First Impressions of Japan


I waited in line at immigration at Haneda airport, my shoulders aching with the weight of my backpack and feeling sweat dripping down my back due the the 5 layers of clothes I was wearing. When it was my turn I shuffled to the desk, sorted out the formalities and was handed a residents card. After such a long flight all I wanted to do was sleep but an intense feeling of anxiety overcame me; I was now a resident of Japan.

I got a taxi to my hostel, too tired to contemplate working out how to study the train timetable. I showed the taxi driver the address of the hostel, and he proceeded to take me to terminal 1…

That’s when I realised that I was lost in translation.

Somehow I managed to communicate that I wanted to go the hostel. I arrived, payed him and bowed a few times. My head spinning trying to remember all the local customs. I was so thirsty so went in search of a shop. I needen’t have worried because there was a vending machine 1 metre from the hostel entrance. In the coming weeks I would find vending machines in the most isolated of places selling everything from food, chocolate, beer and cigarettes.

The next day I made my way to my hostel in Tokyo. To get there I had to brave the Tokyo metro with a 32kg suitcase whilst wearing two coats. The Tokyo metro was as clean as I had imagined. I felt very at ease and stress free, the people around me seemed to feel that way too. A few times on the way I was met with staircases and no lift or escalator. Each time a Japanese person stopped and asked if they could help. I was so thankful for their kindness and consideration. I don’t think anyone would have helped me on the London underground.

vending machine


The next day I set about exploring Tokyo. The area I stayed in was quite quiet. I noticed many people wearing facemasks and waiting for the green man to appear until they crossed the road. To me Japan didn’t have the ‘Asia feel’. It felt more like the West than the Asia that I’m familiar with.

I decided to go Akihabara, an area close to the hostel that I’d heard a lot about. As I stepped out from the train station I was greeted with sounds, tall buildings and neon signs. This was the Tokyo I’d read about! I spent all night wandering around Akihabara, enamoured with the quirkiness and the energy. I saw ladies in maid unirforms advertising maid cafes, Β vast gamimg and pachenco arcades and so many electric shops.

I was hurngry so decided to get something to eat. I came across a place where you could order a meal by pressing a button and paying at the machine. This was perfect as I was still a bit embarrassed about the language barrier. The food was amazing and the first of many delicious (and cheap) meals.

My first impressions of Japan were convenience, respect and unabashed quirkiness.




Published by


I’m a twenty something podiatrist with new found wanderlust. Follow me as I prepare for my trip of a lifetime to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and wherever else the world takes me.

23 thoughts on “First Impressions of Japan”

  1. I’ve only spent a day in Tokyo and would agree completely with your first impressions. I can’t wait to go back for a couple weeks in November to see a lot more of the country.

  2. Yes, I totally agree with the feeling of convenience! It’s like everyone (and everything) is going out of their (or it’s) way to be polite and helpful to you! My first impression was a bit paradoxical, landing in Tokyo it was how everything was SO alien and unique but so familiar at the same time! LOVE Japan for that!

  3. Reading this I could feel that “aha moment” when you realize this is your life, that you are as you say “lost in translation”. I always find it interesting to see the effects of globalization and the way it shapes various parts of the world. I wouldn’t imagine Asia to be a westernized product, but I guess the capitals are cities of commerce. Glad to know it left a good first impression πŸ˜€

    1. Japan feels very Western so far, maybe that’s just because I’ve seen places in Asia like Sri Lanka and Laos where the way of life is completely different. It still feels weird to call Japan my home.

  4. Glad to read this post! It’s my dream to get to Japan one day . . . honestly have been dreaming of it forever! Glad you’re first impressions are positive πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks for sharing your first impressions. We have not made it out to Japan yet, but have plans to do so soon. Tokyo looks like it is such a clash of cultures, not sure if we would find our way around. We do not like to escape our “comfort zone”, but travel is all about expanding your horizons. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

  6. We have similar impression! (: I just went to Japan for the first time last summer! Not only have I been to Tokyo but Kyoto and Osaka as well. I was extremely impressed how some elders rode on the bikes! They are even in their 50s, 60s! Their hospitality is amazing as well, they were helpful with me when I got lost how to get to the hostel despite the communication & language (I’m Deaf) barriers. It’s amazing there. thank you for sharing your post!

    1. I found the Japanese to be very helpful too Stacey! In Tokyo people helped me carry my bags on the metro! I can’t wait to visit the rest of Japan. It’s such a fascinating country.

  7. I can definitely understand what you were going through when you first arrive. It’s scary but exciting and so many good things to come! That’s what makes living abroad so exciting!

    1. It’s my first time living abroad and I find it scarier than travelling abroad! I can’t just pack up and leave I have to attempt to make a life here.

  8. Good Luck on your new home!
    We are planning to go to Japan this year, so is really good to read about your first impression and get ready to experience ours.! πŸ˜‰
    Happy Travels,


  9. Good luck to you on your new adventure! I’d be so scared to live in a place where I don’t speak the language :/

Leave a Reply to Stephanie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *