My life in Japan – The top 5 things about life here

I have been living in Japan for over 18 months now and enjoying getting to know the culture and exploring all the weird and wonderful things there are to do in my free-time. Here are 5 of my top 5 activities. Do you agree?

The food/eating out

When it comes to the sheer mind-boggling variety of dishes even, if you’re not exactly a foodie, you are seriously spoilt for choice. Most have probably already experienced the Shokudo or Izakaya variety of restaurant, but as many other types of establishment tend to specialise in a narrow range of dishes, there is plenty of choice. Then there are all the regional delicacies, such as Kobe beef or Hokkaido’s Ishikari-nabe (a stew made of salmon and assorted vegetables) – and that’s before we get around to considering sushi, yakitori, shabu-shabu, okonomiyaki, or even (budget permitting) kaiseki. It is often said that eating out in Europe is more a part of the way of life than it is here, but with so many choices, maybe it’s time for a change.

Hot springs

Is there any excuse for not indulging in this very Japanese of pastimes?! Possibly the best way of spending a few hours whilst essentially doing not a lot, there can’t surely be anyone in the world who thinks this is purely a waste of time: hot baths, plunge pools, sauna, massage. What more can you ask for? (And they do it so well!). The pleasant feeling of well-being as you head home makes the somewhat uncomfortable heat of the sauna all worthwhile. Wherever you live, the chances are you won’t have to travel far to get to a nearby ‘onsen’ or spa; if you haven’t tried it, give it a go!

The culture & history

As anyone who’s been living in Japan for a while can attest to, the opportunities to delve into and find out more about Japan’s past, or simply sample the delights of the world of arts and crafts, are numerous. Whether it’s visiting the main museum and/or gallery in your region or city, or seeing what’s on in your local area, once again there is enough choice and variety to keep you going for a while. For example, if Tokyo is within your reach, check out the following: the Tokyo National Museum, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Science Museum, and the National Art Centre. Of course, there is always the Imperial Palace, as well as a host of other places of interest – not to mention temples galore – to keep you occupied.


No self-respecting list would be complete without this very Japanese of exports, and here you get to perform with your ‘empty orchestra’ in the way it was intended: in a karaokebox. I still think there’s something strangely wonderful – though admittedly intimidating at first – about singing until you’re hoarse in the company of friends and colleagues. (Let’s only hope they are sufficiently sympathetic to the fact that you clearly can’t hold a tune to save your life.) Added to this, food and drink can be ordered – with the usual excellent service – to keep you going until the wee small hours, if need be.

The nightlife

Tokyo, famous the world over for its pleasures of the night, offers such a range of conventional nightlife (clubs, bars, restaurants), as well as the weirder and more wonderful. While various places to eat, drink, dance or catch the latest movie are fairly liberally dotted across the metropolitan area, others tend to be a little more localised – for example, the live music scene which is concentrated in the Shinjuku and Koenji districts.

Adapted from Teachers’ Newsletter – Shane English School Japan