THE FIRST 3 THINGS YOU NOTICE ABOUT JAPAN
There's nothing quite like the fresh feeling of stepping foot in a country you've never been to before. Ah, the sweet scent of a new Enlightening Experience™ on the horizon. Although I'm back in Melbourne now, there were some particularly interesting quirks of modern Japanese life that have remained stuck in my curiosity since my return.
1) They have a thing with rubbish
Rubbish bins around town are really scarce, so don't expect to find them lining the streets. Get into the habit of carrying small plastic bags in your day pack to have somewhere to stash your rubbish and take it with you - carrying around rubbish openly is generally frowned upon. Of course, so is eating casually as you walk down the street - so if you're being polite, chances are this won't affect you too much.
In Japan, there are strict rules when it comes to categorising your rubbish too. Often, you're required to separate your waste into one of (typically) five categories. The keenness to dispose of waste thoughtfully in Japan is refreshing and quite honestly, a great way to force some perspective about our own waste habits back home.
2) Holy shit, the toilets (pun intended? You decide)
There's always been the stereotype about Tokyo as "Future City", but you really feel the full weight of that phrase when you need to take a leak. In-built bidets with controllable water pressure, seat heaters, sometimes more buttons and settings than a TV remote - but the speaker with your own personal waterfall sounds to give you privacy while you relieve yourself has to be the pièce de résistance (this also seems to have the double-use of encouraging your own "flow"). Really makes you appreciate your time with Mother Nature, I'll tell ya that.
3) Convenience Stores really live up to their name
Honestly, I'm damn near certain there is nothing more reliable than a Japanese 7/11. Manga? 7/11. Noodle dishes and full bento boxes? 7/11. Alcohol? (It's legal to drink in public here, do what you will with that information...)
Australian 7/11s are pitiable in comparison, no doubt about it - time for us to step up our game, IMHO.
More on Japan to come, of course - stay tuned, angels.