So some interesting things I’ve noticed about Japan:
1. Unlike the US, where cheap asian restaurants use disposable chopsticks, and the nice ones use the plastic or lacquered chopsticks, all the nice restaurants in Japan use disposable chop sticks, while only the fast food places like Yoshinoya and Sukiya or the ramen places use reuseable ones. Granted, the disposable chopsticks used at the nice restaurants are much nicer than the ones at home, but I still find it weird.
2. While ramen might be the food most people associate with Japan (second to sushi), the Japanese don’t consider ramen Japanese. Some people might want to dispute that, but there is some pretty good evidence:
a. Ramen is almost always written in katakana (ラーメン), very rarely in hiragana (らあめん), and doesn’t have a kanji that I have seen or know of. For those who aren’t familiar with how Japanese is written, hiragana is used mostly for grammatical artifacts (conjugations, particles, etc.) and some Japanese words, kanji is used for most Japanese nouns, verbs, adj., etc., and katakana is used for onomatopoetic words and foreign loan words.
b. In English menus, ramen is almost always translated as “chinese noodles”.
Now, I’m not saying ramen isn’t Japanese. You’d be hard pressed to find that style of dish in a Chinese restaurant. I think it’s sorta like burritos are in the US; we think of them as Mexican, used the Spanish word, but for the most part their more American than Mexican.
3. The Japanese love vending machines. Not only for drinks, but also meal tickets (you buy the meal outside and bring the ticket in to get served) and train tickets (which didn’t strike me as odd until I bought a 13,000 yen train ticket from one; see more below). Oddly, the only thing they don’t sell in vending machines is snacks.
4. Japan is very much a cash only country, and its almost expected that you carry 10’s of thousands of yen on your person. I paid for a ~600 yen purchase at a Circle K (about 8 bucks) with a 10,000 yen bill (the Japanese equivalent of a Benjamin) and the cashier didn’t even blink. I had to stick two of them into the vending machine to buy the train ticket mentioned above, after which the machine proceeded to give me roughly $60 change. In cash.