Experiencing the "Cool Japan"

“Cool Japan” is the term/project that Japanese government launched several years ago, to funding Japanese Businesses to promote their products and services to overseas.

I personally feel uncomfortable about the salf-proclaimed “Cool” thing. And I also don’t like the fact that bureaucrats (who are generally not really a "cool" people) decides which Japanese products and cultures are cool to non-Japanese people.

However the concept of it interests me as Japanese expat lives in outside of Japan, to think about what is really cool about my country.

Me and my family got short holiday to Japan in May 2016, and I want to share my thoughts on what was cool while we were staying in Japan.


The main reason of this trip to Japan was to show our 5 months old baby boy to mine and my wife’s parents.
Another big event (for my wife) was to take our boy to professional photo studio to have some nice pictures.

In Dubai, my wife cuts my hair because I usually do not care much about how my hair looks like, and my wife’s ability to cut is more than acceptable.
However this time I had to go to haircut because my wife want me to be perfect dad on the pictures taken by professional photographer.

So we went to one of unisex hair salon in Fukuoka city.

In general, Japanese hairdresser’s technique is superb. And quite cheap too.
We paid about US 72 dollars for us got haircuts as well as our baby was taking care of by salon’s designated nursery for one and half hours.

In Dubai, my wife pays more than that only for her haircut, and constantly complaining about the results.

It is definitely good to experience that when you visit Japan. Though I will recommend you to bring the picture of hairstyle you want, because normal Japanese hairdresser will not speak English very well.

By the way, Fukuoka is a nice city. The population of about 1.5 million, It’s big enough to enjoy many activities but not too busy and crowded like Tokyo.

Fukuoka, Japan 

Everything is generally cheaper in Kyushu Island where Fukuoka City locates. You will not be discriminated by your Tokyo accents in Fukuoka, unlike Osaka (half joking).

Also it has it’s own food culture, like "Tonkotsu Ramen" which is pork bone based noodle soup. Big no-no in muslim countries like Dubai.

Anyway, the photo session in the professional studio was quite reasonably priced too. It was about one third or quarter of the prices we expect in Dubai.


Pair of Glasses in 30 minuets

We went to eyewear store called “JINS”, which is considered “UNIQLO” of the eyeglass retailers.
Nothing flashy, OK quality and cheap. Sounds pretty much like Japanese mentality during the lost decades

Usually making pair of glasses, it will take 2-3 days after you visit the store everywhere in the world, I assume.
This company in Japan, it’s not the case. If they have the stock of lenses fit to your eye, they will finish the pair of glasses only in 30 minutes! My wife even got eye test there, and entire shopping process was within one hour.

After choosing our flames, we looked around other shops for about 25 minutes and came back. Glasses are almost ready. We wait for several minutes, and its done.

I couldn't believe it was so fast.
However the store clerk actually apologized for kept us waiting for a couple of minutes!
Don’t worry mate. No other shops in the world could get a job done in 30 minuets.

That attitude simply shows what Japanese people is like, albeit that maybe just a formality.

Toyota Prius

My hometown is Okaya, Nagano, which is located 200km west from Tokyo.
We visit both Fukuoka and Okaya every time we go to Japan. And we usually take Bus or Train from Tokyo, or use airplane between Fukuoka and Matsumoto airport where is very close to Okaya.

This time, we rented a Toyota Prius and drove from Haneda (Tokyo International) Airport to my home town.
Because we have 5 months old baby, It is a lot easier to use a car instead of public transportations.

I usually drive Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Dubai. Nice design, fan to drive, not sufficient in many aspects and you don’t talk about reliability.

A complete opposite is Prius. Although both cars are sold as "family car”, Prius is super efficient, dull looking, not fun to drive, and super reliable.

Sounds like a Italian men vs. Japanese men, isn’t it?

OK. Lets talk about Prius.

The car I rented was 2016 (4th generation) model with 1.8L engine with the electric motor.
I honestly don't like this design...

Toyota Prius

Particular area of the car design is a bit too much to my taste.

However After 5 days of driving it, I was very impressed.
Why? I drove just over 500km, up and downs, 0m above sea level to 1000m. And the gas consumption in entire trip was this;

What a sufficient car this is. The technology Toyota offers is just amazing.

Although Prius is not by any means a powerful car, it has enough power to drive narrow and slow Japanese road and highways. If you consider higher gas prices in Japan, this is definitely the car you want.

Nissan/Prince Skyline Museum

Talking about a car, there is the museum specialized for Nissan Skyline (and some Gloria) in Okaya.


I did not know such place is exist in my home town. And this place is probably the most visited place by foreigners in entire Okaya City.

Here are some pictures for Skyline enthusiast.

Nissan/Prince Skyline Museum in Okaya, Japan

Nissan/Prince Skyline Museum in Okaya, Japan

Nissan/Prince Skyline Museum in Okaya, Japan

The view from the museum is also nice.

yamabiko park in Okaya, Japan

Japanese countrysides are becoming more like American countrysides

This is not cool at all.

My hometown is kind of a dull countryside city of 100,000 population include direct neighbouring cities, Shimosuwa and Suwa. But it has a great scene of greens and water.

The city used be well known for the silk industry (early 20th century). After that city’s industry made transition to precision machine and instruments like camera and watches. It used be a home ground of Epson and Yashika Camera. The city also had Olympus factory, but now many of them are gone.

Because of the ageing population and initiative to enhance the large companies by Japanese government (even though government is not saying that), many small businesses in small cities like Okaya are now all gone.

I feel a bit of nostalgia.
Because my childhood house was located in the centre of commercial area, I had neighbour friends who are sons of cosmetics store, cake shop, toy store, Japanese tea shop, camera store, chinaware store, electrical appliances store, and so on. They are all family owned businesses.

All those businesses are gone.

Once you drive through major road, all the shops and restaurants are replaced by the all major names owned by large companies. It is exactly like there is nothing but McDonald’s and KFC in American countryside.
Locals are employed by large companies in cheap wages and community is just losing innovation and economic momentum. The large companies getting richer everyday while many Japanese people are getting poorer and some are even struggling to live a life.

I honestly do not like the direction of the Japanese rural area are heading.
But maybe that is just the way it is in today's free market system in the developed countries.

・フォローして頂けますと嬉しいです。(フォローバック100%): @hiroshiyamaoka