Tuesday, 28 April 2015

J Days Reflections (1)…

Convenience Stores & Slippers

We are home and just about over the jet lag which lasted much longer than I was expecting. My sleep patterns simply refuse to slide back into place. By 4pm (midnight Japanese time) I am exhausted, and by 8pm I literally cannot stay awake! At 4am I am wide awake and ready to face a world, which for the most part (at least around me) is still asleep! When we finally get to France this will be 5am.


Trees are pruned like this all over Japan.

To round off our trip I thought that I would reflect on  some of our experiences and illustrate the post with some of the photographs which didn’t reach the blog. Whilst blogging ‘on the run’ the only photographs I had available were those taken on my Ipad, which didn’t always reflect the stunning scenery.


Decor in and around a local restaurant.




Japan has an extensive network of convenience stores. Just in Tom’s very small town/village there are about six, the biggest of which are the Family Mart, The Co-op, and the 7/11. There is also a small supermarket and 100Yen shop. This is repeated a few km away, in the next village.

I remember when growing up (over 50 years ago) on the edge of a small valleys town that almost every street would have a small shop. These were very expensive, but saved the bus journey or walk into town.

In my experience in the UK convenience stores have tended to be significantly more expensive than a supermarket, but win out in that they are…convenient.In recent years the large supermarket chains have opened smaller satellite stores.


In Japan the convenience stores didn’t seem to be very much more expensive, and had an excellent range of fresh food. The convenience store is also the home to ATM’s, photocopying facilities and a refuge for lost or scared children, or indeed adults. The idea is that someone in distress goes there and they undertake to look after the person and alert the police or some other agency.

Although in the Japanese supermarket the range is obviously bigger it isn’t necessarily cheaper, and in some cases are more expensive.

In Japan the wearing of indoor shoes or slippers is culturally very important, and in keeping with tradition we obviously fitted in with this. Japan is a very formal society and in most Japanese homes and schools (and Tom’s is no exception) there is an entrance with a larger than usual step up into the hallway. All outside shoes are left at this lower level and slippers, or at a pinch just socks are worn in the house and particularly on any tatami mats. In the traditional Japanese ryokan hotels this was also the case and slippers were provided to wear inside the hotel and not just in the bedrooms. At Tom’s schools slippers or indoor shoes were necessary and there were even outside areas which were deemed ‘inside’ for slipper wearing purposes!

To add to this a different set of slippers are provided for people to change into as they enter toilet areas, which are deemed unclean, although in our experience every toilet we used was spotlessly clean! Just after he arrived a female Japanese friend visited Tom and informed him that she wouldn’t be able to use the toilet unless separate slippers were available.

He bought slippers…


  1. The jet lag is nasty from the far east. It usually takes me 5 days to fully recover. An afternoon nap is usually quite helpful.
    I loved the 7/11's in Tokyo too... wasn't aware of the prices but it makes more sense than here where I only use local convenience stores if I have to as I know that I'm going to pay a premium. The slipper thing is rather nice (and practical) I think although they never seemed to have large enough ones for our big western feet!

    1. We use slippers at home but don't expect others to. You're right about the sizes. Tim and Tom had no hope of finding them to fit and I used a large... for men at size 7!!

  2. It sounds like you had a great time. Interesting the slipper stories. We are off on holiday on Monday for 10 days, I find blogging from my nexus very difficult so there may only be the odd photo and I cannot get into html from the nexus at all. You did well with the IPad. Keep well and safe trip back to France. Diane

  3. Interesting post Gaynor...
    quite a difference...
    especially in slipper culture.
    We do "slipper" culture here...
    but only 'twixt upstairs and down.
    We are still debating what to do with the stairs...
    seeing as we have two cats!!

    And 5AM.... no problem... you can listen to the wonderful dawn chorus we've got in the valley at the moment!!
    Starts just before five....

  4. Having experience jet lag a large number of times over the last 35 or so years, all I can say is "dont' fight it". It will eventually disappear. It has always taken me at least 2 weeks on my return from Australia is start fitting into local time again.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I think I'm back to normal now, but as you said it took a couple of weeks. I didn't find it as difficult travelling from the UK to Japan.

  5. I have never been far away enough to have jet lag but can imagine it must be very unsettling. Love those photos from around the restaurant - so very different compared to western style.
    I'm somewhat informal and would find it rather frustrating to have to remember to change into and out of the right slippers...especially if I was on my way to the loo! And yes, I guess Japanese feet are much smaller than many of today's European and American feet. My own are not too big but my nephew's feet are enormous!! Axxx

    1. I took a few pairs of the cheap slippers you are given at hotels. However I must admit that there was the odd occasion when I went back into Tom's house to pick up something I'd forgotten when I 'forgot'. Even more difficult was that you don't step on to the lower level in slippers or socks to put your shoes on!! For obvious reasons we changed our socks whenever we went out. You never knew when you'd need to take shoes off.

  6. Thanks for sharing the info about the slippers. Its amazing the cultural importance that slippers hold in Japan, an item we don't think about to much here. You will have wonderful memories to remember, in years to come x

    1. The memories will hopefully remain with us, although we hope to pick up many more along the way. x

  7. The last time I flew long distance I was totally wiped out for days and like a zombie at work for a couple of weeks.
    I think of this when people have to travel long distances for work and are expected to perform and look their best the minute they get off the plane. Even if you travel business class and can get some sleep, the time difference is still exhausting.

    1. You are right there. Tim said that the shine very quickly wore off travelling for business reasons. We were surprised at the number of families with a few children flying business class!