101 Things I Love About Japan

Truly, the hardest part of my job is leaving a place. As my journey in a country comes to an end, I tend to get very sad, wondering if and when I return and thinking about how much I wish I could stay for longer. Often, my only consolation is to take stock of what I’ve experienced and feel joy for each one of those marvelous individual things. And so, after leaving Japan behind, I compile this little list. These are just a few the wonderful things I will remember from Japan, but they are definitely my favorites. (Feel free to add your own favorite Japanese things in the comments).

1.   Clear plastic umbrellas

2.   White-gloved taxi drivers

3.   “Irasshaimase! ” screamed at you every time you step into a store.

4.   “Cold water” and “hot water” are two different words

5.   Red triangle stop signs

6.   Glow-in-the-dark light saber police batons

7.   Jasmine incense at temples and shrines

8.   Zen rock gardens


Zen dry landscape garden at Taizo-in temple, Kyoto (AE, NGS)


9.   Chocolate cheesecake packaged in long sticks, like beef jerky

10. Japanese maple trees

11. High-pitched talking escalators

12. Yakisoba noodles

13. Onsen (hot springs) bathing

14. Shinkansen (the bullet train)

15. Tokyo subway

16. Rainbows

17. Raw squid for breakfast

18. Green tea KitKat

19. Clammbon

20. Shamisen music

21. Tatami mats

22. Purple sweet potato soft-serve ice cream

23. Harajuku

24. “Best of the Carpenters, Selected Favorites” in every car CD

25. Pocari Sweat


Pocari Sweat, a Japanese-style Gatorade to which I am now addicted. (AE, NGS)


26. Unagi sushi

27. Japanese affection for plaid

28. Chocolate-covered lotus root

29. Perfect geometric ice cubes

30. Bowing (I’m used to it now)

31. Green tea doughnuts

32. Bonsai trees

33. Bento boxes

34. Calligraphy

35. Meditation

36. The trains run on time, all the time

37. V6 “Honey Beat

38. Baseball


The Japanese dog breed "Shiba" (AE, NGS)


39. Gum-drop shaped mountains

40. Hot sand baths

41. Warm washcloths before every meal

42. Lace covers on the backs of car seats

43. Free internet

44. Shiatsu

45. Toilets with options

46. Shiba dogs

47. Naoshima

48. Okoyama grapes

49. Sapporo ramen

50. Fluorescent green rice fields

51. Cat shrines

52. Satsuma tangerines

53. Sumo wrestling on afternoon television

54. Toe socks

55. Cell phone charms

56. Melodious electronic ditties that play on the trains

57. Sendai airport

58. Mt. Fuji

59. Hygienic face masks

60. Vending machines


Japanese vending machine sells iced coffee and cold drinks (AE, NGS)


61. Chopsticks

62. Hiroshima okonomiyaki

63. Manga (anime)

64. Shabu shabu

65. Shiretoko National Park

66. Ryokan

67. Geisha

68. JR Rail Pass

69. Maguro

70. Shinto shrines

71. Hakusuikan

72. Brown bears

73. Nishiki market, Kyoto

74. Benifuki tea

75. The word “Subarashii”


A cup of Japanese hot green tea (AE, NGS)


76. Pink salt

77. Kanji

78. Cherry trees

79. “Respect for the Aged” day 敬老の日

80. Super-disciplined schools

81. Mt. Kaimon

82. Seikan tunnel

83. Four Seasons, Tokyo at Marunouchi

84. Tempura

85. Noboribetsu

86. Recycling

87. Japanese 7-11 (13,589 stores!)

88. Momiji Manju

89. Japanese Women’s Soccer Team

90. Hiroshi Sugimoto

91. Tiny dried anchovies


Paper lanterns glow at Yasaka shrine, Kyoto (AE, NGS)


92. Morning exercises on TV

93. Crickets

94. Nagisa Park foot baths

95. Taizoin temple

96. NHK

97. Wagyu beef

98. pottery

99. paper cranes

100. Wasabi

101. The Japanese


Rubbing Buddha's head for good luck in Tokyo (AE, NGS)


  1. Arturo
    Boston, MA
    September 28, 2011, 4:57 am

    Andrew… I believe it is “irashaimase” they scream at you when you walk into a store… “moshi moshi” is used to answer the phone. My favorite is the vending machines dispensing beer and shots of whiskey… just sayin’

  2. Imelda
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    September 28, 2011, 6:07 am

    Hi Andrew, I know Japan through some Japanese whom I knew in Jakarta. After reading your reports on Japan, I feel like I am travelling with you. Your objects in your photographs are unique, also the source-persons and topic in your writing are special like School in Japan, Faces of Japan. Thank you and I invite you to explore the beautiful islands, arts and cultures of Indonesia.

