Would you believe it if I told you that I love Japan? I thought you might! Was it the fact I’ve literally built an entire website about the country that gave it away? In any case after spending a year living here, I’ve come up with the 12 most impactful reasons as to why I love Japan and why I think you will too.
Whether you’ve decided to finally take the plunge, book your flights, and take that trip to Japan you’ve been putting off for so long, or you’ve decided to move out here permanently, this list should cover just about everything you can expect to love about Japan and what you’ll likely miss if you leave!
Of course, not everyone will have the same experiences (some may think I’m romanticizing Japan), but on the whole, they should be pretty universal. Oh, and if you don’t like collecting things from Hard OFF (one of the reasons I love Japan), we can’t be friends 😉
1. Endless discovery
If I had to pick one main reason why I love Japan, it’s because of the practically endless opportunities for exploration. Whether you’re more interested in Japan’s cyberpunk cities or its zen-like countryside, you’ll never be more than an hour or so from either of them.
And what makes exploring in Japan even better? The public transport system. I’ve already talked about this at length in my pros and cons of living in Japan, and it’s easy to see why it was my top pro.
I’m also constantly seeing tourism posters plastered throughout the train stations of places to see that I can get to from that very same station. In which case, I feel like it’s super simple to procrastinate from the work I’m supposed to be doing, grab an onigiri from 7-Eleven, and run away from my responsibilities to another of Japan’s far-flung secret destinations.
And for me, none of it looks the same. The architecture of modern cities, derelict buildings, cute cozy towns, gorges, seasides, mountains, the list is practically endless. It also really doesn’t hurt that Japan has extreme versions of all the seasons, which means there’s always somewhere to explore and something to do all year round!
Couple all of this with fairly frequent travel deals going on, and there’s really no reason not to explore this magnificent country.
2. A photographer’s dream
The very first time I came to Japan, I got home with literally thousands of photos. I took so many in the first few days that I had to go into a BIC camera and buy a new SD card to make sure I had enough space for the rest of the trip.
This evidently shows another reason I love Japan so much – for the photography. It’s the kind of place that if I walk a couple of minutes to my local 7-Eleven, there’s a very good chance that I’m going to feel annoyed that I’ve forgotten my camera.
If I’m heading anywhere new, I’ve got it strung over my shoulder and I’m ready for the scenes that’ll show themselves to me that day. From the incredibly friendly people to the areas that often seem otherworldly, there’s never a shortage of subjects.
I may also have bought 2 new lenses since moving here… I blame BIC Camera for that one…
3. A blend of old and new
Part of what makes Japan such a photographically intriguing place to shoot is its blend of old and new. Walk 30 seconds from a city center and you’ll probably stumble across a temple or park.
You’ll find people walking around in traditional Japanese clothing if you look one way, and you’ll see bright lights, talking robots, and gadgets you never knew you needed if you look the other. Funnily enough (and likely to many people’s surprise) Japan still uses a hell of a lot of retro technology.
This blend of the old and new means that even if you’re coming here only for a holiday, you’ll be able to dip your toes into the country’s history, and its future during the very same day. It’s something that makes me love Japan, and it’s something I think you’ll fall in love with too.
Perhaps the evident thing you’ll notice about this country, whether you’ve decided to move to Japan or just have a holiday, is how convenient everything is. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that whatever you’re after, you can likely get.
Fancy jelly at 2 am? Then do what we do and head down to your local konbini where they’ll be more than happy to oblige!
Fancy buying that new piece of technology but don’t want to wait for Amazon’s 1-day delivery? No problem, just head to Yodobashi Camera, BIC Camera, or any number of outlets where they will have your item in stock and ready for you to get some hands-on experience with.
Shopping, eating, and transport are all incredibly convenient activities in Japan and also out of any country I’ve ever traveled to. Which one of those makes the biggest difference? That’s got to be the public transport.
5. The public transport
Once again, it goes back to convenience. If I want to dart off to Hakuba or Hiroshima at a moment’s notice (literally a couple of minutes), I can do so without worrying about extortionate price hikes or a lack of seats. The latter only becomes a problem during peak traveling periods.
They’re quick, they’re, clean, and I know I’m going to get to my end destination in one piece. While the Shinkansen (bullet trains) seem to get the most media coverage, the commuter trains and buses are equally reliable.
If I were comparing the UK to Japan, the public transport I was used to came once every hour, and even then it still failed to show up sometimes. It’s honestly a night-and-day kind of experience and reassures me pretty much daily that this is one of the main reasons why I love Japan (and so many other people around the world do as well)
6. A collector’s paradise
Before I came to Japan, I loved cameras. I’ve had film Hasselblads, more Canons than I can remember, a couple of Sonys, and a Fuji. Throw in more than a handful of film lenses and accessories, and you’ll start to see the extent of my cough *hobby* cough.
As soon as I came to Japan, all bets were off. I constantly raid Hard Off for second-hand cameras and retro technology, and I’ve bought over 1000 (yep, that’s not a typo) Pokemon cards in Tokyo. I love it, but my bank account does not…
In any case, whether you love collecting Pokemon cards, cameras, rare Japanese games, watches (Nakano Broadway being a great place for that), or any number of interesting and unusual things, Japan is a collectors paradise.
