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My Favorite Non-Japanese Restaurants

This article is mostly for foreigners living in Japan, who are missing some ethnic food. Most people visiting Japan will only want to eat Japanese food, but for me and others, this list is a must!

 

https://taiken.co/single/my-favorite-foreign-restaurants-in-japan

Convenience Stores in Japan Are Very….Convenient

As I was sitting in my room ordering a book off of Amazon.com, and mailing it to Lawson (my local convenience store about a five minute walk away), I remembered how convenient convenience stores are here. I feel like having lived here for two years has made me take them for granted. As I’m visiting home in a couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about things I want to do, and wondering if there’s anything I will miss from Japan in that short time. This is probably my number one answer. Why are they so convenient you ask?

They actually have good food:

I HATE cooking. I have been trying to do it more lately to save money and to be more healthy, but the fact of the matter is I will never learn to like it. I’ve been eating at convenience stores less lately because of that, but when I wasn’t cooking at all, I grabbed food from my local 7/11 almost every night.

Most of you are probably cringing at that. Unless you live on the East Coast (and have WAWA), you know that most convenience stores (like American 7/11, and Quick Check) have bad food. Here you can get anything! You can get a small selection of frozen foods, an array of cup ramen, and freshly cooked foods. They have packaged food such as select styles of soup, good sushi, pastas, different meats and vegetables with rice, and the best part of this is they’re already cooked and prepared. All you need to do is have the staff heat it up for you! If you want fresher then that, they have hot food behind glass that you can get (though most of it is fried), along with fresh donuts and bread made daily. The greatest thing is it’s cheap! Everything ranges from $1 to $6. They also sell hot and cold drinks, along with alcohol.

If you need something quickly you don’t have to run to a supermarket or drug store:

Convenience stores here sell an array of items. You can get phone chargers, batteries, school supplies, toiletries, make-up, shampoo, soap, even some pet supplies. I’ve gone away for weekends and come back to not having enough socks for work. That’s alright. On my way to work I pop in and buy some work socks. They have these and tights if needed along with other beauty products for women. If you’re a gamer you can get the downloadable game cards to load on your DS. They also have magazines and manga too.

You can get tickets for shows and travel:

It’s crazy hard for a foreigner to get a credit or debit card here. It’s actually almost impossible if you’ve been here for under three years. Even so, Japan is still a cash based society anyway. A lot of restaurants still only take cash, and most hotels you don’t even put a deposit down with your credit card because some people still don’t have them.

Most convenience stores have a machine (like the Loppi machine at Lawson) where you can buy concert tickets, and movie tickets straight from the machine. It will then print out a receipt,you pay at the counter, and they print out the ticket.

You can also make reservations online for flights and night buses. Once you make the reservation, you will be e-mailed a confirmation number. Bring that confirmation number to the machine, type it in, then bring the receipt to the counter and pay. You don’t even really need a credit card most of the time (especially if you use mostly Japanese companies or sites).

You can pay bills:

Checks don’t exist in Japan. The only way to pay your bills is to link them to your credit card, bank account, or buy cash. I like to see my bill every month so I chose to use cash. They will send you a bill every month (I get two, a gas bill, and an electricity bill). Each bill has a bar code on it. You bring the barcode to the registers, they scan the code, and then you pay. They then stamp the bills, and give them back to you as proof of payment. A simple and easy way to pay your bills.

You can even shop on-line:

 

This leads me to my favorite one, Amazon. I hate shopping in malls. They’re too crowded, and busy. I’m a big fan of amazon. If you buy anything from amazon or a registered official amazon seller, you can have it shipped to the nearest convenience store, and pay for it when it arrives and you go to pick it up. How can you tell if your item qualifies? If it does it will have the blue prime logo next to it. Add it to your cart, select convenience store pay, put in the store you want it to go to and wait. When your item arrives at the select location they will e-mail you with a number. Bring the number in, give it to the staff, and they will retrieve your package. Shopping made easy! This is especially good if you live in an apartment and don’t want to keep missing and rescheduling packages. I use this method all the time!

