For those that haven't heard, I'm moving back to the US in May. Though basically I'm returning because I would have a hard time sponsoring myself to renew my visa, really I feel it's about time to get back and reconnect with friends and family, and so I'm looking forward to my return. On the other hand, I've been here almost four years and I have grown pretty comfortable. There are tradeoffs.
Thinking about leaving, often the first things that come to mind are the things I won't miss. There's no doubt Japan is very different from the US, and the differences can begin to grate, especially on a bad day. There will definitely be things I'll be happy to leave behind. And if you had asked me about a year ago (I don't really know why, but I was pretty burnt out on Japan at the time), I'd have given you a nice lengthy list. Somehow, though, my attitude has mellowed a bit over the past year.
I remember before I came here I read for hours on end the complaints and gripes expatriates had about Japan on various online forums. I knew a bit about Japan even then, so I took some of it with a grain of salt. Still, it did make me a bit apprehensive, and some people held a vehement hatred for Japan and Japanese, a kind of violent racism that I feared might grow in me.
Of course, the greater part of this fear and animosity was due to the ignorance and/or arrogance of the posters on those forums (and the forums are infamous for their nastiness). My experience has shown me that your reaction to a cultural difference is often a choice rather than ingrained, and so it sometimes is possible to accept the culturally alien worst and learn from, or at least have respect for, the culturally alien best.
In any case, I am leaving Japan amicably, and there are things I will miss about the country. As a sort of remembrance of my time here, I wanted to share some of the things I found here that I will find hard to replace in the US. So I've got a bit over 20 things I've come up with that I thought I'd write about over the next few weeks before my return. Many of them I've written about before in other contexts, but this will give me a chance to gather together some general thoughts about these subjects in particular.
Note that these are not directly criticisms of the US or any other country, though some of them are things I would like to see happen in the US. Most of them, though, are just pleasant things that I've found here. Hopefully it will be different from what people normally hear about Japan (there's no entry for the panty-dispensing vending machines everyone always talks about, for example), so that readers might find something new that interests them.