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Your Most Memorable Japan Experience?

dogdays21

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What is your most memorable experience in Japan - as a tourist, expat, or permanent resident? Can be positive or negative, although I believe all experiences can be positive if we are able to learn and gain some wisdom from our negative experiences.

Here’s mine, from my first solo visit to Japan almost 10 years ago, as an American woman of SE Asian descent:

I wanted to visit the Arashiyama area by public transportation, but did not know how to speak Japanese nor read Kanji. All I had was a guide book and a tourist map. Nearing the presumed bus stop from my guesthouse, I asked some elderly women ( 60s-70s or older) waiting at a bus stop for confirmation that I was waiting at the correct location, using sign language and pointing to the destination on the map. One of the women took me across the street and led me to the correct stop. To my surprise, she left her friends and not only waited with me, but boarded the bus with me when it arrived. Turned out my destination required several bus changes, and she accompanied me every step of the way!

We ended up spending the entire day together touring Arashiyama, including hiking up to Iwatayama Monkey Park, having lunch together ( I shared with her some delicious food I had bought at a convenience store earlier in the day) along along the banks of the Katsura river, and visiting a Buddhist temple. And when the day ended, she rode the bus with me all the way back to the local house/inn where I was staying, before departing for her own destination. It was a truly enjoyable, touching, and memorable day.

Without any knowledge of Japanese, I was able to gather that she was from the northern part of Japan, was a grandmother, and visiting the area on holiday. I so wish I could have better communIcated with her. But I could not speak Japanese, so all these questions I was dying to ask about her (surely fascinating) life experiences remained unanswered.

But it was certainly my most memorable experience in Japan!
 

mdchachi

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What is your most memorable experience in Japan - as a tourist, expat, or permanent resident? Can be positive or negative, although I believe all experiences can be positive if we are able to learn and gain some wisdom from our negative experiences.

Here’s mine, from my first solo visit to Japan almost 10 years ago, as an American woman of SE Asian descent:

I wanted to visit the Arashiyama area by public transportation, but did not know how to speak Japanese nor read Kanji. All I had was a guide book and a tourist map. Nearing the presumed bus stop from my guesthouse, I asked some elderly women ( 60s-70s or older) waiting at a bus stop for confirmation that I was waiting at the correct location, using sign language and pointing to the destination on the map. One of the women took me across the street and led me to the correct stop. To my surprise, she left her friends and not only waited with me, but boarded the bus with me when it arrived. Turned out my destination required several bus changes, and she accompanied me every step of the way!

We ended up spending the entire day together touring Arashiyama, including hiking up to Iwatayama Monkey Park, having lunch together ( I shared with her some delicious food I had bought at a convenience store earlier in the day) along along the banks of the Katsura river, and visiting a Buddhist temple. And when the day ended, she rode the bus with me all the way back to the local house/inn where I was staying, before departing for her own destination. It was a truly enjoyable, touching, and memorable day.

Without any knowledge of Japanese, I was able to gather that she was from the northern part of Japan, was a grandmother, and visiting the area on holiday. I so wish I could have better communIcated with her. But I could not speak Japanese, so all these questions I was dying to ask about her (surely fascinating) life experiences remained unanswered.

But it was certainly my most memorable experience in Japan!
Wow. What a fantastic experience.
I have many but aligning with yours in terms of kindness from a local, on my first visit to Japan about 25 years ago I went on a four week summer educational program and two of the weeks included a homestay with the best family ever. They couldn't speak English so we communicated via my poor Japanese after six semesters of college and a lot of use of dictionaries and Wordtank (electronic dictionary). When I wasn't commuting to the college, I spent a lot of time with them experiencing all kinds of things -- sleeping on a comfy futon on tatami, slipper etiquette, homecooked food, real sushi, unusual foods like mini baby crabs that you eat whole or baby bamboo, grocery shopping, neighborhood walks, local travel/hiking. The mom was a Kumon elementary level juku teacher so she was very kind and patient. And the dad was great also but typical in that he wasn't around until late in the evening. I'm still close with them even now despite the fact that it was just a two week experience 25 years ago. They stood in for my parents when I had a family engagement dinner with my fiance's family 5 years later, I went to their daughter's wedding, I brought my own kids to visit her a few years ago and of course the yearly New Year's cards. The school experience of that trip was also great. Got to experience Japanese college life a tiny bit. Living in a dorm. Classroom experiences. Making friends, one of whom I still keep in touch with. Bunkasai. etc. I still remember the haiku I had to memorize and recite in front of the class. Not to mention the last week of the trip when I went to Kyoto, Nara and Osaka (from Tokyo) traveling by myself and also visiting an old Japanese instructor of mine who had moved to Osaka. On the shinkansen I met a girl who wanted to practice her English so we struck up a conversation and kept in touch and became good friends later meeting on many occasions when I moved to Tokyo a year later. Through her I had a lot of cool experiences, like hanabi, hanami, fuji-matsuri and sado (tea ceremony). I just met up with her last year when I was there on business. One interesting thing about her was that many years ago, I ran into her randomly on a shinkansen a second time. It was very coincidental. We had first met on a shinkansen and then to run into her again randomly like that was just wild.
I could go on and on. Now that you mention it's these kinds of people and experiences that make Japan so special to me.
 

