Top 5 European Things that are Big in Japan
Japan is a truly unique country in many ways. The people are polite and friendly, the food is incredible and if you were going to sum up the geography of the entire planet in a single country, Japan is probably the best you're going to get - you'd certainly get a lot of European geography mirrored in Japan, with sights like Tokyo Tower putting a wry smile on the face of any European traveller. Whether you're up north in snow-capped Hokkaido, staring at the deserts in Tottori, strolling through the bamboo forests of Kyoto or watching a volcano erupt in Kyushu, Japan has plenty to offer the intrepid explorer.
A selection of the Kit Kat variety in Japan
That being said, Japan is also a country which values foreign culture, even if they have a tendency to put their own spin on things from time to time. When it comes to Japan's view of the rest of the world, there are few places that the Land of the Rising Sun loves more than Europe. Everything from the food to the music, the culture to the festivals - everything that Japan loves about Europe can be seen mirrored or emulated right across the country, from Niseko to Sakurajima. If you want to see the original versions of these things, you can hop across the water, EHIC in hand - sadly you can't use your EHIC in Japan as it's quite obviously not a part of Europe. If however you're curious just how much Japan loves Europe, read on to find 5 potentially surprising European things that are big in Japan.
1. Kit Kats
If you haven't had the chance to swing by Japan yet, this one may come as a surprise. In Europe you may come across such flavours as Kit Kat Crunchy, Peanut Butter Kit Kat, and the relatively new Cookies and Cream Kit Kat - there is variance but there's not much in the grand scheme of things.
Now head over to Japan and the sheer number of Kit Kat flavours out there is staggering. For a start, almost every prefecture has their own flavour. Are you going to Shikoku to see the Naruto Whirlpools? Make sure you pick up some Citrus Kit Kats. Are you going to Kyushu to visit some of the hottest parts of the country? Make sure you get some sweet potato flavoured Kit Kat. Want something a little weird? Why not try the Earl Grey, wasabi or matcha flavours? There's now even a Lohaco store in Tokyo dedicated to the chocolate-covered wafer where you can create your very own blend. Kit Kats - something totally European, made awesome by Japan.
And why should you have to miss out on that Japan-only taste? See below for how you can order from Lohaco.
2. One Direction
While Bieber Fever never quite took off in Japan, the 1D equivalent certainly did. This British boy band are absolutely massive in Japan, along with many of their predecessors such as The Beatles who still get a remarkable about of attention. Ask any Japanese high schooler to sing Hey Jude and they'll be able to at least hum the tune – ask them to sing Live While We're Young and their eyes will simply light up.
Contrary to popular belief, hamburgers come from Hamburg, Germany, not the USA. Irrespective of where they came from, you haven't tried fast food until you've been to MOS Burger. This Japanese chain can be found all over the country, offering everything from a simple cheeseburger to a full-on yakiniku burger or a teriyaki chicken burger. Want something that will blow you away? Try the waygu beef cheeseburger with a ginger beer after finishing your corn soup starter. When it comes to fast food, it really doesn't get any better than this.
A typical Mos Burger meal
A budget meal? Mayonnaise and egg on rice
4. Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is an interesting tradition celebrated across Europe. Japan, with their love of Europe and how romantic life on the continent is, have taken the idea of Valentine's Day and they've run with it.
First of all, Valentine's Day is all about women giving gifts to men. Men then reciprocate a month later on White Day - given how often people forget Valentines Day in the West, this isn't actually a bad idea. There are two types of chocolate given on Valentine's Day that you should be aware of if you wind up in Japan in February – giri-choco, the 'obligation chocolate' given to friends, colleagues and bosses, and honmei-choco, the 'true-love chocolates' given to your romantic interest or other half.
Mayonnaise is a bit of a weird thing in Japan. Like the Kit Kat, this strange concoction of egg-whites, vinegar and oil may be European in origin, but Japan has taken it, improved on it and completely run with the idea.
Forget the mayonnaise you may have had in the past - Japanese mayonnaise is not quite the same thing, and believe it or not, it goes in (or on) just about anything. Even the most traditional of Japanese foods - okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakisoba - in fact, just about anything that gets fried winds up covered in mayonnaise. While this may sound weird to a Western palate, it just works in Japan.