Nuances of Japan
One of the best parts about Japan was being immersed in a culture so completely different from our own. It was frustrating to know how reliant we were on people speaking English, but between pointing and saying ‘Arigato Gozimas’ (thank you) many many times in a day, I think we made out ok. As we head on to our next destination, I’ll really miss the things I’’ve come to love & expect from Japan:
Cleanliness: Everything in Japan is SO clean. Subway station and cars, the streets & sidewalks, bathrooms. But the weirdest part was there were NO garbage cans! We were often left carrying our trash for blocks at a time or even just stowing it away in my bag to dispose later. Seems counter intuitive, but I guess it works?
Toilets: Alll of the toilets are heated. At first this seems odd and gross, but I came to love it. Maybe because I was often so cold. Second, they all have bidets and ‘showers’ - even ones in subway stations. These I did not use, but was funny to note. Third, they all either have sound playing in the stall or start to play a sound (usually like running water) as soon as you sit down. So great for those of us with shy bladders.
No clear side of the street/stairs to walk on: After 2+ weeks of LOTS of walking throughout Japan, I have no idea which is the appropriate side of the sidewalk to walk on. This was particularly frustrating, if not confusing, given how orderly everything else in the country is (see #6 below). Cars drive on the left side of the road, but certain staircases would clearly indicate that you should be walking on the right, but later switch to the left. If someone knows the answer to this, please let me know.
Biking on sidewalks: this was actually REALLY annoying. Also because of the point above. Walking was essentially a video game on its own. Dodging people, bikes, strolers, cars, etc. (JK not cars, people don’t cross the street at crosswalks until there is a green light, even if there are very visibly no cars coming).
No napkins. This was also really odd to us. What we realized though, is that as in most Japanese restaurant at home where you receive a warm cloth towel before a meal, they do the same (or similar with a small wet towel, often disposable) here. However, rather than it just being a pre-meal thing it serves as your napkin throughout.
Orderliness. Even amidst the chaos, specifically in Tokyo, everything always felt so organized. People wait in very clear lines before boarding a train. They wait on street corners for the very long lights to switch. It’s impossible to imagine something like that happening in NYC.
And of course, just as we’re getting used to it all, it’s time for the next spot!