  3. Amason
    September 28, 2011, 7:28 am

    Happy to see you had great experiences!!! I’m glad Okonkmiyaki and Momiji Manju made your list!! yay!! :). My list will include ‘great service with no tipping!’

  4. Snoeksen
    September 28, 2011, 8:36 am

    “Moshi-moshi” is used as a greeting on the phone. In shops, bars and restaurants they say/yell “Irasshaimase!”.

    My favorite things in Japan… the food! The attention to detail. Calpis Water. Izakayas… I’ll be back to Japan in three weeks, so looking forward to it…

  5. Malia
    King George, VA
    September 28, 2011, 10:36 am

    Andrew, when you are in Northern Virginia you should drop by Lotte Plaza in Chantilly for some Japanese goods. They have Pocari Sweat, among other things! My daughter had a three month college internship there in 2007; next week she’s going back for a ten day visit that will include a V6 concert. We’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures.

  6. Jeanine Barone
    September 28, 2011, 11:11 am

    What a great list. I would add: mountain huts. I went hiking in the Japan Alps, and found the huts welcoming, warm and cozy, well organized and, of course, some came complete with warm toilet seats! Gotta love ’em.

  7. Becky
    Yakima, WA
    September 28, 2011, 12:20 pm

    Suica Penguin. I miss him so much, and his convenient little card.

  8. 101 Things to Love About Japan — Japantopia
    September 28, 2011, 12:57 pm

    […] Read the rest here. Filed Under: Life in Japan, Travel […]

  9. Lis
    September 28, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Glad the electric toilets made it to your great list, I really really want one, all those options, brilliant. Wonder if I’d get one through as excess baggage on my next trip (in April 2012). Love your list, love Japan.

  10. lise
    September 28, 2011, 7:12 pm

    Lis (in UK) We’ve seen advertisements for “magic potties” in the US, so maybe they are in UK too?
    And we love the 101 things. We miss Japan so much. thank you.

  11. Carlos
    September 28, 2011, 9:00 pm


    I would add the surprised and amazed vocal sounds of japanese: ” ahhhhhhhhhhh” or “ohhhhhhhhh”

  12. Harry
    Yogyakarta, Indonesia
    September 28, 2011, 9:23 pm

    have you ever try the takoyaki? It really taste good! you should try it sometime!

  13. ploie
    September 28, 2011, 10:26 pm

    *_* familiar things from your list fill my head w/ a parade of Tokyo places i visited in 2010; w/ all the memorized moments warming me up all over again… clear plastic umbrellas bring me right back to the shibuya junction’s body of rhythmic-crisscrossing-stoplight-cued-denizens… white-gloved taxi driver brings me back to the Prince Hotel… toilet seat w/ options makes me pine for those warm/clean bathrooms in the Tokyo subways… etc., etc…

  14. Steph
    September 28, 2011, 10:49 pm

    Hiroshima Okonomiyaki! The best! I luv Japan!

    I miss the japanese bobby pins that one can buy at teh 100 Yen Store! North American hairpins just don’t work as well!

  15. Leigh Ann
    September 28, 2011, 11:16 pm

    Andrew – if you havent left yet, go to the nearest conbini and grab a Chuhai (melon or peach would be my recommendation). You’re welcome. Let’s Enjoying Japan!

  16. Dan
    San Francisco
    September 29, 2011, 12:28 am


  17. Erin
    September 29, 2011, 7:23 am

    We just spent 5 weeks in Japan and I agree with so many of these things. We’ve only been in Thailand for 1 day but I already miss vending machines. I would add red torii gates and vegetarian shojin ryori meals in temples.

  18. Leonardo Tavares Castro
    September 29, 2011, 8:46 am

    I don’t believe that this is not on this list: (?)

    Natural landscapes & aquascapes (Nature Aquarium World)
    (Takashi Amano – http://www.amanotakashi.net/)


  19. Melissa
    September 29, 2011, 9:13 am

    My friend recently bought some Band-Aids with cartoonized versions of our favorite boy band (Tohoshinki) on them. I also love character pencil cases (I have a Jiji one from Ghibli Studios’ Kiki’s Delivery Service) and how you can get stationary with Pepsi, Coke, Fanta soda, and mushroom-shaped mushrooms on them =)

  20. Shibuya Enjin
    UK Durham
    September 29, 2011, 9:54 am

    True why is it the Japanese seem to about Plaid, or Autechre. Thing I miss is the service, you got a small 7-11 but it always seem to have 10 helpful staff! Always smiling. Or practically any store or Resturant.

