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Here's the Scoop on General Life in Japan: What do I need to know?

Life in Japan and in Kyoto: A Concise List on What You Might Want to Know

Here's some useful information!

Introduction

Hey! Rikka here. I'm a marketing intern at Hacarus, a Kyoto AI startup.
I feel it might be good to go over some of the issues, concerns, and questions that foreigners face here in Japan. The content below is just a concise list having to do with formal procedures or just everyday life encounters that may be helpful!

Contents

  • Garbage Disposal and Recycling
  • Etiquette
  • Religious Facilities
  • Diet
  • Toilets
  • Transportation in Japan
  • Crime and Safety
  • Seasons
  • Entertainment
  • Communities


Garbage Disposal and Recycling in Japan

Public Garbage Disposal
Finding a public garbage can is relatively difficult in Japan. The origin behind the lack of public garbage cans, which were removed especially after the 1995 sarin gas attack, is to avoid having potential hiding places of terrorist weapons. Since then, most people have opted to take home their own trash and recycle at home. Until today, there are only few trash cans found in public. Convenience stores, train stations, and parks may sometimes have trash cans available.

Recycling in Japan
Depending on the municipality, schedules for recycling vary. There are designated days and times to throw your trash and even designated trash bags for recycling. Trash is separated in terms of combustible garbage, non-combustible garbage, plastic bottles, cans, glass bins or papers and boxes and are picked up on different days. Large furniture (refrigerator, locker, chairs, electrical appliances, desks) that will be thrown away generally comes at a fee.


Etiquette

It's hard to go wrong in Japan with etiquette. People here don't tend to mind, as long as you're being respectful and holding consideration for others. However, here are a list of some things you may want to avoid doing.
Don'ts:
- Crossing your legs
- Putting your hands in your pocket while talking to someone
- Stick chopsticks in your food
- Enter a home with your shoes on
- Take a bath without tying your hair (if it's long) or without bathing
- Yell at religious establishments (Be respectful and be wary of 'no photograph' signs)


Religious Facilities
Mosque
- Islam Culture Center/As Salam Hall
List of Free Prayer Spaces:

Churches (a short list, with English services/bilingual sermon)
- Catholic
Kawaramachi Catholic Church
- Christian
Lifehouse Kyoto
Assembly Kyoto Church
Kyoto Church International


Diet

The Japanese diet consists of a lot of variety with many colors of food incorporated into a meal with a variety of nutrition. In Japanese teishoku, a meal would often consist of protein (meat or fish), a salad, pickles, soup (more often than not, miso), boiled vegetables, tofu, and of course, rice. Rice in Japan also tends to have a chewy texture and is thick. Vegan and vegetarian options are not difficult to make at home. However, at restaurants, much of the time ingredients containing fish (such as in sauces or miso soup, like dashi) is difficult to avoid. Because Kyoto is well-known for their kyoyasai, it may not be too difficult to find vegetable-focused dishes or vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Halal food is even more difficult to come across in Kyoto, let alone in all of Japan. Halal products and meat can be found at Gyomu Supermarket. Whole grain and whole wheat products in Japan are also not widely available at supermarkets.

Vegan Restaurant List

Vegetarian Best Restaurant List

Halal/Muslim Friendly Restaurant List


Toilet

In Japan, there are three types of toilets. The squat toilet, the Western-style toilet, and the washlet (the modern Japanese toilet with controls).
The squat toilet, also known as the washiki in Japanese, is a traditional Japanese toilet. Squat toilets exist in many other countries differing in appearance.
The western-style toilet, also known as the yoshiki in Japanese, is your basic everyday toilet but much less technical than the bidet or “washlet”, which I explain below.
Finally, the “bidet”, otherwise known as the “washlet”, is toilet that is well known internationally for its sophisticated and advanced technological features that include a water jet, seat heating, blow drying, sound blocking, etc.


Transportation in Japan

Public Transport
The most often used method of transportation in Japan would be taking the railway. Many people take the railway, and costs for rides tend not to go over 100-200 yen for travel each station exit. You can purchase a ticket or an IC card- rechargable cards which you can use to quickly make a pass through the ticket gates or even make purchases at a convenience store or vending machine. For faster and farther travel (for example, Tokyo to Kyoto), the bullet train (also known as the shinkansen), express bus, and airplanes are the most efficient.

