Weird stuff in Japan – a travel blog

by | July 7, 2017 |

TItle Photo: The Ritz Hotel – Koshien/Nishinomiya. This blog could easily be titled Weird Stuff in Japan.

I’ll kick the weird stuff in Japan off with a brief discussion of:

Love Hotels

The Ritz was the second hotel I stayed in during my two weeks in Japan. My son had the first inkling the Ritz might be a love hotel when he saw this board around the corner from the registration desk:

It shows you what rooms are available, and you choose for how long (how many hours) you want it. No one needs to sign you in

To add to the anonymity is this cashier’s window:

It’s about 3’ from the ground, which means that given the minuscule window, you don’t see who is behind the desk, nor do they see you

When I realized I was in a love hotel, I understood why my room didn’t have any drawers or closets to put away my things. However, I never understood the absence of towel racks.

All other Japanese hotels I’ve been in have towel racks

A given of a love hotel is a big bath:

Plenty of towels stocked in the bedroom, but again no towel racks in the bath

To the right in front of the tub is the shower:

You soap up at least 3 times before getting in the tub. This is not particular to love hotels. It’s what you do in Japan

There is no public dining room for breakfast. A tray is brought to your room.

To compound the weirdness there is this robot in the lobby.

Sometimes it is upright, as it is now. Other times its head is bowed down, as if asleep. What is it doing there? I have no good guesses


Japan is a very clean place. The weird thing, then, from my point of view, is the strange absence of garbage cans in public places. Of course there certainly are trash cans to be found in public, but just not as many as I might have expected given the lack of litter on the streets.

At my son’s apartment building there are no garbage cans. He is supposed to leave his garbage bag on a designated corner on a particular day of the week. Recycling is a big thing in Japan, but it’s hard to understand the schedule for curbside recycling, and you can’t always count on grocery stores and/or railway stations to have all the bins you need. But somehow it gets done.

Good bins here


If a phenomenon rises into enough salience to be named, you want to pay attention to it. Such is the case with the cultural syndrome hikikomori referring to ‘recluse’ ‘shut-in’.

It’s when a Japanese kid or young adult holes up in his parents’ house for weeks or months on end, communing with the world through his gadgets. The condition tends to afflict men. It’s been a household word since the 1990s.

Here’s the classic image of it:

weird stuff in japan

For a fascinating video on the subject, see Hikikomori


People tend to make a big deal about Japanese toilets with all their fancy buttons. Me, I take them in stride. I was, however, struck by the odd sticker on this one:

Truly weird stuff in Japan: the guy’s butt a wi-fi zone. (Kidding)


While on the topic of butts and weird stuff in Japan, I’ll mention kanchō.

It’s a Japanese prank (okay, let’s call it that) performed by clasping the hands together in the shape of an imaginary gun and attempting to poke an unsuspecting victim’s anus, often while saying “Kanchō!”

Wait. There’s a statue in honor of it?

Seriously weird

Linguistic note: kanchō also means ‘enema.’

After ending the weird stuff in Japan with kanchō I have to add something cool, and there’s no lack of cool stuff in Japan. The one I’ll choose is:


I was introduced to this kind of very traditional Japanese izakaya ‘neighborhood restaurant’ in Osaka. Yaki means ‘grilled’ or ‘fried.’

You sit at a bar with a grill and point at the dishes you want cooked in front of you:

In front of me is a plate of pancakes

Then they pass you your food on a long wooden shovel

Most of the food is prepared on sticks

The atmosphere is great, and your tab is counted by how many empty plates are in front of you when it’s time to pay up.

I like how the menus are displayed:

This display is not particular to a robatayaki. I just think the menus look cool:  decorative as well as functional

See also: All my Asia blogs

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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