So tomorrow is the big day, my student exchange journey is finally beginning. It’s hard to think that you can meticulously pack your whole life into a suitcase, but somehow I managed. Tomorrow I’ll be boarding a plane in the Gold Coast and by night I’ll arrive at Narita Airport. I’ll be spending almost 2 weeks in Tokyo with a friend then I’ll head to Kansai Gaidai in Osaka. I posted a couple of days ago about what I won’t miss in Brisbane, so I thought it’d be fitting to also write about the things I’ve missed the most about Japan over the last 6 months.
For those who don’t know, Nomihodai is like unlimited drinking. Sounds dangerous, right? You pay a set fee at a bar in Japan and within the time limit(usually an hour or two) you can order as many drinks as you want. I think the cheapest nomihodai I’ve ever seen was 2000yen(~$25) for 2 hours. Sometimes the street promoters for bars will try and trick you by slapping on hidden charges but once you get good at haggling they aren’t hard to avoid. Nothing close to this exists in Australia because legislation forbids it, so when you come back after a holiday and wind up at your local pub paying $5 for every beer you drink you can’t help but reminisce of better days.
2. The Shopping
So many niche markets are catered for in Japan, the one that is the most important to me is ‘Men’. Australian clothes shopping is a woman’s world and I don’t know if that will ever change. Choice is extremely limited if you aren’t willing to pay exorbitant prices. Fashion in Japan is still a female-dominated industry but the balance is better than in Australia, men have a wide range of options. A good example of this is Isetan Men’s, a department store in Shinjuku that features 9 floors of men’s apparel and only men’s apparel. There’s just no substitute in Australia.
3. The Service
I know I just discussed shopping but I think this deserves a category within itself. The customer service in Japan is excellent. You know when you have a job interview and the manager asks you that typical behavioural question: “Can you describe to me a time when you went above and beyond with your customer service?”. It’s as if doing that in Australia is considered a rare thing, in Japan it’s an attitude given in almost every transaction – It’s an art. Maybe there are some bad retail employees in Japan, I just haven’t met many yet. I meet disgruntled Australian retail drones every week, it gets tiring.
4. True Karaoke
Karaoke in Australia isn’t terrible. That’s not what I’m trying to say here. I just find that the machines are newer in Japan(obviously) and the selection of songs is a lot wider. Don’t even get me started on the package deals, 5 hours of karaoke with nomihodai and food for 3000yen per person? Sign me up.
5. Drinking in Public
I know, I know. I like to drink, probably too much, but everybody has a vice. I don’t know about other countries but Australia’s laws do not look kindly on drinking in public. According to Liquor Licensing…
Q: Is it illegal to drink in a public place?
A: Yes. You can be fined or arrested if found drinking in a public place. This includes parks and beaches. An on-thespot fine of $100 for adults and $225 for minors can be issued.
If I’m on my to a club or to meet people and I feel like having a drink on the walk over I can in Japan without looking every-which-way for police. Right in the middle of the city. And even better, I can get it cold from one of the 10 convenience stores I’m bound to pass-by within 5 minutes of walking.