Non-Consumer Photo Essay — Japan Edition

by Katy on June 6, 2012 · 40 comments

Although I’ve been back from Japan for almost a month, I hadn’t really shared photos yet, so here goes!

My trip to Japan was as a chaperone for my son’s eighth grade “Research Residency” class trip. The students had to survey 50 Japanese people, as well as conduct a number of videotaped in-depth interviews. Keep in mind, this was all in Japanese, and it was in addition to daily school assignments.

The first leg of our trip was to Hiroshima. We were honored to attend a talk from atomic bomb survivor Kejiro Matsushima, whose teenage life was forever changed on August 6, 1945. His harrowing, yet uplifting speech was unbearably moving. Sitting in his classroom, he clearly remembers The Enola Gay flying over the city. His words to describe the plane were “It looked like ice candy to this hungry boy. Who knew they were messengers from hell.”

I had really looked forward to trying all the local cuisine. Some foods were utterly heavenly. Others, less so. Japanese people seem to really like hot dogs, which appear to be served as breakfast food. I snapped this picture in a bakery case. Umm . . . no thank you.


And the most bizarre food I encountered was hot dog sushi. Apparently a favorite of Kyoko, my host family sister. Again, no thank you.


I did politely eat everything that was put in front of me, with an “Arigato gozaimasu” and a “Gochisosama deshita.”


Clotheslines were everywhere!

When everyone has a clothesline, it makes sense to have fun with it. And while I’m no fan of plastic, these rainbow-hued clothespins tickled my fancy.

One element of Japanese culture that surprised me was how utterly entertaining their advertising is. Bright and fun, I enjoyed the ever present commercials on my host family’s television. I have no idea what this commercial was for, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

This commercial speaks for itself.


It was hard being functionally illiterate. I wanted to independently wash my own clothing, but could not even begin to figure out what buttons to push.

Thank goodness the bathroom signs at the zoo were . . .

self explanatory!


I liked these mesh soap holders from a middle school that we visited. I love the simplicity of design that uses up every last sliver from a bar of soap. Also, bar soap uses so much less packaging than liquid soap, as well as being less costly to ship. I could *totally* make one of these from some spare wire and mesh.


This poster on appropriate school dress was up at the middle school. I find it interesting that the “What Not to Wear” boy is wrinkled and dirty, while the girl is simply slutty. There is a world of gender-role discussion here.


A large portion of the trip was spent at a “Nature House” outside of the small town of Santo. It was located at the top of a mountain, and the town was at the bottom. We rode bikes for transportation. The completely downhill portion was glorious, and the uphill part kicked my middle-aged tuchus. However, the scenery made it worth every minute! See the reusable water bottle in the basket? This last minute inclusion to my packing list was one of the best decisions ever!


Although Hemeiji Castle was under wraps for an extensive refurbishing, I couldn’t resist posing for a picture with this little cutie. Much better souvenir to pose with him than to buy any one of the million souvenirs in the gift shop.

It goes without saying that I had a fantastic time on my Japan trip. I got to see the eighth graders expertly navigate their way through a foreign country, yet still got a sizable amount of time to myself. I would love to visit again soon, but impending college costs plus my younger son’s high school trip will most likely bar any big expenses in the near future.

Sorry if the multitude of picture was overwhelming, but believe me I actually winnowed this post down!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberly June 6, 2012 at 9:02 am

What an awesome experience! Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂

I had no idea hot dogs were “the thing” in Japan.


Katy June 6, 2012 at 9:09 am

it’s interesting how traveling to another country always breaks one’s expectations.



Jenny June 7, 2012 at 8:01 am

Which, to me, is the real reason to travel. Great phtot essay!


Jenny June 7, 2012 at 8:02 am

* photo* Tea first, then typing!


Linda H. June 6, 2012 at 9:09 am

I loved the many pictures. The more, the better. It’s interesting and fun to see advertisements, signs, foods, etc. from different countries. The bathroom signs were great!


Karen June 6, 2012 at 9:16 am

Hot dogs are probably better for breakfast, than let’s say Lucky Charms or Pop Tarts 🙂
Love the pictures! Thanks for sharing!


Katy June 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

True. But I’m not a big hot dog fan to begin with.



Karen June 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

I guess it depends on the dog. There are some better and definitely some worse!


Theresa Maile June 6, 2012 at 9:54 am

The pictures made me feel like I was there, learning about another culture while traveling. Thank you for sharing them. I enjoy reading your blog.


Katy June 6, 2012 at 10:00 am

Thank you!



Linda in Indiana June 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

So glad you shared all your wonderfuol adventures via pictures. I had been anxiously awaiting them! Super memories!!


betsyohs June 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I agree – the more pictures, the better! What an awesome-sounding trip. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you. 🙂


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary June 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Great photos! Thanks for sharing.

