Top 10 Things You Should Do In Japan - or maybe not

(This article was originally posted in Japanese at 10:22 Oct. 22, 2009)

We came across this "Top 10 Things You Should Do In Japan" list on the Internet and it was quite interesting to know what people from other countries regard as the perks of being Japanese. And being Japanese by birthright, we took it our duty to inform you some facts on these ten recommended activities and give you tips. We also added how popular these activities actually are among us Japanese (you know, not every San Franciscan use the tram).

So here are the top ten things you should do in Japan! or maybe not!

Top 10: Things You Should Do In Japan -

No.10 - Try speaking Japanese

Since you're reading this, we assume English is your first or second language and maybe, just maybe you're considering learning Japanese. We totally encourage it! Japanese is said to be difficult for speakers of Indo-European languages (which is more than half of the global population), but speaking is a lot easier than reading and writing. It's not that hard to commit a phrase or two to your memory and try it on people while visiting Japan. Like AskMen says, most Japanese will be charmed by a foreigner trying to speak Japanese. The foreign you look, the greater the effect. What's more, nothing is amusing as foreigner getting fluent in dialect. Living in Osaka we sometimes encounter a totally foreign-looking person speaking authentic Kansai dialect and the impact is great, way astonishing than a foreigner fluent in hyojungo(lingua franca of Japan).

And of course, more than 99.9% of the Japanese population speak Japanese.

No.9 - Go to a sumo tournament

You might assume sumo is slow but it's actually all about speed, the matches often last only a few seconds and you'll be astonished how quick those huge wrestlers can move. Once you start watching, it's hard to take your eyes off the match. Professional sumo is practiced exclusively in Japan but wrestlers of other nationalities can participate. Some of the best wrestlers today including the current yokozuna(top in rank) Asashoryu and Hakuho are Mongolian, and there are successful wrestlers from Hawaii, Tonga, Russia and other countries. However, not many young Japanese are into sumo these days and the audience mainly consists of middle-aged and above. Quite a lot of us have at least once watched it on TV but none of our staff have ever actually went to a game.

No.8 - Belt out some karaoke tunes

You must have seen Bill Murray belt out (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, but in fact, not all Karaoke Boxes in Japan list the song. Though some karaoke boxes frequented by foreigners in area like Roppongi have greater number, the availability of English-language songs are limited in general, say, two or three songs by Elvis Costello (probably Alison and Veronica) can be found at most karaoke box, maybe ten to twenty songs by Oasis, none by Sonic Youth. Get the idea? And it's stronger on latest billboard hits and '60s classics. It won't be hard to find songs you know, but if you have a specific taste in music, the songs on offer might not be agreeable. And the sounds aren't great. Go for the experience, not for music. Most Japanese go to karaoke to mingle with friends after a binge, or a way to kill time until morning when they missed their last train home and the bars close down. It's also a popular afterschool hangout for middleschool and highschool kids.

No.7 - Ride the bullet train

by kamoda

Shinkansen is a convenient way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka or Tokyo and Sendai. It's cheaper than airplane and quicker if you count the trip to the airport and the waiting time. It's of course way faster than normal trains, the cars are impeccable and the service is great compared to public transportation in most countries. Make sure to take the non-smoking car unless you're a human chimney. The air in the smoking car is unbearable even for an average smoker (the windows won't open), and with luck you may be seated next to a chain smoker. For a moderate smoker, best way to travel is to take the N700 series train (in which all the carriages are non-smoking but smoking rooms are available) and sit near the smoking room. All of our staff take the Shinkansen quite frequently for business trips between Osaka and Tokyo. We guess most Japanese have at least once traveled on one.

