10 Sights from Japan you typically see in anime

Since I  made my otaku dream come true of actually going to the Land of the Rising Sun, I was on the lookout for scenery I would usually see in anime. In a kind of surreal way, Japan turned out to be TOO MUCH like what I've seen in anime and movies.

Here are 10 sights I checked off my weaboo "to see" list:

10. Campus notebooks

Screencap by yadyn.
This is the sort of thing I notice because I'm an artist, and I love paper / stationary. Also because Japanese students seem to keep incredibly detailed class notes in very neat hand writing, despite living in a digital age.

All the pastel colors of the rainbow!
It's not wonder they still find joy in writing by hand! Japanese notebooks come in many colors, varying rule widths (the writing space) and the paper is SO smooth. Your pen, pencil, marker, just glides over it effortlessly and beautifully. There was also an insanely large selection of refillable and erasable pens and pencils in too many colors.

9. Cute uniforms

Had me wishing I flew with Japan Airlines.
We all know the instantly recognizable "sailor uniform" (sera fuku), we also know that all salary men wear a suit and tie to work, and have seen dramas were Office Ladies would not be caught dead in their pencil skirts without pantyhose. Being appropriately dressed to the occasion (and your station) is taken more seriously here than in other parts of the globe, and it is also handled with a bit more flair.

Tokyuu Hands staff in Winter uniform.
From company embroidered t-shirts and hats worn by conbini staff, to the vests + apron combo of restaurant servers, to the bell-hop attire of staff women in huge department stores, and girls at fashion shops fully decked out in the style of their store, everywhere I went in Japan, service people were always cutely dressed.

Apparently they're also required to say "Irasshaimase, goran kudasai!" in and EXTRA nasal voice! (Welcome, please have a look). After the 20th one, it either becomes really funny, really annoying, or you stop noticing altogether.

8. City tower that looks like Eiffel tower

Name all the CLAMP series that have a scene with Tokyo Tower in them!
Something became apparent to me soon after arriving to Japan and visiting a few stores: PEOPLE IN JAPAN LOVE FRANCE. Or French culture, or imagery, or whatever that French "feel" is. You'll find bags witch French phrases adorning them, bakeries that specialize in French pastries and a milliard trinkets and goods referencing the country of romance.

Kyoto tower.
Well, the story goes that Tokyo Tower is supposed to be an homage to the Eiffel Tower. But what I didn't know is that every major city features a similar tower strategically placed in the busiest part of town. Since anime rarely takes place in a city other than Tokyo, guess we won't get to see these other awesome towers.

7.  Winter Illuminations

Screencap by Avvesione.
Winter is here, and you know what that means, right? Christmas! The perfect time to go on that special date and give a present to the one you love (at least in Japan). It's not a Holiday that you actually get the day off, nor a day to spend with family, no; it's the day you go out on a date with your special someone and bask in the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations.

Walking in a consumerist wonderland.

While very few homes go through the trouble of decking out the front yard with lights, malls and busy street areas make sure to drape as many lights as possible. While it did make the atmosphere feel Christmassy, there was none of the tacky and over the top decorations I'm used to see in the States. The atmosphere of unbridled consumerism definitely permeated the air of Nipon this time of the month, though.

6. Conbini (convenience store)

This 7-11 X Evangelion campaign had just started when I got to Japan, November 2014.
Ah, the quintessential convenience store, or as it is simply called here: conbini. Conbini, truly are very convenient, specially because there's going to be at least one of them only a few blocks away from your living quarters. They stock everything from snacks, common groceries, hot foods, manga and magazines, socks and underwear, household products, a copy/print machine, ATM, and you can pay your bills here too.

The 7-11 closest to our apartment.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the conbini, was the "piruru piruru" beeping sound the door makes as a costumer enters the store, this prompts all the staff to welcome you with "irasshaimase" (and yes, just like you see in anime and manga, most of the staff is usually young people of high-school/college age). Goods in the conbini are slightly over-priced to what you would pay at the regular grocery store, but hey that's the price you gotta pay when you have all this available within a 5 minute walk from your home.

The Circle-K right off our train station.
My first couple of days, I was hitting up the conbini almost daily, mostly to get onigiri and croquettes. Because it's winter they also have "oden" which is an assortment of stewed meats and vegetables served in broth. One of the perks of the conbini, is that you can pay with credit card (in most cases). The staff will also offer to heat up food for you if you're buying the lunch items.

Lawson's, that OTHER conbini. The letters in red say alcohol and cigarettes.
Most conbini have a point accumulation system, which lets you get special items available only for that chain of stores. Special anime figures and goods would be prominently displayed at the front of the store, and I was sad to find you could not directly buy any of this stuff. You needed POINTS. And a TON of them. Besides that, conbini are flipping nice.

5. Vending machines

Vending machines in a school setting. Image from Astronerdboy.
You know how anime characters are always off to buy "juice" or they ask their friends if they want some "juice"? They're really just asking if you'd like ANY beverage from the vending machine. They're also not doing you a great favor, since there's bound to be one  100 meters from you at any given time!

