8 Things You’ll Absolutely Miss After Leaving Japan

And Sushi Is Just One Of Them

By Anisa Kazemi
September 7, 2017
Lifestyle

It’s so easy to get used to some parts of Japan life that foreigners often find themselves with a Japan-sized hole in their hearts after leaving.

Maybe you spent a month in Japan, maybe you’ve spent a year or more, or maybe you were here for a decade. But the one thing you’ll likely all have in common is missing those unique parts of Japanese culture. From friends and food to Japan’s funny obsession with putting animals in strollers, here are some of the top aspects of Japan you’ll miss after leaving Japan.

1. Life-long friends

No. 1: friendships made. When I am asked what I miss most about Japan, I instantly think of my dear Japanese friends, and I feel sadness and nostalgia for no longer being able to enjoy their presence. I will never forget my 92-year-old neighbor who, two summers in a row, saved me the best watermelon from his vegetable patch. Nor will I forget Yuka’s parents who bought me two sets of fancy chopsticks, “One for you and one for your future husband.” (I wasn’t dating anyone then). Of course, I still keep in contact with Yasu, my upstairs neighbor who took an entire year to work up the courage to introduce herself, and who ironically ended up being my closest friend ever (the adventures of Yasu and Anisa are unnumbered)! I could go on and on, but of the infinite things I miss most about Japan after leaving, my memorable relationships are unmatched.

2. Food — Oh, the food!

Of course, you knew this one was coming. The sushi. The perfect yet convenient bento boxes. The nabe in winter! The list goes on… Food is such a big and important part of Japan that I’m going to have to split my yearning for it into two different sections. First, the food itself. You know this; I know this; Japan does food best.

3. Fantastic food culture

In addition to the food itself, in my very Western existence, I constantly crave the Japanese food culture. In particular, I miss the great respect for both farmers and the general agricultural process. In the same way, I miss the enormous admiration for chefs and hospitality staff – this has a lot to do with Japan’s overall work ethic, seeing any work done in high spirits as esteemed and important (not always the case for hospitality personnel in the West). Further, I feel nostalgic for Japanese food presentation (kawaii children’s bento’s for instance), the strong culture of eating together, and the respectful idea of uttering “itadakimasu” (a sort of Japanese grace) before commencing consumption.

4. Shop ’til you drop

Is there a better place to shop in this world than Tokyo or Osaka?! Shops in Japan make me the definition of Madonna’s “Material Girl.” Apart from out-of-this-world outfits, beautiful stationery, and gorgeous home decor, where else can you find kawaii boiled egg-holders?! Come on, you just can’t get that sort of random necessity (yes, it is vital my boiled egg be held in its own specific container) outside of Japan.

5. Wanderlust

What is it about living the life of an expat which fills us with this strong, seemingly innate impulse to travel? In hindsight, this sounds ridiculous, but I think I have seen more of Japan than I have of my home country of New Zealand. When I used to live in Japan, every weekend and every public holiday were an excuse for me and my expat friends to explore and discover some new place. In comparison, today, holidays come and go and I often stay in my comfort zone, cozied up inside instead.

6. Relaxing at the onsen

© Photo by ©Odakyu Electric Railway/©JNTO

Of course, I too was initially hesitant at stripping down to my birthday suit to soak in a pool with half a dozen strangers, but over time I came to love Japanese onsen (hot springs) and their prevalence. Is there a better way of washing away the day’s stresses?

7. The cult of self-care

I miss the seriously approached notion of self-care amongst Japanese women. Do not get me wrong, I am not talking about vanity or narcissism but instead, the prevalent use of sunscreen, beauty products, and Japanese superfood such as konjac, okara, and amazake in order to stay beautiful and radiant on the inside and out. True, people in my country also care about their appearance but never in the prioritizing manner of Japanese women.

8. Obsession with animals

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Last but not least, I miss Japanese’ obsession with animals. Where is the cat cafe/dog cafe/owl cafe/rabbit island/monkey island/cat island in my home country?! I will never forget my colleague with the handsome husband and the four gorgeous children who still chooses to have her cat as her iPhone background and as her Facebook profile picture.

So, there you have it. The top 8 things I am (sadly) living without. What are some of the things you miss (or expect that you will miss) about Japan? Leave your list in the comments below.