5 Things You Never Expected About Japan

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Japan is a thoroughly advanced, post-industrial society that still takes the lead in many key tech areas. However, they’re definitely not like other similarly highly developed countries for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of the surprising things you’d never expect.

1.) Credit cards aren’t used everywhere

The numerous konbini and supermarkets may accept credit cards. But you’re taking your chances at the local izakaya. Credit card acceptance is definitely far higher than it used to be. However, many older establishments (and many are literally centuries old) may not accept credit cards or debit cards.

This issue is more acute in the countryside. Travelers used to using credit cards for everything in their home countries may be well advised to exchange more currency than they expect to use. In any case, there’s not much of a compelling reason to use credit cards in Japan, unless you seriously need to have a record of all your transactions.

2.) There are very few public trash cans

This can perplex visitors, as the streets tend to be spotlessly clean. However, you won’t generally find trash cans out in most public areas. The Japanese are very fastidious about sorting their trash, so most trash is usually held onto, then sorted and disposed of at home.  You will rarely, if ever, find trash cans out in the streets like you would in most other countries.

You will, however, find trash cans in public bathrooms and convenience stores. You will also find receptacles near the ubiquitous vending machines, but it’s strictly for the contents of those machines, and you will be perceived negatively for using them for other types of trash.

It’s also for this reason you don’t see Japanese eat out in the street as often as you would see people in other countries – though for some reason, drinking alcohol in public is fine. In most cases, the Japanese are likely to eat their snacks standing near wherever they bought them so they can use the provided trash receptacles.

3.) There are very few open wifi hotspots

In contrast to most developed countries where free wifi hotspots are virtually everywhere, these are a rarity in Japan. Any open wifi hotspots are also likely to be disappointingly choppy and slow. This often leaves frustrated visitors with high roaming charges whenever they use their service provider’s international roaming services.

To avoid high roaming charges, we recommend renting a pocket wifi device from a company like Japan Wifi Buddy so you can enjoy Japan’s famous high-speed internet infrastructure as soon as you land.

4.) Drinking in public is acceptable

While it may be frowned upon to drink in public, most people will just give it a pass. Unlike in many other countries, drinking in public is completely legal in Japan, and it’s not unusual to see individuals or groups of people enjoying a beer in a park. There are also numerous alcohol vending machines all over the country, where almost anyone can just buy alcohol. Drinking in public is also an accepted part of the many outdoor festivals held throughout the country.

We don’t recommend you do this outside of a group of local friends. However, regardless if you do this alone or in a group, do your best to remain respectful at all times.

5.) Several medicines we take for granted are illegal

Many medicines people in other countries take for granted are illegal in Japan. The list is too long to include, but it covers many popular allergy and asthma medications that contain any stimulant, such as pseudoephedrine. This makes it important to bring your doctor’s prescriptions and a note explaining why you need it when you’re visiting the country.

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