No.6 - Eat at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant

We guess sushi is the most famous Japanese cuisine and most people visiting Japan will opt for trying it at least once. But sushi can be quite expensive and it's not exactly your everyday food in Japan. Conveyor belt sushi is one of the greatest innovations in restaurant industry that made sushi more casual and affordable, not to mention fun! Some dishes on offer might taste nasty to foreign tongue, but you should give it a go just for the experience if not for the food. We guess most Japanese above 20 and under 50 must have experienced it at least once, though there do exist Japanese people who dislike sushi, since there are quite a lot of people who don't like wasabi, raw fish or vinegar .

No.5 - Lose yourself in Akihabara

by jpellgen

Akihabara still is the town of anime-otaku and computer geeks for Japanese, but we do see a number of non-geekish people there nowadays. And of course it's probably one of the most popular destinations for tourists from outside Japan, paradise for geeks and exotic sightseeing spot for non-geeks. Some people lament over the town becoming touristy, but unless you're a full-fledged hard-core radio/electronic/computer geek, we guess you'll find the town still satisfactory enough, great place to hunt for souvenirs. By the way, don't forget the town's counterpart Nipponbashi if you're visiting Osaka.

No.4 - Play with your balls in a pachinko parlor

by bass_nroll

We really don't have much to say here, since none of our staff are into Pachinko. Most of us never even tried it once. But a huge number of people in Japan are addicted to it so it sure must have its charms. People play it for money (though you get prizes instead of money since gambling for cash is illegal in Japan), the thrill, or just to kill time. Some non-pachinko-player anime fans occasionally try their hands on it for the various anime-themed machines and prizes. And there was also Umi Monogatari, the anime born of pachinko. There are a lot of controversy over pachinko and some distressing incidents occurred in the past such as deaths of neglected children, locked in cars in the pachinko parlour's parking lot while the mothers play. We guess it won't hurt to try it once if you're a tourist, but keep it in mind it can be addictive, like all gambles.

No.3 - Spend a night in a love hotel

by kirainet

Love hotels tend to call themselves leisure hotel, fashion hotel, boutique hotel or somesuch these days, but the nature is the same: a place for lovemaking. Although some tourists use it for the convenience (you can just hop in without reservation, you don't need to speak at the front desk, it's often located in downtown) and the cheap price, but we won't recommend it if you're looking for a comfortable place to sleep at a moderate price. You can find many accommodations cleaner and safer in the same price range, and on some nights it can be harder to find a room in love hotel than in ordinary hotels. For the experience and kinks? Go for it! Some love hotels offer toys and costumes, some are equipped with rotating bed, a lot of the rooms are equipped with video games and karaoke machine, some top-notch love hotels (which cost as much as the cheaper rooms in Hyatt Regency Tokyo) even have swimming pool in the room. And the vending machine-like check in system might amuse you. As for the popularity in Japan, most young people experience love hotels when they're still living with their parents (most teenagers in Japan don't have the option to make out in a car).

No.2 - Bathe naked with your mates

by takuchucamerabu

Onsen, don't miss it! Maybe it's hard to squeeze it in your schedule since onsens are generally located in rural area, but Japan is not just about Tokyo and Kyoto, there are lots to see in the country, too. As AskMen says, the "getting naked" thing must be the hardest part, but it's true we don't bathe to watch people, we bathe to relax. Just remember to wash first, soak later, don't splash too much water, and some people hate it when you dip your towel in the bath water (it's considered unhygienic). But if you're really extremely uncomfortable with nudity of your own gender, you can go for a ryokan with kazokuburo(lit. family bath: a private onsen attached to the room) and enjoy it with your partner.

No.1 - Climb Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, the highest and most famous mountain in Japan. There are busses to the 5th station of the mountain and you can climb on foot from there. The parking area and mountain huts are always crowded by tourists both Japanese and foreign, and you can send letters home from the Mt. Fuji Post Office. The 5th station is worth visiting even if you won't actually climb the mountain to the top. If you go there by car, you should stay at one of the many onsens located at the foot of the mountain. As for the popularity among Japanese, 25% of our staff have climbed Mt. Fuji at least once, and more have visited the 5th station.

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in Note, Posted by darkhorse_log