarantee of what technological treasures await you, which is half the fun. Will it have a music button or flushing sounds? Heated seat or not? Automatic lid? Lid-and-sink combo in the back? Deodorizer spray? Germ-treated seat? The list goes on and on — unless you accidentally walk into a stall with a contemporary squatting toilet. Then you get, well, squat.
2. The Unbelievable Bargain of Nomihodai
Unlike other countries that don’t always offer the best bargain on drink specials, Japan doesn’t let you down. At around ten bucks a pop, nomihodai is a definite bang for your yen. Available at clubs, karaoke bars, and izakayas (Japanese pubs), nomihodai is an ultimate all-you-can-drink bargain that gives you unlimited booze for (usually) two hours. We like going the beer route, if only for the super-smart plastic doohickey attached to the pitcher that both keeps it cool with an iced core and keeps foam to a minimum when pouring. Just a note: Japanese people are much more reserved when it comes to nomihodai, so be respectful and try not to dive in too deep with this great deal.
3. Grab-N-Go Heated Drinks
On the subject of drinks, we absolutely love that Japan not only has vending machines everywhere, but that you can buy heated drinks through vending machines and inside convenience stores. During the colder months, it’s definitely a welcomed and appreciated plus to be able to snag a hot bottle of milk tea or coffee on the go.
4. The Magic of Purikura
If you think photo booths are fun, you haven’t seen anything yet. Japan’s version of the photo booth, called purikura, takes it to the next level, giving friends the chance to pop behind a curtain and create quirky photos. Unlike traditional American photo booths, purikura is done standing up, in a large, usually white, boxy metal machine that you can easily squeeze four or more people into. Options include busy blossom borders, stars, cartoons, animals, words, beautification features (like big eyes or smooth faces), and outfits or scenes. You can even make your pictures into little stickers.
5. Bathing in the Onsen
Bathing in a Japanese hot spring, or onsen, is an absolute must. You’ll find them all over the country, ranging from the roadside wooden tubs of steaming, sulfur-smelling spring water in Nagano (open to the public), to the pay-per-day, multi-story spas with themed baths and rooms like Osaka‘s Spa World. If the soak is behind closed doors, like part of a hotel or complex, then expect to bathe in the nude — with no visible tattoos. Otherwise, just kick off your shoes and dip your legs in. People also drink the hot spring water, though it’s egg smell may be a little off-putting.
6. That Gift Fruit Is a Thing
The Japanese love giving gifts. It’s a part of their culture. Gifts are a way to express thanks, love, respect, and even penance. One popular gift of choice is fruit, but not just any fruit. Gift fruit is expensive, with a price that matches its perfection. We just love watching the faces of tourists who don’t know about this custom stumble across a $100 melon at the shop. The shocked looks are priceless.
7. The Convenience of Convenience Stores
Sure, we are used to convenience stores being convenient, but Japan’s 7-Eleven stores take it to a whole other level. In Japan, 7-Eleven is part of a large banking system, which means you can not only grab some cash from ATMs, but you can also pay your electric bill, water bill, phone bill, and even speeding tickets. It doesn’t stop there, as you can also buy tickets to events, get dry cleaning done, mail packages, and our absolute favorite: send your luggage to the airport ahead of time, so you don’t have to lug it around before your flight. (They’ll even send it to an airport in a different city.)
8. It's Safe
Not only is Japan safe, it is also a favorite among solo female travelers, though, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that there’s a well-known problem of women being groped on the rush hour trains. To battle this, there are a few women-only carriages during peak times. All-in-all, you can expect a low rate of violent and petty crime against tourists — so much so that it’s likely if you lose your wallet, whomever finds it will return it with the cash intact.
9. The Wet Room Showers
When you visit Japan, you might notice that your bathroom is completely constructed of hard plastic, including the walls and floor. This is because you can get the entire room wet. In fact, you’re supposed to. Typical Japanese bathrooms will have a small stool and retractable spray faucet, much like the ones you’d find back in kitchens at home. These are used to wash, by sitting on the stool and spraying yourself down with the nozzle, before you get into the shower/tub combo. Bathtubs are meant for relaxing, steamy soaks in clean water. While not all bathrooms are like this, especially not in more Westernized hotels, it’s a feature we love to spray around with.
10. The Fact That They're Hardcore Recyclers
This is a country that takes recycling very seriously. In Japan, residents must follow strict recycling rules that translate into breaking down every bit of an item and tossing each piece into the correct receptacle, labeled by color and number. For example, if someone buys a heated milk tea drink in a aluminum bottle, they would have to take off the plastic top and the plastic ring around the mouthpiece and throw them into a different bag of the bottle itself.
NOW WATCH: 9 Things You Should Never Do in Japan
You’ll Also Like:
- 24 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Japan
- 5 Quirky Themed Rooms in Tokyo
- The Best Itinerary for Japan
All products are independently selected by our writers and editors. If you buy something through our links, Oyster may earn an affiliate commission.