  21. Dot
    September 29, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Yakisoba, ummmm. Thank you for your list!

  22. Michael
    Panama City
    September 30, 2011, 6:29 am

    sebon erebon (7-11), ah the memories… Teriyaki burgers at Mcdonalds, shrimp and corn pizza, bento shores in the neighborhood, having female custodians walk in to public male restrooms while people are using it, climbing Mt Fuji to see the sunrise, just walking around department stores, houses with no insulation, 39 degrees inside the bedroom in the morning. Ahhh, what memories. I need to find a way to go back for a few years. Is NatGeo hiring?

  23. Tomas
    September 30, 2011, 3:21 pm

    I wasn’t to Japan yet, so its time to go there 🙂

    This is one of those things I must do before I die 🙂

  24. Toshiyuki
    October 1, 2011, 6:42 am

    why is the clear plastic umbrella on the top of list ?
    I hate it since it is mottainai. It turns into waste after two or three use.

  25. Mikako
    October 2, 2011, 11:31 pm

    Next time you come back to Japan, please stop at a stationary store. Interesting place!

  26. naniwako
    Boston, MA
    October 4, 2011, 2:55 pm

    “Jasmine incense at temples and shrines” — where did you smell this? All I ever got was sandalwood.

  27. Lulu
    October 6, 2011, 4:17 am

    I’ve worked in Japan for a year and it was one of life’s truly amazing experiences! Your list covers most of the things…wonderful. Wasabi ice cream cones, ume-no-mayonaise can be included. And my muse – the “Kotatsu” 🙂 Service, hospitality, aesthetics and so much more to be learnt from Japan. I miss Japan!

  28. mimi
    Penang, Malaysia
    October 6, 2011, 6:13 am

    will be in japan next year, hope to enjoy more tune of happiness while discover japan!!

  29. Elaine
    UCI Extension
    October 8, 2011, 1:52 am

    I recently returned from Japan; what an amazing time I had in Osaka and Kyoto. I enjoyed every moment of culture shock! Most of all I appreciated the kindness of Japanese people. The night view of Osaka Castle was spectacular! And I had so much fun at the 300 yen shop, tea at the RIgha Royal Hotel, and visiting Kyoto. Shopping during the typhoon was tricky. Roger is right to put clear plastic umbrellas at the top of the list. I used 2 that day!
    Beautiful memories.

  30. Jim
    Iowa City, IA
    October 11, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Thanks for bringing some of the wonders of Japan to the English-speaking world. I think your list covers many of the great things people miss. Your willingness to try and appreciate these things is admirable.

    One of the things that impresses me the most is the sensitivity to others. This manifests itself in the humility (kenson) that the Japanese value so highly. You can also see it by watching Jpanese people converse. When one talks, the other genuinely listens, nodding affirmation all the time and uttering “un, un” in agreement. We Americans stare out the window and wait for the other person to shut up so we can say what we want to say next.

  31. Jim
    Iowa City, IA
    October 11, 2011, 12:03 pm

    Thanks for bringing some of the wonders of Japan to the English-speaking world. I think your list covers many of the great things people miss. Your willingness to try and appreciate these things is admirable.

    One of the things that impresses me the most is the sensitivity to others. This manifests itself in the humility (kenson) that the Japanese value so highly. You can also see it by watching Japanese people converse. When one talks, the other genuinely listens, nodding affirmation all the time and uttering “un, un” in agreement. We Americans stare out the window and wait for the other person to shut up so we can say what we want to say next.

  32. Mary Szlachetka
    East Lansing, MI
    October 11, 2011, 8:47 pm

    Yakatori with cold draft Ashi beer…And didn’t you check out the JR station in Kyoto??? It’s so futuristic and huge.

  33. Sarah Y
    October 12, 2011, 9:04 pm

    i absolutly miss the green tea ice cream and the 100 yen stores!

  34. Me=)
    October 23, 2011, 7:54 am

    Love your’e list
    Love Japan
    **Personal Additions**
    -Fruit Shaped Rubbers =)

  35. yvemarie
    Australia and Japan
    October 25, 2011, 3:23 am

    What can I say..love reading ur 101 u love abt Japan..coz I know Japan very much like u do..i just love Japan..esp Kyushu..and my hometown Kurume…I just love love love Japan , even the Japanese singers old and new..I just love everything abt Japan and I love my daughter, too..

  36. YTSL
    Hong Kong
    October 29, 2011, 7:47 am

    Was on vacation in Japan last month. Am already intent on re-visiting before too long.