dogdays21

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Wow. What a fantastic experience.
I have many but aligning with yours in terms of kindness from a local, on my first visit to Japan about 25 years ago I went on a four week summer educational program and two of the weeks included a homestay with the best family ever. They couldn't speak English so we communicated via my poor Japanese after six semesters of college and a lot of use of dictionaries and Wordtank (electronic dictionary). When I wasn't commuting to the college, I spent a lot of time with them experiencing all kinds of things -- sleeping on a comfy futon on tatami, slipper etiquette, ofuro, homecooked food, real sushi, unusual foods like mini baby crabs that you eat whole or baby bamboo, grocery shopping, neighborhood walks, local travel/hiking. The mom was a Kumon elementary level juku teacher so she was very kind and patient. And the dad was great also but typical in that he wasn't around until late in the evening. I'm still close with them even now despite the fact that it was just a two week experience 25 years ago. They stood in for my parents when had a family engagement dinner with my fiance's family 5 years later, I went to their daughter's wedding, I brought my own kids to visit her a few years ago and of course the yearly New Year's cards. The school experience of that trip was also great. Got to experience Japanese college life a tiny bit. Living in a dorm. Classroom experiences. Making friends, one of whom I still keep in touch with. Bunkasai. etc. I still remember the haiku I had to memorize and recite in front of the class. Not to mention the last week of the trip when I went to Kyoto, Nara and Osaka (from Tokyo) traveling by myself and also visiting an old Japanese instructor of mine who had moved to Osaka. On the shinkansen I met a girl who wanted to practice her English so we struck up a conversation and kept in touch and became good friends later meeting on many occasions when I moved to Tokyo a year later. Through her I had a lot of cool experiences, like hanabi, hanami, fuji-matsuri and sado (tea ceremony). I just met up with her last year when I was there on business. One interesting thing about her was that many years ago, I ran into her randomly on a shinkansen a second time. It was very coincidental. We had first met on a shinkansen and then to run into her again randomly like that was just wild.
I could go on and on. Now that you mention it's these kinds of people and experiences that make Japan so special to me.

Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading that.

On that trip, I encountered many helpful locals - from my arrival at the airport, to riding the train into town, and immediately after alighting from the bus in search of my obscurely located guesthouse - often unsolicited. Guess I just had that hopelessly lost gaijin look.
 

Mikawa Ossan

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In the summer of '99 I went out with a friend in Osaka, and while we were eating dinner one of my teeth broke in half. That was not pleasant. However, nothing could be done at the time, so I just grinned and bore it.

So then after I got back home in Nagoya I figured I had better do something about my tooth. At the time, I had never gone to the dentist before in Japan, so I just went to one close by and hoped for the best. It turns out that the dentist was really good, and he treated me that very day as a walk-in patient. There was only one slight hitch...he didn't use any kind of painkiller whatsoever! Having grown up in the USA, that was my first time experiencing that (although sadly not the last). Not something you easily forget.

The epilogue to that story is that years later I went to the dentist to have some minor work done in the USA. The poor guy thought I was insane for wanting to go without novacain (sp).
 

