Japan Summary

I finally found some time to write up some summary impressions from Japan. I lived near Kyoto from August 1985 till March 1987. Many folks have asked me what has changed since then. Here are a few observations:

  • Gaijin (foreigners) are no longer ‘special’. No one asked us to practice their English, and no more groups of school kids saying ‘haro, haro’.
  • There is much less traditional architecture: older building have been replaced with modern building, not refurbished as they would have been in the US.
  • People are noticeably taller! I was no longer the tallest person on the train.
  • Men wear fewer ties, but overall fashion has changed surprisingly little. Women still favor baggy clothes.
  • There are far fewer greeters in stores; Department stores used to have a young woman at the top of every escalator bowing and welcoming you as you got off. No longer.
  • Kawai (cute) is still the rage
  • People now seem to expect you to speak a bit of Japanese, where 30 years ago they would compliment your Japanese skills if you knew ‘konichi-wa’.
  • J-pop still awful, their Muzak versions of western pop is even worse than ours, but you often hear good jazz in background at restaurants.
  • They have started using ticket machines for everything, including restaurants.
  • Clean public restrooms are everywhere, and include fancy toilet seats! Like REALLY clean.
  • Where did all ‘manga’ go? There used to be stores with huge piles of manga (comics) for sale everywhere, and everyone on the trains was reading manga. Looks like all manga now is digital, and read on a phone.
  • Convenience stores in Japan are fantastic! They are everywhere, mostly open till midnight or 24hr, and sell good, fresh food, good coffee, cold beer, all at a reasonable price. The rest of the world should copy this!
  • There are more international restaurants than before, but still surprisingly few.
  • The county is still amazingly clean and graffiti free.
  • Overall prices in Japan have not changed all that much in 30 years. The Shakey’s pizza ‘all you can eat’ lunch special has gone from 500 yen to 740 yen tho. I used to eat that pretty often when I lived here before, but skipped it this time around. Squid and corn pizza was always my favorite.

In general, I think the USA, at least in urban areas, has changed much more in the last 30 years than Japan. Food has changed more. Fashion has changed more. Attitudes have changed more. Japan has always been and will always be much more traditional. That is part of what makes it such a fascinating place to visit.

Also, Japan’s reputation for being an expensive place to travel to is no longer true, and hasn’t been true for a while. We averaged $1600/week for 2 people, not including airfare, but including a 3 week rail pass, sumo tickets, and baseball tickets. Definitely cheaper than traveling in the US or Northern Europe.

Posted by travel_b1p6zj


I was in Japan in 86 and then in 93-95, I’m glad to hear that gaijin are no longer ‘special’.

‘kawai’ is just Japan, the men I worked with hated ties in the 90s …

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