Japan is known as the land of the rising sun, but we can also call it the land of the unexpected, ranging from mundane things on the street, to local customs and even the people. From your first step onto Japan you will discover something surprising; especially for people coming from far away, it is a really different country in so many ways. Out of the many surprising things awaiting you on your trip we have brought together our top ten cool things which you won’t find out about in a guide book. Tokyo, as the capital of Japan, is a natural place to find both the weird and the wonderful!

1. Train platforms are confusing

A Tokyo train platform with two different train lines

If you arrive at Narita airport and you opt to use local trains to get to Tokyo, then you will immediately get confused about which train you should take. This will happen a lot during your stay in Tokyo, while you might have figured out what line you want to take – when you go to the platform you will see baffling train departure information such as local trains, semi-rapid trains, rapid trains and even airport trains (not to be confused with NEX).

In general your safest bet is to get on a local train as that will stop at every station, if you want to get on a semi-rapid train for example then you had better be pretty sure it will stop at the station you want!

2. Trains in Japan really do run exactly on time

A train departures sign showing shinkansen train times

It is kind of an expected part of life that trains will often be running late or be delayed before departure, we are all resigned to the fact that it will happen. In Japan you will find that trains will actually leave at the time they are scheduled to! In other words, don’t think that you can be even one minute late as you will miss your train.

The obvious benefit to this, in particular for taking the shinkansen (bullet train) is that you can plan out your departure and arrival quite nicely. An example of how important it is to Japanese people for trains to run exactly on time was recently demonstrated when a Tsukuba Express train left 30 seconds early – for which the train company apologized!

3. Bicycles are everywhere

Staying on the theme of transportation, bikes are literally everywhere. Even for foreigners living in Japan it is confusing as there seem to be no road rules for their use; people ride them on the pavements and the roads, and on public crossings. Some public crossings mark on the ground where walkers should be and where bike users should be, which are basically ignored.

Bikes are frequently parked without a bike lock, though it is fair to say that they are unlikely to be stolen as crime in general is low in Japan. Ano…

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