Posted in JapanLife

JapanLife: The Little Things in Life

Browsing through Reddit, I stumbled upon a little group for foreigners living in Japan (such as myself). One of the posts was a question about the little things we’ve seen or done that made life here a little better compared to where we originally came from.

That one made me pause and think. For the past 3 years, I’ve only taken notice of the big difference between my hometown and my new home. But there are, in fact, so many little things that seem commonplace only in Japan.

(I’ve only lived in 2 countries so far, so this list is very subjective).

Washlets, Bidets and Seat Warmer

Almost every toilets here have built-in bidets. It’s the one thing I rarely experienced in Manila, unless it’s a super fancy type of place. Here, I’ve seen old public restrooms with very modern type of toilets: with bidet, sound, and seat warmer. The seat warmer are especially useful during the cold winters, and I am so thankful that my apartment has one.

They also have washlets, which are built-in faucet and sink on top of the water tank. You wash your hands from this faucet and then the water is reused to flush the toilet. It’s very convenient. However, you can’t wash with soap using these washlets. It clogs, so it’s still better to use the lavatories for a thorough wash.

IC Cards

I’ve used IC cards mostly for trains and buses (though I rarely take the bus). It’s also very useful when travelling across the country as I can use it for almost all the public transportation (except bullet trains). I’ve also noticed that whenever I use my IC card in convenience stores, I get a little discount.

Some casual dining places have also installed self-service ordering machine that accepts IC cards. It’s very cool and convenient since I can just tap my card after selecting my meals. Plus, I won’t have to burden my wallet with a lot of coins.

Once, I also stayed in a hotel that would only accept cards (credit card, debit card and IC card). It was weird, but at least I didn’t have to charge my credit card for a 500 yen-worth breakfast.

Doings Things Alone

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that Japan is an introvert’s paradise. This is the only place where I can eat in restaurants by myself without feeling self-conscious. And most places have counters or small booths for lone diners so I don’t have to use the big tables and rush myself.

I’ve also watched movies in cinemas by myself. Reservations are made online, and I just have to use a computer kiosk to get the physical ticket. The only time I have to talk to someone is when I buy popcorn and soda.

Where I grew up, I used to go to place by myself. But when I tell people that, they tend to feel sorry for me. They said I must be very lonely, but I’m not. I just really like my “me” time.

Feeling Safe at All Times

If you grew up where I did, the first thing you’d learn was how to avoid danger. As a woman, I had to be twice as vigilant. My parents used to worry when I had to go home at 1am from work because of the rampant crime in our place. I’ve carried mace, learned how to use keys as make-shift weapon, and how to trust my gut when it comes to strangers.

I know that Japan is not 100% crime-free, but it feels so much safer here than anywhere else I’ve been. I could travel by myself, and even walk home late at night. If I misplaced my wallet or my phone in a mall, there is a 99% chance that I could get it back.

Even the roads here felt safer than in Manila. Granted that most drivers I’ve observed drive really fast, they almost always give way for the pedestrians. The sidewalks are also clean, and the only danger (for the unobservant) is a bicycle wheezing past.

Flowers Growing Everywhere

This makes me specially happy. And it’s not just during spring that flowers bloom in my neighborhood. I’ve seen purple flowers burst from summer-dry ground, random blooms mixed among the maple leaves, and sturdy plum blossoming during late winter.

Even the weeds have uniquely shaped and colored buds that made me want to stop and take some photos.

I live in a slightly urban area, and seeing the seasonal flowers never fails to make me smile.

Seasonal Wardrobe

I don’t have a lot of clothes, and I rarely go shopping. When I arrived here 3 years ago, I’ve only got a few month’s worth of clothes, and 3 pairs of shoes.

But Japan has four seasons, and continually changing temperature. So, I had to buy blouses, jackets, coats and shoes that would be comfortable for each changes. I even noticed that my clothes have become more work-conscious. I still wear my style, but I’ve adapted to how the women dresses here. I’d like to believe that I dress more maturely these days.

So now, I had to rotate my wardrobe according to the seasonal calendar. My clothes and shoes more than doubled in just 3 years, and I may need a bigger closet space in the future. LOL!

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These are just the few things I really appreciate while living here. Sometimes, I forget that I wasn’t born here, or that I don’t really speak their language yet – because I’m so comfortable here.

I thought I was already an independent girl, but Japan has made me even more so.

I will always love the Philippines (despite all their many problems right now), but Japan is my second home.