I wrote this last year after we had evacuated and just found it on my computer. I'm sure there is more I meant to write, but this is a good start.
The people are so flipping nice - ex. when you are lost they take you to where you need to go. A girlfriend of mine had driven her four children to Narita Airport so they could be flown to safety after the earthquake. On her way home she got terribly lost due to road closures & detours. She had pulled her van over on the shoulder and was just sitting there crying. (To get lost on the huge highways around Tokyo is no joke, if you don't read Japanese). There is a knock on her window and a cyclist is motioning for her to open her door. He gets in, puts his bike in the van, and then drives her through the detours! Now in the states you would never let a stranger in your car, but in Japan it's different.
You don't have to take your shoes off at airport security and they let you walk your stroller through with out collapsing it. May not sound like a big deal but when you are traveling alone with 3 small kids, trust me it is HUGE. Sippy cups - no problem.
Sakura season - fleeting and beautiful
Izakayas - pub type of restaurants where you order appetizers that the whole table shares. You can usually add on drink-all-you-want for an extra $15 bucks or so. Not only that but some either have screens that you order from or a waitress call button at your table. It's brilliant. No more "How are you doing? Can I get you anything? Do you need more water?" interruptions. You press the button when you want something and they come.
It's safe. Kids run pretty much freely there. Our American kids stick out like sore thumbs making them easy to find in a crowd. We are having some issues with running amok in public now that we are in the States.
The trains - precise to the minute and insanely clean. During winter on some cars the seats are heated. They are super quiet though, which is hard when you are with loud American children.
Which brings me to heated toilet seats! I can do with out the spouting water device, but I love the heated seats on a cold day.
Onsens - public hot tubs as entertainment. I already miss this.
People don't steal there - at the post office they keep reading glasses on the counter and they aren't chained down or have a plastic flower taped to them. Same goes with phone books in pay phones. At truck stops the women's room and perhaps the men's have small kid potty seats hanging on the wall for newbies!
Truth be told, Japanese desserts usually look way better than they taste. Except for these mini-chocolate croissants. I do miss Choco Cro.
The strawberries. I don't know what they do to these, but wow are they amazing. Look at little bald, glowing-white Anders.
Food on sticks. Not necessarily baby ocotupuses.
The food. Bento dinners for Brad and I, nasty little hot dog things for Jude, gyoza for Lucien, onigiri (the little triangle things are rice with a surpise in the middle like tuna fish wrapped in seaweed) for Anders and Lucien, cucumber yogurt for Anders and Sakura Kit Kats for everyone.
Weird stuff to eat and drink. This is Grape Fanta with bits of jelly. Makes me want to puke just thinking about it.
Matsuri - summer festival involving street food and a parade that is usually quite lively and a bit drunken.
Sushi go arounds/kaiten sushi/conveyor belt sushi - to be able to sit down and immediately start eating without having to order is awesome especially when you are forced to eat with small children. Super yummy and cheap too.
Depaato stores aka. malls - Some are kind of wonky but almost all have a grocery store in the basement. This is so smart. Why in the world is this not done in America?
100 yen stores - dollar stores but with good stuff.
Kimono - how amazing that the dress your great-great grandmother wore to her wedding is still in style.
No shoes inside. Love this. We never completely got the hang of it, although we tried. Kids were great about taking shoes off at the door, but then would run around barefoot and come back inside. Japanese people would have another pair of slippers for the backyard etc so that outside dirt is never tracked inside. Our old house had slippers just for going on the porch and for the bathroom.