Why Japan is the best place to celebrate your birthday?

I just turned 28 years old this year on September 1st. Japan—Sagamiono specifically—has been my home for the past 5 years and 7 months now. It’s also the place in which I have celebrated my birthdays for the 6th time. Every year is new year and there have been countless ways on how my friends here commemorate my natal day. Here are 6 reasons why I think it’s awesome celebrating your birthday in Japan:

#1 Your closest friends and/or colleagues organize a (surprise) party for you. 
Back in the Philippines, I would be daunted celebrating my birthday because it meant spending heaps of money because friends and family (a lot of times) expect the birthday celebrator to have a party at his/her home or a birthday treat at a bar or at a restaurant. I don’t think it is a bad thing but since I started working and making my own money, I didn’t feel like spending half of my salary for just a day of celebration. My parents would hold parties for me and my two brothers every year for our birthdays when we were children. They were some of my fondest memories. However, being in charge of throwing my own party felt more like a pressure rather than a pleasure. On the contrary, here in Japan, my friends and bosses organize parties for me. My boss and his wife buy me my favorite cake. They reserve a dinner or lunch date on my birthday at a restaurant. They also plan an outing the coming weekend. We go driving to a hot spring and stay there for a night; or we go to an amusement park such as Disney or Universal Studios. My friends and of course Teacher Marilou, go through all the trouble to make me feel special on my birthday. This is why I always look forward to it every year.

#2 Japanese people greet you, “Congratulations!” on your birthday. For me personally, being greeted ‘congratulations’ on my birthday feels a little strange. Do they mean, “congratulations for making it this far”? As far as I know, there has been no epidemic or famine or war that’s happening. Kidding aside, probably I should look at birthdays more differently. Let’s congratulate birthday celebrants because the past year wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We had difficult days too, and we came through. I am delighted to be congratulated on my birthday!

#3 Tokyo Tower gives you free cake! This didn’t happen on my birthday but on Teacher Marilou’s birthday. Every year, I love bringing Teacher Marilou to a place where we can see a beautiful night view. Two years ago, her birthday was on a Thursday which is our day off, I brought her to Tokyo Tower. And then, I saw an ad saying that birthday celebrants who visit the tower get a free cake and also a free service charge coupon to the Prince Park Tower Tokyo Sky Lounge. We went there afterwards to have dinner overlooking the brilliant bright orange glow of Tokyo Tower. There are also other places that give freebies to birthday celebrants everywhere so be sure to google them if you want to celebrate the day differently than last year. 

#4 The presents. People in Japan, Japanese and foreigners, are very generous. I am always surprised by how much trouble my Japanese students and my foreign friends go through just to find me the best birthday present. They always try to remember my favorite cartoon characters, food, scent, etc. so they can get them for me on my birthday. I am deeply grateful for every single present I receive.

#5 Handmade or handwritten greeting cards. Many of my students, from youngest to oldest, write me these adorable greeting cards with their personal message in them. I don’t think there’s anything sweeter than a personalized card or a letter. I feel very much appreciated when I read my students’ warm messages.

#6 You’re in Japan. I am thankful to Japan for the gift of great friends and meaningful experiences. As the years go by, I feel more and more sure that people need me here and that I was brought here to serve my students and to influence people’s lives in a positive way. I hope I can do it for as long as I can and I hope to create a bigger impact to more people in the coming future. 

It has been a great year with all of you and please stay with me for many more!