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November 16, 2015

10 Things Japan Has That We Wish Were in the UK

By Stuart Turner

Japan! Most of us want to travel there, it's on every bucket list and it's no surprise as to why. Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, and its culture is a mix of the quirky, the weird, the traditional and the beautiful. Whether you're into seeing breathtaking historic sights or you just want to indulge in otaku culture, we bet you're a little bit jealous of Japan.

We're lucky in the UK that we've seen the introduction of sushi conveyor restaurants, but there's a lot more of Japan that we want imported over here. Let's take a look at just a few of these things...

1. Izakaya

Image via http://www.japanexperterna.se/

Izakaya are basically Japanese pubs, but they're a far cry from your average musty-smelling 'spoons on the corner. Food is an integral part of the Izakaya, and the point is to serve food that 'goes well with drinks'. It's all about nibbles, small dishes, grilled and fried food, and great, ice cold Japanese beer. You'll likely find dishes such as tempura, yakitori skewers, sashimi and korroke. 

It's also customary that you will be served small dishes or nibbles when you enter a Izakaya, to keep hunger at bay whilst you order. These often include Japanese pickles, which are delightfully addictive. 

There are a few Izakaya in the UK, but we'd like to see them all over the country and on every street! 

2. Bunny Cafes and Dog Cafes

Image via John Gillespie on Flickr

In the UK the 'cat cafe' trend has definitely already caught on, but in Japan they also have bunny cafes, dog cafes, and well, a few more different animal themes too! In Japan, most people live in small flats, and they're not often allowed pets - even of the tin furry variety. That's why many Japanese love to visit animal cafes and spend some downtime with a cute companion.

Dog cafes are viable, but we can't help but think dogs are more inclined to try to share your food than cats or bunnies...

Either way, we love this idea and can't think of anything more stress-relieving than chilling with a 4-legged friend.

3. Highly Themed Restaurants

Photo Credit Ryan McBride / Flickr

In the UK we don't have very many themed restaurants; well especially when compared to Japan! They're incredibly fun experiences, where even the staff are often in character. A few of Japan's themed restaurants include a prison style restaurant with cells, maid cafes, gaming restaurants, ninja-themed restaurants and there are even restaurants where you catch your own fish for dinner using a little fishing rod!

4. Capsule Hotels

Photo Credit Adam Fletcher / Flickr

Imagine it. You've had a bit of a late on at the local Izakaya, and now you're too drunk to drive and the last bus has passed. What do you do? You only have a little cash left after all... You head to the capsule hotel! 

These simple hotels are stripped back to provide the basic things you need for a refreshing night's rest. They're extremely clean and peaceful too. You are provided with the basics; a towel and access to a shower, then you're led to your sleeping pod. These are literally multi-story pods with a comfy mattress inside. It's all you need really if you're looking for a cheap way to stay overnight somewhere! 

5. Harajuku Crepes

Photo Credit Vanessa Sabino / Flickr

We have crepes in the UK, after all, they are an invention of our neighbours over in France, but they don't really compare to Harajuku crepes. In Harajuku you just need to look out for the colourful pastel display of fake modelled food, and then order your delicious crepe from the huge menu of flavours and fillings!

Harajuku crepes are wrapped into a cone shape, then filled with a mountain of goodies, such as ice cream, whipped cream, nutella, fresh fruit and much more. They're totally kawaii. 

6. More Delicious Street Food

Photo Credit Toshihiro Oimatsu / Flickr

Again, I'm aware of our street food in the UK, but it's mostly burger vans right? In Japan there's a whole culture dedicated to street food, and traditional street food vendors travel around Japan, following the festival circuit. There's also local vendors who you'll find on most streets. 

Japanese street food is a delicious art-form. Doesn't your mouth just water at the sound of fresh yakisoba, baked sweet potatoes, glossy tskune skewers and gloriously grilled fish coated in mouthwatering sauces? 

Yep, we need Japanese food vendors here!

7. Festival Culture

Photo Credit S Pakhrin / Flickr

In the UK, festivals comprise of primarily of highly commercialised music festivals, and the occasional time when we roll wheels of cheese down a big hill and injure ourselves. 

In Japan, the festival is a way of life. There are national and regional festivals, and they're a massive affair of banging drums, parades, floats, street food, traditional dress and more. It's a feast for the senses!

8. Onsen

Photo Credit Noriko Puffy / Flickr

Onsen are Japanese hot springs, or really, the resorts and inns around them. Here you'll be treated to a relaxing soak in one of Japan's natural volcanic-powered hot springs, where you'll laze and soak up the goodness as a little pot of sake floats around you, awaiting your indulgence. 

Onsen advertise their varying mineral content and believed healing abilities too. We have a grand total of 12 natural hot springs in the UK, but I wouldn't complain at a few artificial onsen being set up here!

9. Super-Fast Trains

Photo Credit Doug Bowman / Flickr 

The long-proposed HS2 railway line in the UK will travel at speeds up to 250mph and get you from Manchester to London in just over an hour. That's nothing compared to the Shinkansen in Japan, or the 'bullet train'! The Shinkansen could reach maximum speeds of 275mph, and that was all the way back in 1996. It's almost embarrassing sometimes how technologically far ahead Japan is compared to us! 

The E5 series, which runs at 200mph, has been the standard train since 2011, but Japan is now experimenting with trains that travel at 300mph!

10. Eccentric Style

Photo Credit Nicholas Wang / Flickr

Wear something unusual in the UK and folks will probably give you a wide birth. In Japan, there's an eccentric on every corner. Geek culture, creative fashion and cosplay are adored in Japan and young and old alike indulge in it. In Harajuku you'll find every style from the unusual tanned skin Gyarus, to the delicate and feminine lolita. Why not join in and bring more of this idea to the UK? 


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