Japan Just different

Japan is different – plastic food, queueing, hygene, public baths, stamp books

Continuing the the theme of differences, here are some more things that are very different in Japan. In this post I look at plastic food, queueing, hygiene, public baths and proof of visiting.

Plastic food

Many Japanese restaurants show the food they serve in their window, but it isn’t freshly made food, but plastic food. The picture above shows some of the countless sushi pieces that can be purchased, and below a shop front in Matsuyama. More often than not, you cannot see into a Japanese restaurant, which for a westerner, is often a problem – an empty restaurant most likely means it’s a bad restaurant. A Japanese pilgrim and I discussed this, she just told me, if I know I want to eat there, what difference does it make if anybody else is already eating there!

Don’t jump the queue

The Japanese queue for everything and nobody jumps the queue – they queue for buses – below in Wakayama, queue for trains, queue to collect their bento box or a coffee at Starbucks. Nobody jumps the queue. Often lines on the floor indicate where one should queue, and the bus queues in Wakayama, and there were several, could each have several hundred people queueing.


I’ve already mentioned that Japan is spotlessly clean and that many public servants were gloves. In addition the Japanese, as in many Asian countries, wear a mask when they have a cold, so they don’t spread germs. When paying with notes or coins, it is not normal to hand it over directly to the cashier, and risk touching each other, but one should place it in a tray that is generally placed in front of the person you are paying. At restaurants one almost always get a warm cloth or a wet wipe to wash ones hands before eating. And remember don’t shake hands, but bow, when you meet somebody.

Public baths

Public bathing, not least in hot water baths, or onsens, is very foreign for many Europeans or Americans. But don’t hold back, it is a fantastic experience. Just remember, you need to be clean before you get into the bath, don’t stare and make sure your towel doesn’t end up in the water. Many public baths are truly spectacular – I spent 30 minutes overlooking the Paciffic at one onsen, and another in a cave. You can normally rent a towel. Almost all towns, no matter how large or small, have public bath houses, or sento.


Proof of being there

You can collect stamps pretty much anywhere in Japan. I collected them during my pilgrimage to Shikoku, but you can find them pretty much anywhere – temple and shrines, museum, stations, public buildings and many more places. You can even buy books to stamp throughout your journey and as memory of your trip to Japan. Below the three stamps from temple 8 with the calligraphy written on top.


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