For every place you ever lived in, you always
carry a part of it with you wherever you go... After spending an immense time
in a different environment, you start assimilating to the local way of life.
And as you continue your journey and move someplace else, you start missing the
people, the fun times and specific moments you can only experience on that
specific spot. Nowadays it’s not too difficult finding stores or restaurants
that offer goods from other countries. Still, there are some things that
brighten up your daily life and you crave them once they’re not as available
For me, these are the „ordinary“ Japanese items that I miss every day when I’m not there:
Onigiri is the Japanese fastest-food. It is a delicious rice ball, usually wrapped in seaweed (nori), that can be filled with various delicious toppings, from pickled plums, seaweed, to different types of fish and fish roe. They are extremely popular in Japan and can be found at any corner. There are many specialized shops that sell very exquisite varieties with gourmet ingredients, but „industrialized“ versions can be found in any convenience store (konbini) in Japan. And exactly this „cheap“ version of onigiri is my favorite! Triangular ones sold in plastic wrappers that keep the nori fresh and dry until the time onigiri is consumed. When I am in Japan, I endorse my onigiri obsession by eating it almost every day (not exaggerating, that’s true!). Even though I have an opportunity to eat onigiri at a specialized restaurant in San Francisco, Onigilly, I still buy onigiri wrappers every time I leave Japan. This snack is really easy to make, even easier to carry around (perfect for picnics and day-trips) and oh-so delicious.
Oshibori is a wet hand towel that is offered in Japanese restaurants before eating. They are normally distributed hot (except during hot summer days, when they are offered cooled) and they will freshen you up much more than Beyonce’s Japanese water.
Convenience stores or „konbinis“ are small shops that don’t only sell necessities at any given time (24/7), but also offer help you overcome most challenges you could possibly face in the city. Konbini clerks are usually extremely nice and forthcoming. With konbinis around, it is impossible to get lost: If you are looking for a specific location (and can’t use navigation on your phone for one reason or another), they can provide a map and help you figure out the right direction. Most (if not all) konbinis also have public toilettes, as well as ATM, copy and fax machines. You can even pay your utility bills, buy event tickets or get a (somewhat) proper hot meal (which you can also prepare using microwave or hot water dispenser placed at the entrance of the shop). Konbinis are so awesome, that people even sing songs about them.
100 Yen shops
These are the discount shops that sell various items at a unified price of 105 Yen. You can find anything there, from tools, kitchenware, garden supplies, household goods, toys, cosmetics, leisure goods to snacks. Why everyone loves them: They are fantastic, they are everywhere and they offer everything you never thought you needed (but you do!). They are so popular that they even opened their franchises around the world (one of the biggest 100 Yen shop chains, Daiso, has over 500 shops overseas).
Last but not least, the #1 gadget that everyone gets used to really fast in Japan is the toilet (washlet). I quickly learned why everyone is so crazy about them! Apart from offering the shower and music service, the toilet seat is heated and it represents such a value add to the mornings when you aren't violently awoken by a cold toilet seat.