The middle school wardrobe sign: is it my imagination, or are the “what not to wear” kids blond, while the “properly dressed” kids are brunette? Not only are there gender roles to discuss, also ethnic and racial ones.


Indigo June 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Keep in mind that Japan is remarkably racially homogenous and that dying one’s hair blond and curling it is a part of gangoro, yamanba, and gal subcultures. These subcultures often focus on material excess, promiscuity, and snub concepts such as education. They are based off of a very skewed view of western culture derived largely form film and television. In a culture that focuses on the collective harmony rather than the individual and is constantly struggling with being modern and maintaining their cultural heritage, students who belong who belong to these subcultures are often viewed as problem students (some are, but like most things, not all). With young men the otaku subculture can be an issue where many young men neglect hygiene and struggle with socialization. These are very culture specific signs that address common problems in that culture.


Katy June 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

It’s kids who defiantly bleach their hair. A big no-no for Japanese middle school students.



Liz June 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the photos. It is a little like viewing a travel show, but with more cultural emphasis.


Jennifer June 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Great photos. Thanks for posting!


Rachel in Portland June 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

People used to make soap holders kind of like that out of old stockings–doubling the fun of using up, making do, and wearing out . In fact people still do this.


grace June 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm

This was fabulous, love reading about your adventures.

Also, I’m pretty sure I would like some hot dog sushi.


Katy June 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm

If you click on the picture, the hot dog sushi gets really big! 😉



Peggy June 6, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Thanks for the great pics and your thoughts. What a fascinating trip!


Sandra j June 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Great pictures! How did you and your family get so interested in Japan?


Sandra j June 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm

More pictures of everyday life would be great!


Jo H. June 6, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Loved the pictures and your comments – and if you’re inclined to post more of them, I vote “yes please” 🙂


Katy June 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Careful what you ask for!



Vicky June 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I thought these were great! Thank you for sharing, and I hope there is a part two to your essay!


Diane C June 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I do something similar but even easier with my soap. I buy a sleeve of something, usually garlic, in a fine mesh “sleeve” at the dollar store. I then fill the empty mesh sleeve with small hotel soap. I tie a slip knot in the top and hang it from the hook on the shower caddy. I haven’t bought soap in years. When I used to travel a lot, I would always pack out my opened bar of soap in a baggie as I couldn’t stand the waste. When I got home, I’d dry the bars out and stash them away until I needed to refill the bag. Donating used soap would be gross, but knowing that I’m the only one that used doesn’t bother me at all. The only time I buy a real bar of soap when I make laundry detergent.

P.S. Can never have too many pictures! Thanks for sharing.


Lily June 6, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Very nice pics 🙂

Hey, the Clooney commercial is on tv in Italy too. Thought it was international? “I imagined you to be more… ristretto.”


Lily June 7, 2012 at 1:18 am

Btw, why does Nespresso give uncorrect Italian names to his coffee blends? Volluto (it should be velluto = velvet), finezzo (finezza = finesse)… 😛


Lynda in the UK June 7, 2012 at 1:22 am

Looks like I’m the only one to comment on the washer front panel! It looks like it’s customisable in terms of water volume and wash time (and other things that I can’t translate!) And are those Braille characters? Wow.

So, were you surprised by the photographer or the most recent mouthful of food 🙂


Rachel Gillespie June 7, 2012 at 2:28 am

Thanks for sharing. I lived in Japan many years ago and your pictures brought back so many fond memories.


Abbe June 7, 2012 at 5:06 am

Katy, a friend did the soap trick for our homeschool field day recently since the park bathrooms didn’t have soap. She used the legs of old pantyhose, and just tied them to the faucets. Not nearly as attractive, but great in a pinch.


hmbalison June 7, 2012 at 6:59 am

I loved seeing your photos because they are the “typical” travel photos. You captured many interesting and unique details of your trip. Thank you.

I’m leaving on a month-long trip to Costa Rica in a few weeks, and you have inspired me to seek out the unusual and to go with an open mind–and heart.


Katy June 7, 2012 at 8:23 am

Did you mean “aren’t?” 🙂



hmbalison June 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Yes I did. They are not your typical travel shots.


Robin June 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

Thanks for sharing the photos Katy!

Cary, NC


Susan June 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Katy, fab pictures and interesting commentaries! Excellent!


Nancy from Mass June 8, 2012 at 6:42 am

LOVE the bathroom pictures!


Practical Parsimony June 9, 2012 at 12:11 am

There were not too many photos. I would enjoy more.


Felicity June 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Love the pictures and commentary! The school your son goes to sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing!


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