Driving in Japan
To drive in Japan, you must either take driving classes or if you already have a license, obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) and take the Japanese driving exam. However, if your passport was issued from the following countries of Belgium, France, Germany, Monaco, Sweden, Switzerland, or Taiwan you can legally drive in Japan with your license.

Riding a bicycle
In Japan, many people ride bicycles instead of walking to get to their destination faster. It's convenient to get around especially if you live in areas where places you frequent are a few kilometers of a distance away, for instance, the supermarket. One thing to keep in mind are bicycle laws and riding safely. Bicycle accidents are not at all uncommon, and careless accidents can happen, both on the part of the bicycle rider or driver (multitasking like looking at your cellphone or even listening to music can put you at risk for accidents). There have been cases where people on bicycles end up hitting pedestrians and often the aftermath can be fatal.


Crime and Safety

Crime in Japan is quite low in comparison to other countries and generally is considered to be safe. From my own personal experience, I hear from many other foreigners that hail Japan for its safety (even lost wallets are returned, with everything in place). According to an article by the Bloomberg, crime in Japan has dropped to its lowest level in more than 70 years and major crimes as well as minor crimes have also declined. Despite statistics, taking precautions as you would in other countries or your own home country, especially during the night, is still advisable.


Seasons

Summer (June to August)
Autumn (September to November)
Spring (March to May)
Winter (December to February)
...are the four seasons of Japan.

These seasons are also quite scenic, particularly in the spring and fall, where many tourists will come and see cherry blossoms in the spring and deciduous trees or autumn leaf colors in the fall (you should definitely be in Kyoto for the fall!). Summers in Japan can be very hot, humid, and rainy. Many people go to the beach or attend firework festivals during the summer for enjoyment. The summer of 2018 was recorded to have been the hottest in the past few years (41.1°C) and it is important to take precaution during the hot weather. Winter in Japan is well known for illumintations, winter sports (snowing and skiing), hot spring baths (onsen), snow festivals, and scenic nature-like winter spots.


Entertainment

Family/Individual/Group Entertainment

Festivals
As mentioned above, many festivals take place during certain seasons (cherry blossom festivals, snow festivals, summer firework festivals, autumn foliage festivals). Festivals are also held celebrating legends, tradition, deities, or historical events. Festivals are a great way to spend time with family while enjoying the local culture.
Karaoke
Karaoke is an all-time favorite, where groups of people, as well as individuals, can go and enjoy singing alongside lyrics on the screen. Establishments open from around 10-11am and close around the next morning usually 3-4am. Songs in different languages (such as Chinese, Korean, Russian) are available as well, so many people can enjoy variety. Families can also go to karaoke establishments, as some times rooms specific for families or children are available for use.
Amusement parks/centers
There are also amusement parks and centers where people can enjoy various activities including more sport-oriented activities, amusement rides, or arcade games. Some popular examples include Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Fuji Q Highland. For amusement centers, SpoCha or Round One Entertainment are some well-known chain establishments that offer activities like sports and arcade games.
Other outdoor activities
For outdoor activities in Japan, going to areas covered with nature to barbecue, fish, hike, swim, camp, or plant/harvest vegetation would be some of the most refreshing ways to get away from the mechanical side of entertainment.


Communities and Networking

Expat Communities
Finding communities nowadays that we have the internet has never been more possible. The opportunities are endless, and because the number of expatriates have increased, expat communities have grown. Websites where you can find expat communities or communities in general include facebook, meetup, peatix, and on the following sites:

Kyoto International Foundation

Kyoto International Cultural Association

All Japan Relocation


Other Communities
You can also find communities where you can pursue a hobby or interest you have apart from work or study. In such a community, you can find like-minded individuals who have similar interests and attend events. Using meetup or other online communities (jimoty, etc.) is one way to do this and looking up organizations, volunteers or small groups is another. Although the language barrier in Japan can be intimidating, after attending meetups for some time, you may find yourself enjoying the group and making new friends.


In regards to finding communities or questions regarding adjusting to the Japanese lifestyle, feel free to ask! I would be more than happy to help find groups with you!

Topics Covered for Hacarus Work in Japan Support Program


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