The Top 8 Things I’ll Miss About Japan

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Kashima Shrine, Ibaraki, Japan

Having lived in Japan for two years now, there are many things about the country and culture that I’ve grown very attached to and that have become a part of my everyday life. It’ll be strange having to revert to being an American in America! So I thought I’d share with you just a few of the mile long list of things that I love about Japan, and that I’ll miss the most when I go home.

1. The Convenience

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Very first konbini trip during training. 2014.

Until someone in California won the Superlotto Jackpot at my local 7-11, it was generally a place people didn’t go. Convenience stores in the U.S. are so inferior to those in Japan I can’t even compare! When I tell Japanese people traveling to the States that I never ever go to 7-11 and the like at home they give me the funniest looks. It shocks them!

Convenience stores in Japan have great food with a lot of variety (drinks, hot, cold, groceries, you name it), gift cards, copying & printing, the ability to pay your bills, pay for online purchases, ship luggage, and I’m only scratching the surface! On the other side, if you eat the hot dogs in the U.S. you are more than likely to contract a case of food poisoning. Night and day, huh? I miss my local Family Mart and Mini Stop already.

Also, the fact that vending machines are literally everywhere makes long runs and road trips very convenient! I always say no one will ever be at risk of dehydration in Japan, unless they didn’t bring a 100 yen coin.

2. The Food

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3年生 Goodbye School Lunch Feast!

Karaage, ramen, tempura, sushi, oh my! What will I do without my plentiful and cheap sources of Japanese food?! Sure it’s all popular in California and I can probably find the real stuff instead of the unhealthy American knock-offs in Little Tokyo, but I won’t be able to buy a salmon fillet for sashimi at the supermarket or grab some yakitori at the stand out in front. And I doubt anyone actually sells things like nikujaga or kinpira gobou. I’m really gonna miss the food, especially as I only just started liking sashimi and sushi in the past few months. So much lost time!

3. My Kids

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Jr. High graduation ceremony

My kids. My heart. I’m leaving them behind. It kills me a bit that I’ll never know if they got into the college they wanted or if the kid who practices for hours every day will actually become a famous dancer. I won’t know if they become teachers or doctors or office workers or if their dreams come true.

So many of them talk to me about what they want to do and where they want to go and I’ll never know if any of that happens. If they live happy lives. That can be hard to make peace with, but I can’t change it so unfortunately I have to try. So I’m leaving them with all my love and hopes for their futures. Hopefully that’ll be enough.

4. The Scenery

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Road trip to Kita-Ibaraki Coast

Oh, man the scenery! Living in rural Japan is just about the prettiest thing you can ever do! I love driving in my free time down itty bitty roads, past rice fields, through the random groves of cedar trees, along the coast. I admire all the gorgeous traditional houses and pick out which gardens I want to copy one day. Driving is how I unwind when I’ve had a bad day. There’s just something about winding country roads with all the windows down and music blaring!

I’ll also miss the hiking here, it’s definitely an experience! Never far from a man-made structure but I’ve had more than one mountain all to myself. I’ve probably hiked more here than I ever did in the U.S. and I hope I keep it up at home!

5. Omotenashi (お持て成し)

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My Japanese dad took me and my dad to yakiniku!

The spirit of omotenashi, translated as “hospitality”, is truly astounding here in Japan. I think it might even beat the American South, and that’s pretty impressive! My life here has been touched by so many people trying to take care of me (I’m especially popular with the grandparents) and I don’t know what I would have done sometimes without them. Saying hello with a smile on the street, passing out garden vegetables to neighbors, taking me to dinner because they worry I’m not eating enough, turning around so they can show you the way, offering to translate at doctors and city hall and vet offices. I can’t list the amount of kindness I’ve been shown and in how many different ways. I’m going to miss my countless Japanese grandparents, moms and dads, and the strangers who’ve blown me away with their eagerness to help.

6. The Constant Learning

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I read the Japanese instead of the funny English.

I could live here for the rest of my life and still be learning all there is to know about Japan. The intricacies of the culture and language, the history, the traditions, the people. My mind is constantly engaged here, putting together the puzzle that is my surroundings. I take a few free online classes so I can keep studying my beloved earth science, but I also study Japanese and every time I go anywhere I learn something new. I love the feeling when I can finally read the kanji on a sign I see every day and the world gets a little clearer. I’ll definitely miss that.

7. Hanging Laundry and Futons

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This is probably the strangest item I have on this list, but I just love driving around the countryside on a sunny day and seeing all the laundry out to dry and the futons being aired. It’s just such a homey scene, it makes me all happy and peaceful inside. I like when my clothes smell like the summer breeze and are warm from being outside. You know how good the weather will be based on how many houses have their laundry out. I don’t think I want a dryer wherever I move, but I’ll miss seeing the physical evidence all around me that the weather will be nice that day.

8. The History and Culture

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Shrine in Shinjuku with skyscrapers in background.

Growing up in the U.S.A. there’s nothing really more than a few hundred years old in the country. I love history and the fact that it’s all around me here is just amazing! A few of the local shrines were founded before the year 1,000 and families have been farming in the same areas for centuries!

The culture here is so deeply rooted, especially in the countryside, and because Japan itself was cut off from the world for so long it’s significantly unchanged. The recent trend of modernization hasn’t reached overbearingly into the rural areas and even in the cities the way Japan has rapidly modernized but still retained much of its traditional culture is utterly fascinating.

So there you have it. Eight things I will achingly miss when I leave Japan (excluding the obvious, like the priceless friends I’ve made here). Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a few rounds of melon soda and dango to banish this mood!

What do you love (or even hate) about Japan? (Whether you’ve been here or not!) And if you live here what would you miss most if you left? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to know (and agree with you)!

If you have any questions about Japan, life here, getting here or anything else always feel free to comment, email or message me on social media! I’m never happier than when I’m answering questions for all of you! <3

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