The things foreigners miss most about living in Japan

The things foreigners miss most about living in Japan

Japan is a place full of unexpected experiences that foreigners will see differently

Now, it's been years since foreign tourists have been allowed to visit Japan. Finally, we start to see the country opening up and, once again, enjoy all the exciting things there are to see and explore in Japan.

Some of my friends and network who have lived in Japan in the past have shared the things they miss the most from their time being there. I'm sure it's been difficult come up with a particular thing that they miss, as there most likely have been many special memories to recall. Nevertheless, these are the answers that came top of their minds and would likely make them want to return to Japan again when possible.

Standing guy at the observation deck of Tokyo Skytree

Anders Colding - Studied Japanese in Kyoto

My name is Anders, and I have lived in Japan, namely Kyoto, for two years.

While I was still attending university during my stay in Japan, my after school activities were quite different from those in Denmark. Japan has ample opportunities regarding leisure, and there are, of course, plenty of things I wish we had here in my home country as well. But to narrow it down into one thing that I miss the most about living in Japan. I would have to say the large, multi-story buildings which are made for the single purpose of fun activities. In Kyoto, where I lived, the main one was by a company called Round1. With the size of an apartment store, Round 1 is full of bowling alleys, coin games, tables for pool and ping pong, karaoke, and much more. I could spend hours there.

Once, my then-girlfriend and I tried our luck with a coin game. Since it wasn't a casino, we would have to buy fake, unexchangeable coins to play. After winning a game, we were "forced" to play more since we could not exchange the received coins back for money. On our second try, we hit the jackpot and thus collected several thousand Yen worth of game coins. As a result, for at least two weeks, we went to this large gaming center and "gambled" to our hearts' content. The bowling alleys were also a fun activity when I was with friends, therefore we spent so much time there.

So, if they would extend a business like this to Denmark (where I live now), there would be absolutely no complaint from me.

Woman making Okonomiyaki in a Japanese restaurant

Alyssa Diones - Former resident of Tokyo and Japanese metal super-fan

What I miss most about Japan is the community. As a university student in Japan, I started working at a local Okonomiyaki restaurant in a small suburb outside Tokyo. Though I did not expect it when I started, over the years working there, the restaurant became like a home to me. The rest of the staff was kind and open, and we always bonded significantly throughout a busy shift. Each staff member must learn to cook the entire menu; it was challenging and resulted in many failures on my part. But those senior to me who knew more were patient teachers. And eventually, I could teach those who joined after me as well. Our regular customers were our close friends. My coworkers and I attended weddings, holidays, and tennis matches with local teachers, business owners, and religious leaders. I greatly miss the warmth of the community in which I worked and the connections established with people who were welcoming from day 1.

Foreigner living in a traditional Kyoto-style house in Japan

Lars Vejen - Architect and Designer specializing in furniture, product, and industrial design

I had my first travel, stay, and experience in Japan when the opportunity to do an internship in Kyoto during my studies arose. The year was 1995, and it became an amazing experience and eye-opener to a world that was back then not possible to research via the internet. All was a true first-time experience, and nothing was seen or planned — a way to travel that I definitely would recommend. All impressions become so much stronger and with no disturbing "preview" prejudice.

Today, I have visited Japan around 100 times. I have bought a house in Kyoto, and what I miss the most today after more than two years of travel restrictions, is simply living my everyday life there! To stay in my traditional Japanese house, go for a walk in the surrounding temple area or mountainside forest, have friends for dinner, visit my clients around Japan, go treasure hunting at the flea markets, and importantly, not forgetting; to enjoy the amazing Japanese food! Running my own (one man) design studio gives me great freedom to work from anywhere and enjoy - for me - the best source of inspiration; everyday life!

Ashiyu in Japan — a perfect break for tired feet

Camilla Nellemann - Senior Consultant, Japan specialist

What I miss the most about living in Japan is the feeling of being safe thanks to people looking after each other and police boxes in many places. I once happened to forget my passport inside a copying machine at a convenience store in Tokyo. I only noticed that I had lost my passport when an office clerk from the embassy called me the day after. Fortunately, a Japanese person had handed it in. I was both grateful and astonished to learn that someone had made the effort to help me in this way.

Bicycle trip in Japan along the coast

Anders Schultz - Japan enthusiast

In 2016 I traveled from the most northern part of Hokkaido, through various parts of Honshu and Shikoku, and all the way down to the southern region of Kyushu by bike. It was right after graduating from university as I did not have any plans besides traveling. I rode my bike for a long time. It did not matter whether it rained or if the sky was bright blue. It did not matter whether it was day or night. I rode my bike when I wanted to. I especially enjoyed those sunny days. The drifting white clouds and the sounds of my bike as I traversed the gentle slopes along the coastline of the Sea of Japan are what I miss. The freedom and peace of mind that I experienced on that trip are something I will remember and cherish forever.

Should you fancy a trip through Japan by bike, you can read Anders' blog, where he documented his journey.

Skeleton Room Karaoke in Kyoto Japan

Stefan Søndergaard - Former English teacher in Japan and Japan curious

Obviously, I miss my girlfriend the most; however, after returning back to Denmark, I soon also started to miss Japanese Karaoke and Izakayas. They are similar in a way. You can go with your friends, loved ones, strangers, or even alone. Most of the time you'll have a private room. It's a lot of fun to be in the karaoke room, where you typically stay for hours singing, drinking, and eating. Everyone will get closer to each other, and whoever you are with, it's always fun. The only time you leave the room is if you need a toilet break or in case you want to prolong your booked time. Drinks and snacks arrive at your room when ordered by a tablet installed in the room.

My friends and I once entered the スケルトンルーム (Skeleton room) in Kyoto — a karaoke place downtown a little different from the standard setup. There is a see-through room at the ground level entrance, where the public can both hear and see you from the streets. If you are not particularly good at singing, this can be quite a challenge. However, the benefit is that you can enter the room barely for free. To my surprise, there were a lot of thumbs-ups and recognition whenever I sang Japanese songs. It could be because I was a rare sight being blond and foreign. After a couple of songs in the Skeleton room, a group of high school girls started to gather outside. They started dancing and having fun while we were singing. After we finished singing, we met with the girls, talked for a little bit, and took photos. The experience was memorable, and I would love to return to Japan.

What do you miss about Japan?

These were the answers my friends came up with regarding what they miss the most about Japan.

Hopefully, this has been interesting to read about, and I'm curious to know what the readers are missing about Japan. Please use the comment field to share your story or read more about Japan from the different selection of articles available.

Let's hope that we all soon again can return to Japan and continue to make memories.

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