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I think it was on my second trip to Japan, probably in 1999. I had arrived in Narita and went on to Shinjuku, where I was supposed to meet a friend. I wanted to store my large backpack in a coin locker but had only a 10,000-yen bill in my wallet. While I was trying to figure out where and how to change the bill into coins, a middle-aged salaryman must have spotted my desperate face. He approached me, snatched the bill from my hands and disappeared in the sea of passers-by without a word. I was too stunned to react and resigned to the fact that I had been taught a lesson: not to wave bills in public! To my utter surprise, that gentleman returned after a short while with smaller bills and coins in his hands, placed my bag in the locker, inserted an appropriate amount of coins and handed me the rest of my money. He then bowed and disappeared in the crowd. To this day, I can't tell whether I had even tried to thank him.

I was genuinely impressed.
 

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My first day off the Navy base in Yokohama I was amazed how friendly the Japanese people were towards me. Every time I got into a crowd of Japanese they all said "HI" to me. I felt like a movie star with so many people taking the time to "speak" to me! I knew politeness was a Japanese thing , the base orientation had said so! By the time I got back to base , I had almost lost my voice from saying HI to all the nice people , LOL.
 

Uncle Frank

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The great raid ! About a month before I was to leave Japan , at 5AM , 8 or 10 Japanese police broke the door lock to my apartment. My Japanese roommate was not there , just me. When I set up in bed and they saw me , there was a bit of panic. I only weighed 85 pounds and had a baby face. They mistook me for a child and thought they had raided the wrong apartment. I spoke in English only and said I spoke no Japanese. Not one of them could speak English , so they called on the radio for back up. Who ever answered , told them to gomen their way out , and they left. I found out later that a Japanese worker at the bar where I worked had been arrested for drugs and he gave them the names(not mine , my roommates) and addresses of other workers. Everyone of our residences got raided and the bar was shut down for a month. I kind of forgot about it until two weeks later I was told to report to the base police station. I was interrogated for 2 hours by a Japanese agent for alcohol & tobacco taxes and another agent for drugs. They both spoke perfect English with no accent. This was when I only had two weeks left in Japan before I shipped out to Alaska. I never heard another word about the incident and no one ever spoke to me about it again. Six months later , I went back to Japan ; the bar was back open and no one went to jail but the original guy who was caught with pot. Other than my run ins with the Yakuza , that was the most exciting time in my 2 years in Fukuoka.
 

dogdays21

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In the summer of '99 I went out with a friend in Osaka, and while we were eating dinner one of my teeth broke in half. That was not pleasant. However, nothing could be done at the time, so I just grinned and bore it.

So then after I got back home in Nagoya I figured I had better do something about my tooth. At the time, I had never gone to the dentist before in Japan, so I just went to one close by and hoped for the best. It turns out that the dentist was really good, and he treated me that very day as a walk-in patient. There was only one slight hitch...he didn't use any kind of painkiller whatsoever! Having grown up in the USA, that was my first time experiencing that (although sadly not the last). Not something you easily forget.

The epilogue to that story is that years later I went to the dentist to have some minor work done in the USA. The poor guy thought I was insane for wanting to go without novacain (sp).

Oh wow, did not know that Japan does not use general anesthesia for dental procedures. I can’t imagine making it through a root canal without passing out- even with a shot (or 3) of Novacaine!

Do you use the mind control technique for pain management used by those who remain totally awake during major surgery?
 

dogdays21

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I think it was on my second trip to Japan, probably in 1999. I had arrived in Narita and went on to Shinjuku, where I was supposed to meet a friend. I wanted to store my large backpack in a coin locker but had only a 10,000-yen bill in my wallet. While I was trying to figure out where and how to change the bill into coins, a middle-aged salaryman must have spotted my desperate face. He approached me, snatched the bill from my hands and disappeared in the sea of passers-by without a word. I was too stunned to react and resigned to the fact that I had been taught a lesson: not to wave bills in public! To my utter surprise, that gentleman returned after a short while with smaller bills and coins in his hands, placed my bag in the locker, inserted an appropriate amount of coins and handed me the rest of my money. He then bowed and disappeared in the crowd. To this day, I can't tell whether I had even tried to thank him.

I was genuinely impressed.

LOL

Best breakfast I’ve ever had while traveling was at a Salaryman’s hotel in some random town on the outskirts of Kyoto.
 
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Buntaro

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Best breakfast I’ve ever had while traveling was at a Salaryman’s hotel in some random town on the outskirts of Kyoto.

