For the first time in two years, Japan’s rigorous border controls were finally relaxed on October 11th, allowing foreign visitors to return without any limitations. Soon Pyon, our South Korean-based reporter, had spent more than ten years there. He had never left for more than a week until the epidemic kept him out of the country. One of the first passengers on an overseas airline to arrive and meet us was him.
Since Soon Pyon has lived in Japan for over half of his life, he was anticipating it to be exactly how he had recalled it to be when he finally visited last week. However, he was startled to discover that some things appeared to be quite different now and that, upon his return, he saw Japan in a completely new light as a result of his time away.
Here are five typical things that startled them. Moreover, Soon Pyon believes that when they arrive in Japan, they will surprise many other tourists from abroad. Soon Pyon soon found that he wasn’t the only one who had spotted new things in Japan after discussing it with several of his other returning companions.
1.There are numerous vending machines
We all know that Japan is a nation of vending machines but returning after a lengthy absence truly brings home how numerous they are in this country. Soon Pyon believed there were even more machines there, as compared to his previous visit to Japan. Given the sharp increase in non-face-to-face sales methods during the epidemic, he might not be entirely off.
Not just the number of machines seem to have expanded, but also their variety. For instance, when visiting Daikanyama in Tokyo, Pyon soon saw a vending machine selling caramels in front of the Number Sugar caramel shop. It was one of the original vending machines he had seen outside of establishments; they had been put in place at first to keep companies operating by enabling them to sell their goods securely while coronavirus-related restrictions were in effect.
2. In Japan, everyone waits in line for everything.
Even if it’s not extremely novel, this will stick out to foreign tourists returning to Japan after a lengthy absence. After spending a few years away from Japan, Soon Pyon was startled to find people lined up behind one another. He had seen people line up in Japan for years, and he had even been one of them. Wherever people were waiting—on escalators, in front of ramen shops, on train platforms—they organized neat lines in which no one cut in front of the line, and everyone waited politely, bringing order to the chaos.
3. Purchasing Korean food is easier than ever.
Even though many foreign tourists may not find this interesting, visitors and residents in Korea will find this to be very positive news. K-pop idols hadn’t yet gained popularity, and Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Koreatown, was not the well-known tourist destination it is now when Soon Pyon’s family first immigrated to Japan in the 2000s.
The only places to buy Korean goods were the Korean supermarkets in Shin-Okubo back then. But nowadays they are available in many supermarkets, including the large novelty chain store Don Quijote, where Soon Pyon took these pictures.
4. You still need to use physical money to buy a lot of things in Japan
Since the epidemic, Japan has made great strides in the area of cashless transactions, but there is still a long way to go before it can compete with the contactless payment systems that many foreigners are accustomed to using abroad.
In Korea, Soon Pyon no longer even carries a wallet around with him; instead, he just uses his credit card or smartphone to make purchases. Even when splitting the tab at a bar with friends, one person pays the establishment, and the other customers pay their portions online through net banking or a mobile app called Kakao Pay.
Expect not to be able to do that in Japan, as many local merchants still do not accept cashless payments. As a result, you will still need to carry a wallet with actual cash with you wherever you go.
5. A lot of prices haven’t risen
Although the cost of living and necessities has risen slightly in Japan recently, tourists are unlikely to notice this or be impacted by it. Visitors will be examining restaurant menus and admission rates to parks and museums, neither of which have changed significantly in the previous two years. When compared to your home country, you’ll be shocked at how much less expensive things are here. Because the cost of day tickets at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea has been temporarily reduced by 20% and the yen is now less expensive than it was before the outbreak.
So, there you have it: five things that foreign visitors to Japan who return after a long absence will find surprising. Being back in Japan is something that Soon Pyon has been eagerly anticipating for a long time, and his protracted absence was a blessing in disguise as it caused him to fall in love with the nation all over again and see it through new eyes.
Also read about 10 things that might surprise you when you visit Japan