Coming back from your study abroad experience is hard, no matter if you were gone for a couple of weeks or an entire semester. That adjustment period will still be rough, and I found that while I was happy to see my family and come back to everything familiar, all I did was talk about Japan. So I’ve compiled a list here to tell you all of the things that I miss about Japan, even after a year of being back:
- The food: I know, it’s so hard to mash all of the wonderful dishes that Japan has to offer into one generalized category, but at the risk of me just listing out a bunch of meals and snacks to try, I’ll try to condense it. Pretty much the main things that I knew before going to Japan was ramen and sushi (both of which were fantastic), but my eyes were opened to all the possibilities and I found myself waking up in America just wanting to swing by the school store and pick up a couple of onigiri (rice balls with various fillings, such as salmon or pickled plum) before classes. I’ll just have to make do with homemade.
- The onsens (aka hot springs): It’s funny that one of the things that shocked me the most (that definitely sent my comfort zone alarms blaring) was one of the top things that I miss. It was such a foreign concept that really set me far out of my comfort zone, but the thing that really got me through it was how normal it was for everyone else. As uncomfortable as it sounds to soak in a hot spring with strangers, it is one of my top recommendations for anyone going to Japan!
- The vending machines: I never knew how much I needed vending machines in my life until I came back from Japan and there were none of the same caliber. They switched out drinks and food depending on the season, and they had hot and cold options, such as coffee and tea. But vending machines weren’t just drinks. They had ice cream, cellphones, and I even saw one for neck ties.
- Konbini: These stores were the real MVP and saved me and many others— daily. Konbini stands to mean the shortened version of convenience, as in convenience stores. And they absolutely lived up to the name! There was one right next to school grounds called Banafi— but of course there were national chains such as the much beloved 7/11 and Lawson’s. Depending on whether or not they were a chain, these stores carried anything from delicious full pre-made meals, to first aid and medicine, to tickets to the Studio Ghibli museum, all equipped with an ATM.
- The bathrooms: this sounds so odd, I know, but I loved everything about the bathrooms in Japan. Generally they were pretty condensed, but all of the features were really cool. The toilets were basically from the future and had buttons for a variety of features, such as a heated toilet set and noises in case you’re self-conscious about people hearing you going on about your business.
- 100 Yen stores: This basically equates to dollar stores in America, but everything was super high quality and super cute. You could get knick-knacks, but you could also get everything you would need for the house such as decorations, kitchen supplies, and bathroom products. Daiso was pretty much on tier with the Konbinis.
- Nomihodai and Tabehoudai: You pay a flat fee and then you can eat and drink as much as you want, and the food is fresh and can be made to order. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Round1 and other Spocha: These were basically an indoor adult playground with everything you could want, such as bowling, arcade games, roller blading, various sports facilities, obstacle courses, ball pits, and sometimes even an Onsen, all for one flat fee (in some you might have to pay a little extra for gear). My favorite part was the one near my university had an option where you could pay to spend the night, and have free run of all the games. It was the perfect bonding opportunity and a great way to spend the weekends. I mean, who doesn’t want to go bowling at 3 am?
Jillian is a senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in International Studies, focusing on the culture and arts of Asia. In the fall of 2015 she studied abroad at Akita International University in Akita, Japan.