Japan is a world away from New York City and full of modern and historical culture, great shopping and an amazing cuisine scene, but what really sets the island country apart from any other place in the world are the sci-fi, futuristic, surreal, and bizarre cultural icons that make up the
Coolest Things About Japan
ROBOT RESTAURANTS :: We visited Kabukicho Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, but there are many. Here, costume clad intergalactic queens combat gigantic robots, dinosaurs, pandas, and samurais, all to the tune of lip synced narratives, techno backdrops and blinding neon lights and light up drinks.
VENDING MACHINES :: Vending machines are all over the country, and sell anything from noodles, the gambit of iced cold drinks from a million types of matcha to alcohol, and even neckties.
NAOSHIMA ART ISLAND :: In the Seto Inland Sea, the Benesse House is at the center of this art island, home to the Ando contemporary art galleries and exhibits, and two Yayoi Kusama giant pumpkin sculptures.
SHINKANSEN TRAINS :: Slightly confusing, but no less impressive are the high speed trains that snake around the country. In first class, expect an immaculate car and a revolving train of hostesses distributing wet wipes and snacks.
BOXED LUNCHES :: Before jumping on any Shinkansen, grab a Bento lunch box from one of the train station restaurants. In Kyoto, some of the best noodle houses and shopping are in the train station.
WET WIPES :: Japan’s obsession with cleanliness manifests itself in the incessant distribution of wet wipes everywhere you go. It’s great at first, but expect your hands to be raw by the time you leave.
TOTO TOILETS :: These toilets - found everywhere from luxury ryokans to airport stalls - are daunting at first, with at least 17 features indicated on LED displays in Japanese characters. But there’s no going back to regular toilets after these! Most interesting features include revolving bidets, water temperate controls, air drying mechanisms, flushing or other noises, heated seats, relaxation music, and lots of other features that remain a mystery.
THE FOOD :: Japan is so well known for its food that this category speaks for itself, but we’ll just add that the fatty tunas are everything and more, and Kobe beef is without comparison. Our highlight was dinner at a member’s only club in Kyoto, where we had the chef all to ourselves and ate at a traditional table seated on the floor. There are a lot of other surprising flavors and foods, less swoon-worthy than the fatty tuna.
MONKEY PARK :: The Arashiyama Iwatayama Monkey Park takes a lot of monkeying around to reach, and requires a solid 30 minute climb straight uphill to reach the park, but totally worth it, as you are at one with mamma and baby monkeys - some still breastfeeding - with killer views of Kyoto below.
CAT CAFES :: As disgusting as they are interesting, you can purchase a coffee or tea and sip it in a cafe full of cats (read: cat hair). I purchased the coffee for the experience, but didn’t take a sip.
GAMING :: I don’t fully understand this experience, but if you’re lucky enough to stumble - or purposely foray - into an enormous video-gaming arcade in Japan, replete with blinding lights, noise, mirrors, surreal images, enormous stuffed animals, bagel foreheads, and a maze-like floor plan, you’ll experience a very significant and cool part of Japanese culture.