There’s no doubt in my mind that Japan is one of the top destinations for Malaysian travellers throughout the year. We hear about this amazing destination almost all the time: the sakura, the enigmatic temples and shrines, the quirky cultures in Tokyo, all of it just seems so enticing!
Indeed, for those who’ve been to Japan before, they’ll probably never forget their first time in the country. And I’m not just talking about all the fun experiences either! As you travel to Japan for the first time, you’ll notice certain things about the country that compels you, a Malaysian, to make a comment. We can’t help it!
So, here are 16 things Malaysians (probably) will say at some point or another when they visit Japan for the very first time.
1. “Their public transport damn efficient.”
Of course, when we see how efficient the public transport is in Japan (especially their trains), we can’t help but exclaim the above sentence. The trains are always on time and fast, which is more than we can say about some of the public transport in our own country. Sigh, if only our KTMs and LRTs can be just as efficient.
2. “Wah, so expensive ah?”
That’s pretty self-explanatory, especially since our Ringgit still hasn’t recovered from its perpetual slump yet.
3. “Hey, a vending machine!”
In Malaysia, there are only a few kinds of vending machines: the ones that sell you limited types of drinks, the ones that dispense a mystery box for RM10, and the ones that don’t even work.
In Japan, however, you’ll find vending machines that sell just about anything: drinks, snacks, cigarettes, meal coupons (in restaurants), SIM cards, and even groceries like fresh eggs! For us, Japan’s vending machines are incredibly interesting and we can’t help but flock to them just to check out what’s in them.
Psst, I can confirm, the canned coffee tastes really good!
4. “So, Family Mart for breakfast/lunch/dinner?”
Let me just put it out there: our 7-11s have nothing on the convenience stores in Japan. Be it Lawson, Family Mart or their own 7E, Japan’s convenience stores are truly well-stocked in every aspect, especially when it comes to food and quick meals.
You’ll find plenty of options ranging from bento boxes to sandwiches, sushi plates and even spaghetti and fresh fruit. That’s why, when we visit Japan for the first time, it’s safe to say we’ll make at least two or three trips to the convenience stores just for our daily meals.
5. “Wow, capsule hotels quite nice actually”
The first time I slept at a capsule hotel in Japan, my mind was blown. Sure, we have a few capsule hotels of our own in Malaysia but Japan is where the concept really took off.
How one small pod can accommodate so much modern comfort and how the Japanese even came up with this is quite baffling. Not only are they a hit with tourists, even local office workers patronise capsule hotels daily. Not only are capsule hotels a memorable experience, they’re also great, affordable options for some well-deserved rest.
6. “Wait, what do you mean bathe together?”
Of course, the potential downside of some capsule hotels and some guesthouses is the lack of private bathrooms. In my case in Tokyo, I had to bathe in a public restroom on the premise. That means stripping down and getting butt-naked and bathing/showering in a room full of equally naked strangers.
Of course, at first, my friend and I were malu-malu kucing, but eventually, you get used to it. That doesn’t mean you’ll get over the first time you realise you’ll be showering in a public bathhouse though!
7. “Eh, how to use the toilet?”
Speaking of bathrooms, Japanese toilets are a fable in their own right. They are ultra modern and have more buttons and functions than the latest iPhone. And since most of the buttons on the side of the bidet only come in Japanese instructions, most of us spend more time than necessary trying to decipher what each button means.
There’s even a button which plays music when pressed!
8. “I love Akihabara, man!”
Akihabara, Tokyo is one of my top recommended destinations in Japan, and that’s not just because I’m an avid gamer and anime fan! Akihabara is like the cultural hub of Tokyo and you’ll see plenty of Japan’s infamous quirkiness.
You’ll see people standing on the streets in full cosplay attire, maids advertising maid cafes and handlers with their pet owls encouraging people to visit their owl cafes. You might even spot a group of people dressed in Mario Kart costumes having a Mario Kart race on the streets!
Amidst the flashy neon lights and blaring anime music in the background, you’ll either go “I love Akihabara” or “what the heck is even going on here?”
9. “Japanese people very polite ah?”
Yes, this stereotype is, for the large part, true. Japanese people are indeed polite, friendly and helpful to tourists, despite the occasional language barrier. We can’t help but notice how well-mannered the Japanese are (remember how they cleaned up after themselves in the World Cup?).
You’ll also witness a near-miracle in Japan that you hardly ever see at home: people queuing up in perfect order. Yes, be it to board or train or waiting to pay at a convenience store, the Japanese line up patiently all the time, compelling us to follow suit. Now, if only everyone in Malaysia can do the same, eh?
10. “Eh, which Kitkat flavour should I get?”
When we tell our friends that we’re going to Japan, 9 times out of 10, they’ll ask us to bring back some Kitkat. And even though we have the famous matcha Kitkat in Malaysia, it’s in Japan where they really take it up a notch.
Apart from matcha flavoured Kitkat, there’s cherry blossom, creme brulee, wasabi, and even strawberry cheesecake to name a few! Choosing one flavour over the other is a tedious choice for Malaysians, so the best option is just to get one of everything!
11. “Omg, look. Daiso!”
Daiso is one of those stores where you just know you won’t buy anything from, but you just go in anyway to have a look around. Well, in Japan, for some reason, some Malaysians become super-excited when they see Daiso.
Maybe it’s because it’s a brand we’re familiar with in Malaysia and to see it operating out of a building of its own simply draws us to check it out even more. And just like in Malaysia, we usually leave empty-handed anyway.
12. “Come Japan must try sushi and sashimi!”
Need I say more? I have friends, who even though they don’t eat sushi or sashimi in Malaysia, make it a point to try them in Japan. Sigh.
If you’re looking for the best sushi in Tokyo, I recommend heading to Shibuya or Shinjuku and locating a standing sushi bar for the best experience.
13. “Oh, Shibuya Crossing (or any other famous monument/location), help me take picture!”
In typical Malaysian fashion, we just can’t walk past a famous/iconic location in Japan without stopping for a few photos for the ‘Gram. If you have time, head to Shibuya and make your way to the iconic Shibuya crossing (it’s just next to the train station).
The first time when the light turns green, don’t cross. Just stay where you are and you will see some people doing wacky poses on the road for pictures. And yes, some of those people are probably Malaysians.
14. “Eh, Hachiko!”
Speaking of iconic monuments, I think most Malaysians know about Hachiko, the loyal dog who stayed waiting for its dead owner to come home. So, whenever we walk by the statue commemorating this famous canine in Shibuya, we will surely point it out to anyone who would listen before posing for a photo.
15. “I wonder if I should get this for (insert name/relative here)”
Japan is full of quirky, sometimes outrageous, souvenirs (you know what I’m talking about). If you’re shopping for a friend, you’ll no doubt be tempted to buy something extremely naughty/embarrassing for your friend just for the fun of it. Come on, you can admit it, I’m sure we’ve all done it!