Of course you can also buy cigarettes from some.
Vending machines are as ubiquitously placed around Japan as conbini (which kinda makes me wonder why are there so many of them?). What makes them awesomer than the ones we have in the U.S. is that you can get hot beverages from them too. Since I went during winter, some machines had corn and red bean soup hot and ready for you (but they don't taste so good...).

Where you least expect them!
Sometimes you'll walk by the same vending machine to notice that prices have been dropped for certain drinks (yey!). Some of them even have games where you can win a free drink with your purchase. But mysteriously enough, you will not find any vending machines that sell snacks or foods on the street. That's because eating while you're walking is considered poor manners in Japan!

4. UFO Catcher
Screencap by natettatte.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, Japan is the sort of place that is designed to conveniently sell you things, and usually things that are cute, or that you unknowingly become obsessed about. Enter the UFO CATCHER claw games and all other capture games available at your local arcade, which most major shopping areas will have (if not, then at least there'll be gashapon).

At first I was really excited when I saw the machines, you can immediately see your favorite anime characters featured inside. I naively thought I could win these awesome figures for a few yen, until my friend broke down to me that in most cases, the big figures are used merely for decoration.

A case where you actually play for the toys displayed, the next one up is Levi.

Either way, it turned out that it's not really that difficult to get a prize from the games, you can even ask the attendant to change the toy that is currently available so you can try winning one that you actually want. Although the amount of time/effort/yen you will spend trying to win an item is relative to it's actual value.

Larger items are placed in more complicated games, so you will likely end up paying it's value by the time you "win." What is frustrating, is that in some cases these toys are exclusive to arcades, so you have to be a true fan and keep trying until you unlock your prized possession. (Or you can go to a shop that specializes in collecting and selling these toys...)

3. Girls in ridiculously short skirts
Ikuno Emiro giving us a good look under her skirt. Nozoki Ana recolor by dianaluc.
Anime and manga cuties are always depicted in very short skirts that can, at the wind's fancy, give you a glorious glimpse of their under pants. But that's all an otaku's wet dream, right? Not exactly....

How is she not freezing, or tripping!?
My friend, cropped out on the left, wearing a coat.
Let me remind you once again that I was in Japan during winter. Now, it is true that I've lived in tropical weather my entire life, but even so, most people were out in their winter coats, scarves, and gloves. Except for fashionable young girls. The amount of nubile women who were wearing mini skirts and shorts under their coats, was baffling to someone like me who had to wear leggins under her pants to keep warm.

The girl in the picture was wearing flesh colored tights, but that doesn't provide a great deal of warmth. I saw school girls wearing only their under the knee socks in snowing weather.
Amazingly, I never got a glimpse of panty shot.

2.  Absolute Zone

The absolute zone or "zettai ryouki" is that portion of skin that shows between a girl's thigh high socks and her skirt. There's bound to be at least ONE girl in a given show's anime harem that's going to be sporting this look, if not more. Another instance where I thought this was simply the preference of character designers and mangaka rather than an actual fashion trends girls would follow, but...

Behold! Over the knee and thigh high stockings are actually a thing in Japan that girls are wearing. Now, to me, this look has already become a fetish due to anime and pixiv illustrations, so I couldn't help ogling any girls that walked around in their thigh highs and internally giving them or subtracting points depending on how far up the thigh the stockings placed, how short the skirt/bottom was, and how much of a skin pinch was going on.

Of course, girls in Japan are for the most part, thin or super skinny, and their waif like legs don't run into the same problems a larger girl like myself suffers when trying to pull up stockings past my knees . . . so, kudos to them! Braving the cold in that tender part of their thighs!

1. Maid Cafe

Often imitated in American anime conventions, but never quite replicated, the maid cafe is that otaku haven where you can buy rather conventional food (an omelette, a sandwich, rice and curry) for a slightly higher fee, because a cute, peppy and adorably attired girl will be serving it to you. (Wait, but this is the case in most Japanese restaurants...?)

Maid Dreaming chain of maid cafes.
Firstly, lets establish that Japanese people love going to cafes. You get something light to eat, a nice beverage, and proceed to spend an extended period of time sitting there chatting away with your companion or (in smaller and individually run places) with the owner. I'm more used to the eating out, then going to someone else's place to spend the rest of the evening modus operandi, but I guess most people here live in very tight quarters so spending all their socializing time outside makes more sense.

Now, regrettably I don't have pictures for you of what a Maid Cafe looks and feels like on the inside, and that is because 1) I knew the only way to get a picture of the place was to purchase the opportunity to take a photo with the maid 2) I was not willing to lay down the dough for an average meal and a thoroughly otaku experience, so there ya go, I'm not as much as weaboo as I thought. If you still want to read about what it's like, check out  visualioner post of her visit to a maid cafe.

Don't be fooled, you don't do cosplay here, it's a cosplay cabaret club!
Any town that has anything going on, is bound to have a maid cafe in a corner somewhere. As you approach the anime and gaming districts, they start popping up in every other corner. The picture above is for a night time version of the maid cafe: a club where you purchase bottle service or a cocktail course that is served to you by girls in cosplay.

There you go! These are the 10 sights I totally geeked out to be able to see in person while I was in Japan. Actually, I still have another 3 weeks here, so what other scenes from anime do you think I'm missing?
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