 

5 Things It’s Okay To Do Solo In Japan

When I first came to Japan it was to study abroad. Therefore when I didn’t have classes I liked to travel and see the sights, with other college kids. Now that I’m living in Japan it’s more of a normal life. There are things that you have to do alone like grocery shopping (I had even done that with friends while in college.)

What most surprised me at first about being out and about alone, is how many other people did it. Japan is a group society. Every one is taught to think the same, and even dress similar. (When you go to disney everyone wears matching outfits, and kids are dressed similar by their parents all the time.) If someone gets in trouble in a company and are part of a team, it’s that whole teams fault and it reflects badly on the boss, not the worker. If someone gets arrested the whole family is shamed by society and must apologize for it, not just the criminal. Emotionally, I think Japanese people are the most individual though, as they aren’t afraid of being alone.

Here’s 5 things it’s perfectly normal to do solo in Japan (that American’s and other cultures might find strange).

Going to see a movie

In America we always go to a movie with our family or friends. Even though you can’t talk during a movie, so it doesn’t matter if you’re with someone or not, it’s something that we don’t normally do. It’s something that is normal for bored friends to do on a weekend, or a rainy day.

In Japan, movies are expensive. $18 during the day, if you go to the late showing you get a bit of a discount. 3d or I-max are even more. That’s why if you go see a movie in Japan it’s usually on a date, or by yourself. In America, even if you’re not that interested in a movie, if your friend really wants to go you’ll spend the $8-$10 (depending on how local the theatre is). Here, don’t want to see a movie, you don’t go because of the price. So, a lot of times, you go see the movie alone if no one else wants to go.

Today, I went to see Alice In Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass. It’s a Monday, and in English, so not a big movie day. Up until 2 minutes before the movie I was the only person in the theatre. In America, it might have made me feel weird, or lonely, but I’ve gotten so used to seeing movies by myself (I like watching movies on the big screen) that I didn’t mind. A couple eventually came in, but it wouldn’t have mattered if they didn’t.

Eating Out

In America, if you eat by yourself and don’t want to cook, you either get fast food, or take-out from a near-by restaurant. Almost all restaurants do take out. In Japan, almost none do. I think I can count on one hand how many restaurants I’ve been too that do so. If you don’t feel like cooking, going to a restaurant is your only choice.

When I first moved here I felt weird going to a table/booth restaurant. I would only eat by myself at restaurants that had bar only. Here, the food is served quickly, I could eat and get out. I felt that sitting by myself at a table was sad. If people saw me doing so they would feel sorry for me, and think that I had no friends. After all, that’s our mindset in America. Doing this though, limited the choices of restaurants I could go too. Soon I began going to table restaurants. Though it felt strange the first couple of times, now it’s completely normal, and you see other people doing it all of the time!

Going Shopping

I hate shopping. Always have, always will. My mom is the same way, which is why she was my favorite person to shop with. After one hour we were ready to leave the mall or the store. Other friends and family of mine loved it and we would be shopping for hours. That’s why, this is probably my favorite one on the list.

Yes, malls in Japan are a hangout for teenagers, just like in America, but it’s also a place to get necessities. Japan is a small country, and there are a lot less stores like Wal-mart, Target, a CVS pharmacies. Malls normally include a huge grocery store, and a pharmacy along with regular shopping stores. For some people this is the closest place to go, so many people go to malls by themselves. They get in, get what they need, and get out. I only like going to the mall when I need something, so for me this is perfect. Solo is always quicker.

Going Out In General

I love to travel. While I was in America I never traveled by myself. Here in Japan it’s so cheap to travel by yourself I tend to do it a lot, so I happen to go to places like museums, and sightseeing spots by myself. Even if this wasn’t the case, it still wouldn’t be weird. Japanese people go to museums, zoos, aquariums, and sightseeing places by themselves all of the time. I haven’t been to a zoo or aquarium by myself yet, I like someone there to gush over the animals with me, but I’ve been to museums and it’s fun. In history museums I like to read the plaques but not all people do. By myself I can take my time, and read all the plaques I want without having to worry about people waiting for me. In art museums, I can skip the boring modern art paintings done with just colors or shapes that I hate. It’s nice to do things how you want every once in a while.