    Re my Japan loves:-

    Here’s another shout out for izakayas.

    New additions:

    Hello Kitty and her Sanrio ilk 🙂

    Totoro, Ponyo and their Studio Ghibli brethren 🙂

    Japanese ice-cream flavors — including salt!


  37. jenjenk
    Los Angeles
    November 15, 2011, 8:39 pm

    for as good as the Okayama Grapes are, the peaches are even better. The children’s fable, Momotaro [peach boy], is set in Okayama! [we’ve also got the best manju called Kibidango, too!]

  38. Em
    November 16, 2011, 1:34 am

    Green Tea Kitkats yum! I had my first one this morning while studying for my Japanese language exam. These posts are amazing and reminded me of why I started learning Japanese 🙂
    Thank you!

  39. Sonia
    Panama Rep. of Panama
    December 9, 2011, 4:38 pm

    I I loved this list, I also miss this from Japan:

    1- Sapporo black Beer
    2 – Kirin Ichiban Beer
    3 – Doraemon
    4 – Hyaku-en stores
    5- Onigiri for breakfast
    6 – Nató
    7- Green tea ice cream (the one you can purchase at Shinkansen)
    8 – Kaeru

  40. Tyas
    December 29, 2011, 12:06 am

    I love the washlets (‘toilets with options’) and vending machines too!

    And I love the coin lockers in train stations – helped me so many times when I just didn’t want to bring my big bags or shoppings everywhere! :))

  41. rbit314
    January 1, 2012, 7:14 am

    Great list, but I could not find takkyuubin (why travel with suitcases ?) and negi-toro (bowl of hot rice with minced maguro on top) my favorite dish !

  42. 101 Things | lindsay ann
    January 12, 2012, 8:57 am

    […] few weeks ago, on Twitter, I came across a tweet from @NatGeoTraveler. It was a post titled “101 things I love about Japan” written by Andrew Evans. So, I thought I’d just scroll on through the article and see […]

  43. eric kovacs
    United States
    February 24, 2012, 11:57 pm

    Very nice, I dont come across many people that have the writing skills and grammer skills as you do i give you props i enjoyed reading it and i am not the easiest person to get happy GOOD JOB !!For more on How to Hack Study Island

  44. XBOX 360
    March 3, 2012, 1:59 pm

    Mhm, nice layout :).

  45. Marion Coady
    April 14, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I’ve had a love affair with Japan for years, have a japanese garden and hope to visit there in the future, the people the simplicity, the language, the beautiful gardens it just all fascinates me

  46. Mashi
    Saudi Arabia
    December 21, 2012, 3:37 am

    I stay 50 days in Sapporo ,,,, I can’t forget it , And hope to visit again . Really Japan is great culture .
    Thanks ?

  47. Fred faraday
    January 29, 2013, 7:13 am

    The Japanese have got to be the best. So respectful and hard-working. They recover so well from their hardships and enjoy life to the fullest. Japan itself is such a 素晴らしい国 (awesome country) that you cannot favor a single aspect of it because of it’s huge awesomeness. Japan is the best country in the world!やったー

  48. Peiting
    May 8, 2013, 3:58 am

    I like the clean streets of Japan so much. This artwork which I painted is about the street in Nagoya.

  49. Adam
    May 14, 2013, 7:43 am

    I love Cherry Blossom season.

  50. brianmcquillan
    June 12, 2013, 5:34 am

    Thanks for posting for a lovely content 101 thinks to do in Nepal.It really taste good! you should try it sometime!

  51. Yuri
    October 15, 2013, 9:59 am

    Why V6!? As being as a fan of V6, I am just curious and want to hear why you liked and what was so attractive for you.

  52. Keren Bercovitz
    now: Kyoto, home: the Netherlands
    November 24, 2013, 6:26 am

    How about:
    – the tune you hear when you enter the family mart
    – slippers in the bathroom
    – baby seats in public bathrooms
    – tunes of the traffic lights (in Fukuoka)
    – arrigato gozai mas (everywhere, 100 times a day)
    – sliding doors
    – the JR mascotte (very happy black bear)

    August 13, 2014, 12:58 am

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  54. andy
    December 5, 2014, 8:05 pm

    lucky. man


    BUT not possible…….

  55. Louise
    February 1, 2017, 3:34 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Great list and I’m looking forward to my upcoming trip. I’m interested in your thoughts around the bullet trains. I’m thinking of getting a Japan rail pass from here: http://www.japanrailpass.com.au/

    Is it worth getting? I looked around and it seems so if we plan on doing a bit of travel

    Thanks in advance

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