I still have fond memories of having breakfast at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel next to Shingawa Station in Tokyo on Saturday mornings. (That was when I went through the painful process of learning the word "Choshoku.)
 

dogdays21

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Best breakfast I’ve ever had while traveling was at a Salaryman’s hotel in some random town on the outskirts of Kyoto.

Sorry, the correct preposition should have been “in” not “at” a Salaryman hotel. (My spelling is even worse than my grammar.)
 
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dogdays21

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I still have fond memories of having breakfast at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel next to Shingawa Station in Tokyo on Saturday mornings. (That was when I went through the painful process of learning the word "Choshoku.)

I just love the combination and selection of protein, carbs (rice), vegetables, and soup. Now that’s what I call the breakfast of champions! A nice surprise when I was expecting just some bread and tea/coffee from a small, budget-type hotel.
 

Buntaro

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some bread and tea/coffee from a small, budget-type hotel.

Even though it may not be the healthiest breakfast, I love Japanese "morning service" breakfast! (And Kyupie mayonnaise makes it even better!)
 

Mikawa Ossan

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Oh no, I didn't have a root canal! I'm sure they would have used something for that to ease the pain. What the dentist did was fashion a new half-tooth and drilled down enough to give it a place to hold on to. That tooth held for quite a few years until I had it replaced again.
 

Petaris

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I just love the combination and selection of protein, carbs (rice), vegetables, and soup. Now that’s what I call the breakfast of champions! A nice surprise when I was expecting just some bread and tea/coffee from a small, budget-type hotel.

It is nice that it is always more than the typical American "Continental breakfast".


My most memorable time was probably the first time I went to Japan. Everything was new and an adventure.
 

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On my first visit to Japan I went to discover the country and I discovered the people as well. As some mentionned, their spontaneity in proposing help was amazing. All things added together, I felt very confortable and relaxed.
But on my way back home, as I was 10 min late at Narita airport I came accross one first class SOB, head of the Air France counter, who would not allow me get on board, although the plane was due to take off in 50 min. It costed me a bunch but still lucky I had enough.
On my second visit my main aim was Hiroshima and Miyajima.
It was a very moving experience and what impressed me most was the dignity with which such a horrible event is handled.
 

MarLion

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I went to Japan with my parents and I was really excited to visit Universal Studios! When I was young, I would watch Harry Potter films with my parents and it was surreal to see Hogwarts up close
 

dogdays21

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It is nice that it is always more than the typical American "Continental breakfast".


My most memorable time was probably the first time I went to Japan. Everything was new and an adventure.

I think that is what every traveler seeks and makes for memorable memories: that which is new, novel and the thrill of adventure in exploration.

And I don’t get me started on the standard French/Spanish breakfast. Only time I wished a McDonald‘s was nearby.
 
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dogdays21

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"Have breakfast at a hotel" is correct English grammar.

Really? But I was eating the breakfast inside the hotel, so isn’t the preposition “in” more appropriate?
( I find I sometimes unduly confuse myself when I overthink things, like when I once paused to question if “school” was really spelled that way, after all the years of using it without thought. Lol)
 

dogdays21

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What made that Japanese breakfast so memorable was not just the unexpected food or how tasty it all was, but the clearly local context in which it was served and eaten. It was a bit like a cafeteria or canteen style, replete with hairnet-wearing lunch ladies doling out the food for you on your tray. Then when finished, you were responsible for sorting out and clearing your used dishes in the appropriate waste bins.
 

Buntaro

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I was eating the breakfast inside the hotel, so isn’t the preposition “in” more appropriate?

If you eat inside of a hotel building, both "in" and "at" are correct, depending on the situation. For example, I recently ate at a hotel rooftop restaurant in Shanghai (in the good ol' outdoors) so this example would qualify as "at" the hotel not "in". Using "in" merely emphasizes inside the hotel building.

Some examples prefer "at" or "in", as in "I will have lunch at a restaurant" vs. "I will have lunch in the cafeteria." I think it is rare to say, "I will have lunch at the cafeteria" unless the person is able to eat at tables just outside the cafeteria. (My university cafeteria had no such outside tables.) But saying "let's meet at the cafeteria includes the idea of meeting just outside the door to the cafeteria.)

If you want to emphasize that you ate inside the hotel building, then saying "in the hotel" is correct. But the question of appropriateness is entirely up to you.
 
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