Concerts

This is the only one on the list that I haven’t tried yet, and don’t plan on trying.  Going with someone to a concert builds on the experience for me. I like to belt out the songs with someone, dance with someone, and talk about the concert afterwards with someone. In Japan, it’s fine to go by yourself. Part of the reason for this, I think is their lottery system. In Japan, unless it’s an un-known band, you can’t just buy tickets. You submit your name into a lottery and hope to get chosen. If you are chosen then you get a ticket. I hate this system, and it’s why I haven’t seen some bands I’ve wanted to see. The more people you put in the lottery though, the harder it is to get. If you’re the only one, it’s a bit easier. Plenty of times I’ve asked my students “What are you doing this weekend”, and they’ve replied “Going to a concert.” When I ask with who 9 times out of 10 it’s by themselves. More power to them, but for me, this is the one on the list that I will probably never do.

 

Shizuoka: More Than Just Beaches

Here’s my first official published article. It’s about a recent trip I took to Shizuoka. I think many people travel to Shizuoka to only see Fuji, or to go swimming as Shizuoka is known for it’s beaches and onsens. There are more things to see and discover in Shizuoka, and here are some of those things!

 

Shizuoka: More Then Just Beaches

The Worst Customer Service Experience I’ve Ever Had In Japan

Anyone who has every visited or lived in Japan, knows that Japanese customer service is exquisite. It’s often this way because in Japan you have to apologize if you mess up. In America, if a customer is unhappy, send them a gift card. In Japan, you must apologize on the phone, or even sometimes face to face. Usually, even if it’s an employees fault, the manager has to be the one to offer the apology, so they usually run a tight ship. No one wants to apologize (whether it was their fault or not). That’s why today, when I had the worst customer service ever I was surprised and shocked!

Lola, my rabbit

That’s my Lola (yes, he has a girl’s name but that’s because I found out he was a boy after due to the pet store’s incompetency.) Anyone who knows me knows that this is my baby!

Today I had an appointment to get Lola spayed/neutered.  I got him checked out a couple of weeks ago, and his health was perfect, so the Dr. told me to bring him on July, 4th at 1:00 (he told me this 3 times in English, so there was no way that I misunderstood.)

I walked into the clinic at 12:50 and the lady told me that they were closed. I said yes, but I had an appointment for surgery. This clinic is open from 9-12, closes from 12-4 for surgery only, then reopens back up from 4-9. She looked shocked, and said she would be right back. She came back about five minutes later with an assistant (who helped the Dr. out the last time that I had come in.) He said that for rabbit surgery you had to get there at 11. The rabbits needed to de-stress for two hours then they would do the surgery. I said, “No, I was told to come in from 1, drop her off and pick her up at 7”. He told me that couldn’t be right, so I asked to see their schedule for the day because I had watched him write it down.

The assistant looked at me shocked. In Japan, if someone tells you something, most people just accept it and reschedule. I’m not most people. I’m American. I had come with my friend because we were planning to have lunch and shop while waiting for Lola. She’s American too and she said yes, and Lola’s file please.

So, he went in the back to find Lola’s file and their schedule. He never did come out with her file but about 15 minutes later he finally found their schedule. No wonder the secretary didn’t know there was an appointment today, she didn’t even have today’s schedule with her! The assistant shows me their schedule and I see Monday, Lola, spay. On the paper. That’s it. No time, no further details. He then repeats that rabbits have to be in at 11 before the surgery. Now, I was already pretty pissed. Most hospitals in Japan are only for cats and dogs. The closest hospital to me that will do surgery on rabbits is about an hour by train. Not only did I drag my rabbit on the train, already stressing him out, but it was very very hot and humid out. I was getting this surgery today!

I asked, if I wasn’t here by 11:30, and I was scheduled for a surgery, why didn’t they call me? Then the secretary had the balls to tell me she did call me, many times. So, I whipped out my phone, pulled open my call history and showed her my last call. My friend (who was with me) had called me the day before. I said, “your number isn’t here.” She then said that it wasn’t connecting to my phone. I asked her why, if it didn’t connect, didn’t she leave a message? She said she couldn’t. So she checked to see if my number was right. It was. She then dialed my number, and lo and behold my phone rang. I just called her out on her bull shit. They didn’t try and call me at all. She just apologized after that.

