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Everything A Tall Person Should Know Before Travelling Japan

When I hopped off the plane in Tokyo, I learned instantly that I am very much not like the others. Not only am I white, I also could be considered a walking building in comparison, towering over literally everyone in sight. To say I stood out would be a wild understatement.

I’m what professionals in the field of medicine call a behemoth. OK, not really, but standing at 194cm, I’m pretty bloody tall.

I quickly discovered that Japan isn’t exactly designed for beings of my stature, and I’m totally not salty about it. Why spend money on larger doorways and bigger beds when what already exists is more than appropriate for the humans of Japan?

If you, like me, are a clumsy giant who plans to travel Japan, I’d love it for you to learn from my mistakes and hey, possibly navigate the beautiful country with more grace and fewer head bruises.

Here’s how to navigate Japan when you’re six feet or taller.


Mind your head

In my short six-day stay in Japan, I bumped my head probably a hundred times – I’m not kidding. Prepare to duck and weave to avoid the top of door frames, low ceilings, fans, odd pieces of timber, and whatever else might act as an obstacle.

Basically, just be aware of your surroundings.

 

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Of course, all these things are easily avoidable for average-sized humans. Save yourself the bruises, and the embarrassment of being giggled at by Japanese school girls (that hurt the most) by minding your head.


Some things just won’t work for you, but that’s OK

We were staying deep in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture at a beautiful inn where, upon arrival, we were given a kimono to wear around to dinner, or to the onsen.

This place was legit. I’m talking traditional Japanese futons, different slippers for each room, no sight of any sign showing an English translation – the real deal.

 

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Dinner time rolled around, and I stared at the kimono neatly folded in my cupboard just knowing it and I weren’t going to be mates. After a quick YouTube tutorial on how to tie a kimono, I managed to get it on my body and boy oh boy, it was inappropriate.

I was showing a lot of leg. I mean, a lot.

After a quick chat with our tour guide, I was assured I could wear jeans to dinner and I had never been more relieved in my life. Moral to the story is that some things won’t fit, so be prepared to improvise.


Remember to stretch your legs

Don’t enjoy leg cramps? It’ll be worth your while to limber up before dinner.

A lot of Japanese homes and restaurants use what is called a Chabudai – a short-legged table that range in height from just 15 to 30cm. There are no chairs, and you’re expected to sit cross-legged.

 

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Now all of our meals were a performance. Several delicious courses, which would sometimes last hours. When you’re in a foreign land you endure the pressures of attempting not to commit any embarrassing faux pas and being on your most polite behaviour. I’m here to report that there’s nothing that kills your vibe more than a cramp in the hamstring.

What do you do? You don’t want to get up, you can’t stretch out and kick your dining buddy opposite you. In my case, I excused myself to the bathroom, limped away and tried not to scream out in pain.

The food was worth a thousand leg cramps though, I will add.


Prepare to be gawked at

When you’re tall as hell people will look, so I’d suggest just leaning into it. Some will ask to take a photo with you, others will point – just take this moment to live out your best celebrity fantasy and feel like a movie star

 

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Is this the inspiration behind Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’? Probably.

Look, travelling Japan as a tall person has its challenges, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Japan is a beautiful, beautiful country and I’d still encourage you to visit if you were 12-feet tall. Maybe see if you can get an exit row though, if that’s the case.

(Lead image: Writer’s own, supplied)