7. A safe place to express yourself
Japan is a society filled with rules and regulations and breaking one of them would likely lead to embarrassment at best or complete exclusion at worst. For a country that seems so rigid, you might be surprised to realize that it’s also very flexible and accommodating for those who choose to express themselves openly.
Fancy dressing up as Hello Kitty and dedicating an entire Instagram to it? Go for it!
Do you have an unhealthy addiction of collecting toys? No problem, you do you!
Want to be the crazy cat lady off of the Simpsons, just with more cats? Love it!
On the whole, you shouldn’t have any problems doing something like this if you move to Japan. Sure, things might get a little iffy if you have very close relationships or people expect you to lead a certain life, but that’s rarely the case for foreign residents.
It’s a strange situation where Japan gives you the opportunity to express yourself, and on the whole most strangers won’t care because they don’t want to intrude on your life. The issues start happening with closer family members and friends who have certain expectations of you, and potentially work colleagues as well.
8. Aesthetically pleasing marketing
I’m starting to think that this is only me who appreciates this, but I’m still putting it on this list of reasons why I love Japan. The vast majority of advertising seems like a high-budget cinematic movie as opposed to just a commercial.
From top-quality cameras, incredible storytelling, and beautifully rendered images, this is the kind of advertising I want in my life. I actively enjoy watching commercials on TV now, how weird is that?!
The interesting thing about this is that not even Japanese dramas get this treatment. In fact, if you take a look at that link you’ll see that most Japanese dramas actually seem like low-budget B movies at best.
Oh and before you start wondering, there is another side to Japanese marketing and advertising which shows itself in the visually noisy way of bright lights and information overload in some of the shops. Not a fan of that!
9. Their utilization of small spaces
If there’s a country that utilizes small spaces better than Japan does, I’ve never heard about it. To be honest, this reason why I love Japan could equally have been under the exploration point that I made above as well.
If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, you know how packed with buildings the area is. From massive skyscrapers to tiny ramen restaurants, it’s clear that Japan knows how to make the most of its space.
Not only does this make for some absolutely incredible photography opportunities, but it also feels like every time I’m searching for a place I’ve found online, it’s like its own mini treasure hunt.
The amount of times I’ve searched for a restaurant or izakaya on the ground floor but then realized it was several floors up some slightly sketchy-looking stairs (or an elevator) is genuinely mad. But at the same time, I love it.
It means almost all the spaces you end up in are unique. It’s the reason why you’ll have to stand up in many different ramen shops, and why you might have to trek through several alleyways, a kitchen, and someone’s house before you reach your final destination!
10. It’s affordable
Out of all of the reasons why I love Japan, this is probably the most controversial. However, I earn less than anyone I know, and I feel like Japan is incredibly affordable for what you get.
The key is that last part. For instance, for those people living in Japan, there are quite a lot of taxes and different bits and bobs to pay for throughout the year.
In one way this is kind of annoying, but when I really think about it, you get a hell of a lot for your money. Japan’s infrastructure is nothing short of extraordinary, and to be honest, I’d happily pay more.
Moving on to experiences and days out, one of the ways that Japan has changed me is I’m now almost always going to expect trips like this to be affordable. See that photo above? That’s like $2 to get into one of the best gardens in Tokyo.
If you’re coming to Japan on holiday, you’re probably coming in a popular season and as such, you’ll be at the mercy of tourist prices. Having lived in Japan for a year, I can vouch for the fact that attractions absolutely cost more at certain times of the year, and there’s just nothing you can do about it.
One contradiction to this point is Disney Land, which is now going above $70 per ticket… Not impressed, though I’m glad I spent my last Christmas day there (despite the huge crowds!)
11. They make the most of the seasons
From more festivals than I can count, to seasonal-themed food and activities, Japan knows how to celebrate their seasons. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider that Japan technically has 72 microseasons…
I suppose the reason this makes me love Japan so much is because there’s always something to do, somewhere to go, or something to see. I know this is the case with most big cities in the world, but in Japan, I know it’s not going to cost me an arm and a leg, and it will likely have something to do with nature at the same time.
As you can from the photo above of (probably) the most popular seasonal event, Hanami, it’s an incredibly social event that practically everyone takes part in. It’s a wonderful way to connect with your local community, or if you’re just visiting, a perfect chance to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
When we arrived at a Hanami last Spring, as soon as we sat down (without a blanket/tarp), the family sitting next to us offered us a spare one they had brought along. Super kind, and once again reinforced that community spirit.
It’s also worth mentioning here that before I moved to Japan I was dreading summer the most. Whilst it is still disgustingly hot, the Matsuri (Japanese Summer festivals) are an absolute lifesaver.
They’re super fun, full of great food, and have one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced since living in Japan. Taiko drumming helps a lot with that!
12. The wildlife
From Deer roaming the street in Nara to Monkeys in Arashiyama, Japan has its fair share of wildlife. As someone who’s experienced a lot of that ‘tourist’ style wildlife, for me, it’s the little things that make Japan special.
Perhaps that comes in the form of a fleeting glimpse of a tanuki, a gigantic Animal Crossing-style butterfly, or a cute dressed-up dog, Japan never ceases to amaze me. I must admit though, I’m not too much of a fan of the cockroaches in Summer…
After reading all the reasons that I love Japan, are you considering moving out here too? If that’s the case, try this moving to Japan quiz to see if it’s the right choice for you!