I turned back to the assistant and told him that if rabbits needed to wait for two hours before surgery, take her now, start the at 3 then I’ll come and pick her up at 9. He said that they couldn’t do that, but we kept pushing. Finally, he broke down and told me something I think they hadn’t been planning on telling me. They couldn’t do the surgery because the Doctor had taken the day off. Apparently, them not having their paperwork organized, made the doctor think he had no surgeries, and took the day off! I then said, “so there’s no doctor today, just the groomers?” And he said, “no there was a doctor but he didn’t want to do the surgery.”

Now most doctors in Japan only know how to take care of cats and dogs. Even though this hospital did take rabbits, maybe only one of the doctors knew how to do so. If they had told me this then okay, but telling me the other doctor just flat out refused to take the rabbit, pissed me off even more. So even though I came almost one hour out there, stressed out my rabbit, and had an appointment they weren’t going to take me!

In the end, I made another appointment for the 18th, and the lady gave me  a reservation form (which they hadn’t given me last time either), and made sure to write 11:00 on it. I also made her give me the number for the veterinarian association, so that after I get the surgery, I can call them and complain to them about this hospital and it’s staff. I’m also going to have my manager call and complain to them tomorrow (since she can speak Japanese better then my friend and I) and complain to them. I want to see if she can get me a discount. It’s almost a $300 surgery here, and their incompetence ruined my day, and was totally unprofessional. I have never dealt with a store that has refused to apologize, and blatantly lied to my face before, because their didn’t think that I would call them on their shit. If there were any other hospitals around here, you best believe I would not go to them again, and after this surgery I won’t have to, as one closer to me does medicine and rabbit grooming but not surgery. I cannot wait to file a complaint with the veterinary association!

Train Etiquette

95% of your transportation while in Japan will be on a train. There are some buses, and of course walking, but trains are the most convenient way to get around. Here are some important things to remember when you are on the train.

 

  • Stand to the side of the doors and let everyone get off BEFORE you get on. I have seen people pushing to get onto the train. People need to get off to make their next transfers, which are sometimes only a minute or two apart. Let them off first. The train will not leave without you.
  • There is no rule against eating and drinking on the train. Heck, I’ve been starving sometimes and munched on a rice ball during my ride, though it is frowned upon for the most part. Make sure it is something quiet (no one wants to here you crunching on the train), and something that will not get crumbs everywhere. I have also seen people drinking alcohol on the train. The number one problem with this? There is no way to close it. Once you pop it open, it’s open. The trains sometimes change tracks, jerk, or someone bumps into you. Make sure if you are having a drink that it’s something you can close back up so that you don’t make a mess. Also, if you do eat or drink on the train TAKE YOUR TRASH WITH YOU!
  • There are priority seats. This seats are for those who are pregnant, the elderly, those with young children, and those with health problems. If you are sitting in one, and you see someone in one of these categories, get up and give them your seat. Though the easiest way to remedy this problem is not to sit in them. They look like this:
    Priority seating sign on a train

    They also have keychains to let you know someone is pregnant. If you see one of these, give them your seat: 

  • Cell phones. Yes, mostly everyone has a cell phone nowadays. If you want to use your phone, put it on manner mode. No one wants to hear your ring or notification message going off every couple of seconds. Also, if someone calls you either tell them you’ll call them back, or get off the train at the next stop. Most Japanese people will be too polite to tell you to stop talking on your phone, but I’ve seen older people get up and move away because someone was talking too loud.
  • Don’t take up more then one seat! Women, put your handbag on your lap, and your shopping bags on the floor between your legs. If you don’t want to carry them, put them above your head on the shelf. Men, close your legs. Don’t sit with your legs spread so wide open no one can sit down next to you.
  • When you get off of the train, don’t stop in the middle of the platform! Keep walking until you can pull off to the side. As stated earlier people have to catch their next transfer. If they have to keep dodging around people, they will miss it.
  • Women’s only cars. Some cars, usually in Tokyo have women’s only cars. During morning rush hour, and night rush hour only women, little children, and elderly people can use these cars. Men are allowed to ride in them during non rush hour time. Be aware of the times you are on these cars, as you’ll get kicked out, or women will give you the stink eye.
  • Keep you voices down. People study, read, and sleep on the train. If you want to talk to your friends make sure that you do so with an indoor voice.
  • Lastly, Japanese people fall asleep quickly on trains. If one of them falls asleep and their head ends up on your shoulder, leave them be. This is perfectly normal! Don’t push them and wake them up. If you have to leave gently nudge them and they’ll move.

