Japan is without a doubt one of the most advanced countries in the world. Between its technology and its gargantuan cities, there are a lot of things to inspire wonder. Some of these are things you might have or seen back in your country. But it’s always better in Japan.
I’ve always been a big fan of public transportation. I love an efficient way of getting around and no train systems in the world are more efficient than the trains in Japan. Some Japanese cities, like Tokyo, are more crowded than any other in the world. But you wouldn’t know it by riding their subways. The trains come on time every time and all within minutes of each other. When there are a lot of passengers waiting on the platform, they wait patiently in orderly lines. The stations and the trains are both impeccably clean. And they have stations on every corner of the city.
I used to think I lived in a first world country, but after enjoying the bathrooms of Japan, I have to say… I’m doubting that a little bit. In Japan, the toilets are a piece of electronic equipment. With the click of a button, you can have the toilet clean you with a soothing stream of warm water (at your desired intensity), you can turn on sounds in public bathrooms to block out unsightly bodily noises, or you can turn on the seat warmer. Because no one should have to sit on a cold toilet seat in the middle of the night. The Japanese understand that. Some bathrooms in Japan also have a magical (read: chemical) feature that neutralizes all odors. So you don’t even have to smell your own farts, let alone anyone else’s. Why this technology exists and is not more prolific, I don’t understand.
The bathtubs in Japan are also better than the ones you’re used to. They’re very tall so when you fill up to take a bath, your entire body is submerged and you can comfortably share the tub with another person. When I try to take a bath at home, the top half of my torso is out of the water and I’m freezing. When you get out of your bath or shower, you’ll also find that the bathroom mirror has been conveniently de-steamed for you. It really is the little things.
I’m a big sushi fiend. I’ve always loved it and now Japan has ruined it for me. Because no sushi will be as good as the sushi in Japan. As one of their staple foods, sushi is everywhere. You can get it from a nice restaurant, a small counter in a train station basement, or even a 7/11. And every single one of those will be better than any sushi you’ve ever had back home. The rice is perfectly sticky, the fish is extremely fresh and it’s put together with care and expertise. Every single bite of nigiri is heavenly. You don’t need all the sauces and frills they put on sushi rolls back home to mask the fact that the sushi itself is not good. Because Japanese sushi is perfect.
Aside from the food, the dining experience in Japanese restaurants is much better. In many instances, you’re sitting in front of your chef who is preparing little perfect bites of sushi or grilling at the hibachi station. But even in cases where you’re not, at a Japanese restaurant, there is no waiting around for your server. The service is great. You get hot tea while you decide what to order. They take your order down on an electronic pad that can also print your receipt. After you’ve dined, you take your bill over to a cashier. You don’t have to wait around for your server to come around so you can pay your bill. You pay when you’re done and you leave when you’re ready.
Fast Food: McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme, and 7/11
Even our crappy food is better in Japan. Out of curiosity and a desire for something more familiar, we went to McDonald’s for breakfast near the end of the trip. In the US, our “egg” McAnything is a weird yellow patty of spongy consistency. In Japan, they have real egg! The food doesn’t feel as heavy or greasy which makes it even more delicious. They also have fried apple pie, which is no longer served in the US; we get the boring baked kind. But that’s not all. You’ll find other well-known brands scattered all over Japan. Krispy Kreme is another chain that is much more clean and chic in Japan. They have fresh-baked donuts and elaborate concoctions like a Krispy Kreme affogato. But by far the most completely revamped brand in Japan is 7/11. They’re as easily accessible as Starbucks and open all night. They have everything you could ever ask for, and instead of having the same crusty bread from 3 days ago, you’ll find freshly cooked/baked goods at all hours. You can also find another one of my favorite Japanese things: candy.
I have quite the sweet tooth so I have an appreciation for the ingenious things the Japanese do with candy. Their chocolates have all sorts of interesting fillings like green tea, strawberry mousse, and other flavored jellies. They have chocolates, gummies, hard candy, chewables, Coke-flavored everything, candy that’s sour, candy that pops in your mouth, and every single thing is a delicious mystery. I can’t rave enough about the ingeniuty of the candy companies in Japan. I’m just sad I can’t buy those things here at home.
The Eiffel Tower
Who doesn’t love the Eiffel Tower? A universal symbol of love and beauty in Paris. Well, Japan has one too. Tokyo Tower was designed after the Eiffel Tower but is 109 ft higher and it’s painted a colorful orange and white. Like its inspiration in Paris, it has two observation decks. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, getting up and down on a busy day does not take hours. The line moves quickly and efficiently and the decks are not overcrowded. You can enjoy live music or a drink while you do your souvenir shopping at the top of the tower.
Japan is one of the only countries I’ve ever been to that has a gigantic futuristic metropolis in the same measure that it has lush natural spaces. All of the temples that are scattered across major cities are surrounded by wondrous parks. You can take a break from the sensory overload in the major downtown areas of the city by escaping to a spiritual oasis where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of trees and flowers. They value their industralization but also the things man can’t make better.
There’s almost nothing the Japanese haven’t seen that they haven’t found a way to streamline and make more interesting. The rest of the world should be taking notes, because someone has to upgrade my toilet.