Since my abroad to Japan ended last November, I have found myself missing some of the incredible aspects of their society. The Japanese culture is founded on politeness, cleanliness and maintaining harmony within the group. As a result the Japanese are incredibly punctual, efficient, respectful and hold themselves to incredibly high standards in hopes that it will support the greater good of society. Many of the things on this list stem from this cultural foundation, so it’s important to keep it in mind.
Japan does some things so well I wonder why the rest of the world hasn’t adopted them yet. Such as:
1. Heated Floors and the Kotasu:
Even though more popular and common in Korea, the Japanese use heated floors. When the seasons change and the cold weather begins, the Japanese target the feet instead of heating the air. Nothing feels better than stepping out of your warm bed onto a heated floor. The Kotastu (炬燵) is a heated table and blanket that the family can sit around to stay warm.
The Japanese have several gadgets that we would be much better off with. One being the temperature control in their baths (see above). They can set the warmth level to heat the bath and/or leave the shower head. No more ice cold or lava hot water scenarios. Even better, many of these gadgets will play a nice little jingle when they finish the job. 'Your rice is done cooking? Here is a nice song!' No annoying beeping in Japan.
The Japanese's importance of cleanliness stems from their traditional Shinto beliefs. Despite having very few public trash cans available, there is absolutely no littering! People carry their trash with them until they get home. This behavior comes from the cultural belief that the group is more important than the individual.
4. The Toilets:
Yes this is a serious contribution to the list. This might be one the biggest advantages I miss from Japan to be honest. Most of the toilets in Japan offer services like a seat warmer (which is lovely on a cold night), a sound machine to cover sound, and a fully functional bidet system. The really fancy ones will raise the seat automatically as you enter the stall. Luxury at it's finest.
5. Removing Shoes:
This kind of goes along with cleanliness (as did the toilets), but the Japanese always take their shoes off when entering the home. They even have separate bathroom slippers (even in public restrooms). This practice prevents the floors from dirtying which is important because many aspects of Japanese life utilize the floor, including meals and sleeping in some homes.
6. Vending Machines:
Japan is the king of vending machines. They can be found almost everywhere in the country, with a whopping 5.52 million vending machines in use! These contain a wide variety of delicious drinks. In the colder seasons they offer warm drinks as well. Some vending machines even provide warm food!
7. Onsens (温泉):
Japan has an amazing hot spring bathing culture. While it might seem strange to us, the Japanese love public baths. And I must say, after trying them, I can see why! These public baths usually offer several different temperature soaking baths (including an ice bath) with infused waters and sometimes a wet sauna.
8. McDonald's (マクドナルド) delivers:
Yes you heard me. McDonald’s delivers. Now don’t ask me why (though it might have something to do with how little free time they give themselves,) but I must say that is pretty sweet.
9. Respecting the Elderly:
The Japanese in general are very respectful people but they place a lot of importance in seniority and age. Though this system might have some issues of its own, the respect that the Japanese give their elderly is heartwarming.
10. Dog and Cat Cafes:
So why don’t we have these in the U.S.? You literally show up, pay a small fee, order a drink and play with cute furry animals for a couple hours. Sounds like a lovely way to spend the afternoon and de-stress.
I can’t forget food on this list. Japan has AMAZING food! Their food quality standards are some of the highest in the world. Therefore, you could walk into a convenience store, buy $4 sushi and have it taste better than the $20 sushi you buy here in The States. Their ramen is no joke either. From Donkatsu, to yakisoba, to takoyaki, Japan does food right.
12. The Taxis (タクシー):
The taxis in Japan are not like the sketchy cars you may wave down in New York. No, these vehicles are kept incredibly clean, furnished with pretty seat covers, and are equipped with automatic doors. The drivers even wear little white gloves.
13. Konbini (コンビニ):
Konbini, short for convenience stores, are found on every street corner. They're like high quality gas-station stores, packed with foods and drinks for snacks or even prepared meals. They also carry your everyday necessities like band aids, toothbrushes, magazines, and manga (comic books.) 7-eleven is a major Japanese company branch of these stores.
14. Customer Service:
The Japanese are incredibly polite and try to maintain the wa (和), or harmony, in society. This aspect paired with their sense of perfectionism and respect, lead to amazing customer service. No overbearing sales men and women and quick responses from waiters and waitresses. They know when not to bother you, and when to act. What a concept! The best part is you do not tip in Japan. It is considered an insult to their pride.
15. Public Transportation:
Japan’s public transportation is amazing. The buses (バス) and trains (列車) have a perfected system. Things run smoothly, safely, and are on a perfectly timed schedule. In fact, the average delay time for a train is around six seconds! Talk about punctuality. As for the infamous bullet train, in 50 years of service there has not been a single injury or death of a passenger. America take take note.
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Pedestrians can comfortably walk down streets in the dead of night without worry. Children even take themselves to school on public transportation from the age of seven. Police boxes, or Koban (交番), are located in every neighborhood. Homicide rates are incredibly low, and stealing is a rarity. I left my phone on a bus in Kyoto once and that night I checked the lost and found and it was there safe and sound! It’s just ingrained in their culture.
17. Karaoke (カラオケ):
Japanese people know how to work hard, but they also know how to let loose. Friends, co-workers, etc will head down to a karaoke bar, rent a room and go crazy. Drinking is usually involved, but screaming lyrics to your favorite songs and playing loud instruments is a great way to spend a Friday night in Japan.18. Variety Shows:
Anime and Manga are some of Japan’s major exports and many are works of art; however, I feel like people under appreciate the variety shows in Japan. Imagine taking celebrities and placing them in outrageous situations such as human bowling, playing soccer with binoculars, or guessing which object is made of chocolate… by taking a bite out of it. Though some are a bit weird, many of them are hilariously stupid and entertaining.