Important Words for Eating Out

How many people?

The first question you are always asked when you enter a restaurant with hostess seating is:

  • 何人 (Nan nin)?or 何人ですか?(Nan nin desu ka). This translates to how many people?
  • Answers:

1: hitorri de (he-to-ree-de)    2: futtari de (fu-ta-ree de)

3: san -nin (san-kneen)         4: yon-nin (yon-kneen)

5: go-nin (go-kneen)              6: roku-nin (row-ku-kneen)

7: nana-nin (na-na-kneen)    8: hachi-nin (ha-chee-kneen)

9: kyu-nin (q-kneen)              10: jyu-nin (ju-kneen)

Smoking or Non-smoking

  • Smoking is still a thing in Japanese restaurants. Some places have special smoking rooms (but this is mostly places where you seat yourself) whereas most hostess restaurants have separate sections. After they ask you how many people they will ask:

Kin-en seki? (kin-yen-se-ki): this means non-smoking section?

If you want smoking please say: kitsuen desu (ki-tsu-yen-de-su)

If you want non-smoking please say: kin-en  desu (kin-yen- de-su)

How to Order

  • In Japan waiters/waitresses do not come to you. Some restaurants have what they call a ‘ping-pong’ button because of the sound it makes. This will be next to the menus. If they don’t have one, to attract the waiters attention YELL ‘sumimasen!’ (au-me-ma-sen), and they will come to you.
  • If the menu is in Japanese with no English translations just point to the picture that you want and say ‘kore onegai shimasu’ (lo-ray-oh-ney-guy-she-mas). This literally means: this please.
  • Drinks:

Here are some drinks in Japanese:

  1. nama biru (na-ma-bee-ru) means house beer (usually asahi, or kirin)
  2. o-mizu (oh-me-zu): water
  3. koraa (ko-raa): coke
  4. ginjyaaru (ginga-ai-ru): ginger ale
  5. oranjijyusu (oh-ren-gee-juice-su): orange juice
  6. ko-hi (ko-hi) coffee
  7. kocha (ko-cha): black tea; ocha (oh-cha):green tea
  8. meronsoda (me-ron-so-da) melon soda

Just say ‘drink name’ onegaishimasu (oh-net-guy-she-ma-su)

  • If you don’t want something use ‘nashi’.

Example: I don’t like avocado so I say ‘avocado nashi’. This means ‘no avocados’.

If you don’t want something because you’re allergic say:

‘food item name’ nashi. arugee o shimasu. (‘food item’ na-shi. a-ru-gee-o-shi-masu). This means ‘no ______. I have an allergy’.

Most people do NOT speak English, so if you have an allergy google translate the name of the foods and make a list before you come over. I’ve had to help many foreigners at restaurants because the waiters/waitresses couldn’t understand what they were saying, even if it was something you think is simple like: egg.

  • If you want more then one of something state your food and then either:

2- futtatsu  (fu-tat-su)       3- mittsu  (me-tsu)  4-yottsu  (yo-tsu)

 

Finished and want to ask for the check?

  • Some restaurants will leave the check on the table for you automatically, and will update it if you order more. If not, you will have to ask for the check. For this you can either say: chekku onegaishimasu (che-ku-oh-ney-guy-she-mas) OR okaike onegaishimasu (o-kai-ke-o-ney-guy-shi-mas).

Some Extra Phrases

  1. Thank you: arigato gozaimasu (ah-ree-ga-to-go-zai-mas)
  2. When you get food, right before you eat it: itadakimasu (e-ta-da-ki-mas). There is no direct translation it English but it’s basically like thank you, this food looks delicious.
  3. When you finished eating, paid, and are about to leave: gochisousamadeshita (go-chi-so-sa-ma-de-shi-ta). This is basically like that food was delicious, thank you.

 

Now that you know some helpful phrases, do not be afraid to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have an english translation menu!