I moved to Japan around 5 years ago and although I had a Japanese background and have been learning about Japan’s culture and customs when I first got here, I found myself surrounded by so many new things.

I thought I knew what to expect and believed that nothing can shock me, but even in the present, I still find myself discovering unusual and new things every day.

So here are a couple of the things that left me surprised when I first came here:

1. Warm Toilet Seats

I knew that toilets in Japan are very high tech, but never would I imagine that they have heated seats! Living in the cold Aomori for a year, the warm toilets were a pleasant surprise.

2. Benri Goods

The second point I want to talk about is the multitude of benri goods here in Japan. Benri (便利) means convenient in Japanese and you can find so many super useful things and make your life a lot easier.

For example, during the hot weather, there are so many cooling sheets, all sorts of fans, UV cut creams, sleeves, etc.

Japanese brands like Uniqlo, GU, or Muji also have HEATTECH innerwear that generates heat to keep you warm during cold days.

There is also a version for hot days that has become one of my favorites to wear in summer.

It is called Airism and it keeps you cool during the hot and humid summers in Japan as it allows your skin to breathe. You can find the AIRism innerwear, as well as the AIRism facial masks in Uniqlo.

I can honestly say they were a lifesaver this summer! It dries so quickly and releases heat so it feels a lot cooler.

Besides these items, there are a lot of other convenient things, from kitchen goods, toilets to the convenience stores, vending machines, and robots that welcome you to sushi restaurants and kindly tell you what table you should sit at.

3. Customer Service

Before coming to Japan, I had studied Japanese and Japan’s culture, as I previously mentioned, so I kind of had an idea of what to expect. However, when I got here it exceeded my expectations. The customer service is godly, I tell you! Everyone is so kind and even if you don’t know Japanese, they will try to help you find what you need.

When I was an exchange student, I had a Family Mart convenience store nearby and after my part-time shift ended, I always passed by to grab a coffee or something.

The owner there was always very nice to me and would always recommend me to many places in Japan. He used to grow tomatoes and sometimes he’d share some with me, too.

I feel like it was such a kind gesture and even though it might not be related to customer service itself, I feel like there are so many kind people willing to help you or talk to you here.

4. Women-only cars

Another thing that surprised me was when I first saw the women-only cars on trains.

Only women can use it during certain times in the morning or at night, usually during rush hours. I feel like is a good idea for the women to feel safer and more comfortable, so I thought it would be nice if we had that in my country, too.

5. Dogs in baby cars

I was surprised at were the people that don’t walk their dogs, but instead put them into baby cars. I have recently found out that some do so because they use trains and dogs are not allowed in trains, so they just put their puppies in a baby car.

Many elders do that, so I was thinking that another reason might be that it is hard for them to walk with the dogs and might be quite difficult if the dog starts running or something.

Anyway, that got me quite surprised when I first saw it.

6. Doing your make-up in trains

You don’t see that in my country, so I found it a bit weird that people frown upon calls here, but say nothing about doing your make-up in trains.

There are times you need to get an important call or when the train is late, for example, so people go all the way and get off the train so they can contact their superiors.

However, when people do their make-up, everyone kind of mind their own business, or at least that is what I noticed on the train.

Recently, there have been quite a few talks regarding manners and if it is okay to do your make-up on trains. Some people might seem to be all right with it, but others believe that make-up is something you shouldn’t do in public.

7. Eating KFC and Strawberry shortcake for Christmas

My first Christmas here, I was so shocked to see so many people lining up at the Cakeshop and making reservations ahead of time for KFC! They usually do so on Christmas Eve.

Also, besides eating KFC and cake, I was surprised to see many couples around during this time. 

In Japan, Christmas seems to be more of a day you spend with your partner or friends.

8. Healthy food is for rich people

Another point is how expensive vegetables and fruits are.

In my country, at least, I’d buy 1kg of apples for 100 yen, while in Japan, I’d pay 200 for just one apple. Also, if I want to make a spinach dish, I can only buy a couple of leaves that cost around 150 yen.

Since coming here, I kind of feel like buying healthy food is something that only rich people afford to do. Therefore, the prices of fruits and vegetables (for the quantity you get) is something that surprised me a lot. I won’t even mention the organic options as it goes way past my budget.

9. Alerts

Another thing that surprised me was the alerts when something happens, like an earthquake or flood.

It is very timely! For those who know Japanese, it helps you figure out what to do next. Those who don’t might panic quite a bit, though. 

On that note, there are also announcements every day around 5 pm saying something such as “It’s 5 pm, time for good kids to go back to their homes.” 

At least, in my area, we have it every day.

10. Mutant Insects

The tenth point is the size of the bugs here.

I never encountered an Asian hornet, the so-called Suzume Bachi. However, when I got here, I was surprised to find out that besides their mutant size, their sting is deadly.

The beetles, even ants, too. All are so big compared to the tiny insects in my country. Also, the variety of them! I’ve seen so many bugs I don't know!

11. Beautiful hotel rooms

Regardless of how cheap it is, the hotels’ rooms in Japan look so beautiful, so it is always exciting to spend a night at a Japanese hotel. The service, food, and everything are flawless.

12. Japanese TV Shows

I usually don't watch TV, but when I want to, the only thing I can find is food, food, and food. Many shows have 食レポ/“shoku repo”, basically reports of how good is the food tasted by the idols/celebrities participating in the show.

13. Japanese Cuisine

I mentioned food earlier, so I will continue and say that another thing that was a pleasant surprise to me is how delicious Japanese food is. No wonder they have so many“Shoku Repo” in the variety shows here.

Each area in Japan is known for a certain type of food or ingredient. One example would be the Sapporo Ramen or Yubari Melon in Hokkaido.

Here are the top things I found surprising here. Was there any that surprised you as well? If you have any other experiences that left you speechless and in awe while visiting Japan, I'd love to hear more, so don't forget to share it with us.

By - cinnamonellie.