What makes you feel 'Japanese' when you travel?

Good morning everyone,

Well, it looks like 'rainy season' is finally here. We can expect rain at some point later tonight and continuing through most of tomorrow. Then, we can expect mostly cloudy or overcast weather for the rest of the week, with a chance of rain again on Saturday and Sunday.

Whether we like to admit it or not, where we were brought up has a huge impact on the person we become. From our way of thinking to what foods we prefer, it’s hard to deny that our environment shapes our personal identity.

While some people come from nations that are veritable melting pots of backgrounds, languages, and cultures, others come from a country with much more homogeneity. Japan is one such country, and its people have a strong sense of identity.

Especially during a trip to a foreign country, there comes a moment of self-realization where they become aware of just how Japanese they really are. A recent survey asked Japanese travelers to identify the four moments they felt most Japanese when abroad. The results are really quite telling.

4. Finding the sweets or beverages too sweet (174 votes)

Japanese confectionaries are distinctive for their subtle sweetness, so as to allow the consumer to enjoy the distinct flavors of the ingredients without being overwhelmed by a huge punch of sugar in the palate. As for beverages, though, I have to disagree. Coca-cola and Pepsi are just as widely sold here in Japan as they are anywhere else, not to mention all the super sugar-laden teas, coffees, and fruit drinks, which are to me, personally, just too sweet, so it surprises me that so many Japanese people would be shocked by the sweetness of food and drinks outside their country.

3. Not being able to handle the big portion sizes at restaurants (78 votes)

I’m not too sure about other countries, but America at least is known for serving rather large portions-Canada and Australia are guilty of it too. Yes, this all depends on where you go for your meal, but in general, when compared to the average size of a meal you’d receive at a restaurant in Japan, in those countries, customers do tend to consume quite a bit more.

2. Being shocked at the poor customer service (212 votes)

What constitutes “good” and “bad” service is entirely subjective, as each individual has their own idea of how they want their dining experience/ hotel stay etc to be. Cultural differences also determine what is expected of an employee towards customers. In Japan, the interaction is much more formal than what you would expect back home, where more casual, friendly interactions between customers and employees are desired. For the average Japanese patron, however, customer service outside of their homeland undoubtedly comes across as rather lacking, since Japanese store clerks are trained to follow set scripts and carry out actions in a very specific way. (Which is why I think Japanese service is way overrated...sorry.)

1. Longing for a bowl of plain white rice (341 votes)

By a landslide margin, the number one instance when Japanese tourists overseas realized, “Yep, I’m Japanese after all,” was when they wished they had a steaming-hot bowl of plain white rice to accompany their meal. It’s not so surprising when you think about how much importance rice has played throughout their country’s history, and how much it is still consumed by each individual every day (it wouldn’t even be unusual to be served rice at every meal of the day). Some Japanese will insist that the rice grown in such-and-such region tastes the best, or that using good water when cooking rice really enhances the flavor, so don’t try to tell them they can substitute Japanese sticky white rice for the inexpensive plain white rice you generally find in US supermarkets either. It’s just not the same!

And there you have it: things that make the Japanese feel Japanese when they are travelling abroad. Have you had a similar experience? 

Have a great day!

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