April 26, 2012

Why I love Japan

I did not expect to love Japan. I thought it would be interesting but really I thought I'd begrudge how expensive everything was and wish we'd spent more time in China where it's cheap. Oh how I was wrong. Tokyo made my top 5 cities, easily. A few of the things that stole my heart:

The subway system. It is amazing. It is incredibly complex (four different subway systems with interconnecting lines) yet it is so well-thought out that it is the first subway system I've ever figured out. A few of the great things: when you are trying to decide which direction of the train to get on they give you lots of info. Not just the last stop of the line, but three major stops in the direction it is headed. Very helpful. When you get to the platform there are markings indicating where the doors will be when the train stops, and if those doors are at the front, middle or back of the car. Then, get this, people line up and WAIT for everyone to get off before they try to enter the train. It is organized chaos in its finest. Once on the train there are monitors with all kinds of useful info--where you are, where you are headed, what transfers are approaching. And my favorite: at stops you always know where you are. There are tons of signs posted so you can always see them, no matter where you are sitting. And as a short person bonus, the hanging handrails come in varying lengths. You pay with a credit card of sorts that you wave over the exit and you only pay for how far you travel. Love, love, love.

people waiting for the departing passengers to exit before they enter the subway car

If you have to take a cab, never fear. There are sparkling white lace seat covers, so you know feel like it's clean.

The people are amazingly helpful. One morning at breakfast I got an apple from the buffet. A waiter noticed I hadn't eaten it and asked if I wanted it sliced. Sure. I forgot about it and got up before he came back. He saw me leave and was mortified that the apple wasn't ready. A team of three literally raced around before handing me a sliced, peeled and packaged apple. Complete with fork and napkin. Then apologized profusely for making me wait. The next night the waiter literally fell to his knees and covered his face when told us they were out of the apple strudel.  (We do realize that we may have been experiencing the Westin and not Tokyo. But still.) A different time, while loitering in Patagonia waiting for Ryan, the salesman proffered me a drink and a seat. He chatted it up with me and asked about the snow report in Utah.

The toilets. They warm. They wash. They dry. They play a fan or a flushing noise or music so no one can hear you doing your biz. I want one. On the flip side the only thing I hated about Japan was the Japanese style squat toilets. I think there might be something wrong with me (perhaps anatomically?) because I could never figure them out. Which way do you face and how do you squat so you don't get pee on your shoes? Someone tell me, please!

If people have a cold they wear a mask. I bet Pediatrician's don't do as well they do in the States.

The order.  Everything is spelled out. When you go up or down stairs there are up and down arrows to let you know if you should be on the right or the left. On the escalators EVERYONE stands on the left so those walking have room on the right. If you are with someone you stand in front of them, not next to them, so others can pass. And there are no dogs left unattended. I saw a sign at the park: 'Do not let your dog play here. Children eat their lunch here. Thank you.'

It is clean. I don't know how because I honestly NEVER saw a garbage can on the street (I kept all my trash in my pockets). And the air felt so so clear after Beijing.

Oh, Tokyo. If you weren't so darn expensive I might move.


Lauren said...

Looks like a wonderful trip. Glad it all worked out so you could go.

packermom said...

I love all these pics from your trip. Almost makes me want to go to Japan. Almost.