I love my PASMO card. It is my ticket for riding on the trains, subway and buses. And- they can be used to buy stuff at the vending machines. The kids think it is awesome they can flash their card in front of the machines and pick out what they want. The best thing about the Pasmo card is that I don't have to worry about buying the correct fare. The charts can be very confusing and not always in English. I don't even take it out of my wallet, I just flash my wallet over the machine at the gates and it beeps me through. Ok- I know that this is not really a big "miss" item- as I most likely will go back to commuting only by car when we get back stateside. I still think my PASMO card is cool.
Sushi-go-rounds. They are the bomb! And they don't just have sushi. They will have salads, vegetables, juices for the kids, and desserts! If you don't see what you want- they will make it for you right then and there. If you go during a slow time of the day there will not be much on the conveyer belt as they don't want to waste food- so you'll get everything made for you as you order it. My favorite is the salmon and young yellowtail. The tuna and scallops are also very tasty. They even have little egg omelets (tamago) that are served on a little lump of rice that I find quite tasty. They are kind of sweet and almost taste like a custard. I do not care for the "fishier" kind of fish like smelt and some other ones I don't remember the name of. At first I tried it all. Now I am a little more picky and can tell usually what to stay away from. The baby octopus is "interesting"- I would probably enjoy it more if it wasn't so dang chewy. I also didn't care for the pickled eggplant. But I do love fresh Japanese eggplant- it is most tasty when fried up tempura style. Did I mention dessert? They have the cutest little custard dishes with all kind of nummy fillings. My favorite is a coffee flavored custard with a dallop of cream on top. When you're all done you flag down a waiter or push the button at your table. All the plates are color coded- the waiter or waitress will count the plates and enter it all on their little hand held order pad machine. They hand you a ticket and you go to the counter to pay.
Oh- when you enter the restaurant the sushi chefs and the wait staff will often greet you enthusiastically in Japanese. When you leave they will do they same- except say goodbye and thank you. It's an awesome experience.
Grocery Stores! I highly recommend anyone visting Japan to take a little time to stroll through a grocery store. First of all- they are usually in a multiple floor building where you will find assorted stores and shops. My favorite store Maruetsu has a sushi-go-round upstairs- perfect for a nice cheap lunch. A lot of times you'll find dry cleaners, bakeries, clothing stores, drug stores and all sorts of other things all in one building. It is like the Japanese version of a Super-Walmart- except they are actually separate store/shops- so there isn't one big cashier line. In Maruetsu they have beautiful- I mean beautiful produce. When I finally get my DSLR I am headed there to take some photos. The meat and fish are beautiful too. I have never seen such fresh salmon- it is practically still moving. If you want a cheap lunch you can't beat the bento boxes. They have all kind of stuff from the traditional salted salmon to fried chicken and tempura. Honestly- Japan isn't all that expensive if you get out of the touristy areas and shop with the general population.
(From the Maruetsu website- I believe these are sweets made from mochi- a kind of sweetened rice that is pounded down into a kind of paste and then shaped into assorted shapes. I think it is definitely an "acquired" taste- very different than what we are used to.)
These are just a few of my favorites- stay tuned as I discover more things I love about Japan!