Japan is a fascinating country and makes for a great place to take a family vacation. Between its ancient history and cutting edge technology, you can get a look at the future and the past. Here are some of my favorite things from when I traveled on a family vacation to Japan.
It’s the most efficient country I have ever been to. I remember standing in awe at a train platform with its three tracks all empty. Suddenly one train arrives and the doors open. I watched as a businessman walked at full speed into the open door and not slowing down as he exited the other door. At that very moment another train appeared in the middle track. He continued walking at a normal pace, exiting its other door only to have a third train arrive the exact second the door opened. He casually took a seat on that third train as the doors closed and it departed the station. There was no hesitation, he just knew those trains would arrive at the exact same second as they did every single day. The MBTA in Boston could take a lesson from the Japanese Rail system!
Yes, vending machines! Literally everything can be found in vending machines, which are located throughout the country. They can be found in train stations, near public parks and gardens, and sometimes on an alley seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Some of the most interesting items I observed purchased from vending machines included a fresh hot pizza, hot and cold sake, heads of lettuce, flip flops, umbrellas, live crabs, and mashed potatoes with gravy.
It’s the cleanest place I’ve ever been. No trash, zero. I cringed as a Western tourist casually dropped some paper waste on the ground, but then immediately two teens (with their bright neon colored hair and rock band t-shirts) ran out to the street to clean the trash and properly dispose of it.
Not only the fresh and colorful sushi, but everything you can find. Often the meals are an art form in and of themselves. My favorite was the okonomiyaki, a savory pancake – it is just as fun to say as it is to eat!
If you’ve ever been to karaoke in any bar in the U.S. you know it can be fun, but it isn’t for everyone. However in Japan the experience is entirely different. It’s an essential part of the culture and often there are private rooms – called karaoke boxes – for just your group to sing as loud and get as crazy as you want – without feeling self-conscious because you aren’t singing in front of a room full of strangers.
The Cherry Blossoms
Sakura: literally translated to the “cherry blossoms” which bloom for just a couple of weeks each spring. The cherry blossoms symbolize spring and renewal so while they are in bloom Japanese people enjoy numerous parties and barbecues under the trees in a custom called “hanami,” or watching blossoms. It reminds me of the American saying “stop and smell the roses” but in Japan the entire country actually does this for two weeks every year.
This is only the beginning when it comes to some of the best things about Japan and what your family can see on your next vacation together!