So as my flight home draws nearer I thought I’d collect my thoughts about Japan. Quite amusingly my co-worker James Fryman, who has been living in the Philippines for the past couple of months, is flying home today (Friday) and wrote a very similar post on his blog regarding the Philippines. He has, of course, spent plenty more time in that country that I have in Japan. Also, I did not steal the idea from him – I had it completely independently yesterday, before his post… I was just too lazy to write it!
So I’ll miss:
- The sheer convenience of Tokyo – there is a restaurant, commonly 5, in nearly every building you pass when you’re on a large street. You can find any cuisine your heart desires – French, German, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and the many different varieties of Japanese.
- The availability of fantastic fish. Fish, of course, is a staple of the Japanese diet and you can find it at every meal. (A traditional Japanese breakfast has fish and miso soup!) The quality is great, thanks to the proximity to the source.
- The sounds of the elevators. Yeah… it’s an odd thing, but it’s something unique and pleasant. The tone is gentle and usually demonstrates as to whether or not the elevator is going up or down. The story I tell myself is that they make the tone nice because you’re always going to encounter elevators in your normal day, if not a half dozen of them.
- The up / down tone reminds me of something else. Not something that I’ll miss, but something I’ve observed: they are phenomenally friendly to the low-vision population. The major sidewalks and all of the subways have completely connected paths that indicate where you walk and where you have exits. 3 lines for walking, a tile of “dots” for stopping. Again, the story I tell myself here is that they’ve got an older population that is more likely to have vision problems.
- The public transportation system. Granted, I’ve not been on a bus during my trip, but the rail system has been a delight. Without the internet it would have been a bit of a nightmare, but I had a solid connection that could carry me to the websites that explain how to get from A to B via 3 or 4 different options, sorted by cost, time or number of transfers.
- The turnstiles were nice, efficient electronic payment systems complete with a proximity card ("PassMo”) that you just wave near the pad and walk right through.
- The timetables were adhered to with a fervor – you rarely find a train running off schedule, except for, apparently, the last train of the night.
- One small negative – the last train is at midnight(ish). I haven’t had to take that train, but it does make you plan well if you’re going out at night.
I won’t miss:
- Not knowing enough of the language to make a dent in my daily activities. The Japanese are a friendly group, but they’ll keep talking to you in Japanese despite the completely blank look on your face that would generally indicate you have no clue what is going on. I’ve tried to consider how I’d act in their place.. and I’d probably do the same.
- I’ve been told lots of Japanese people know English and might relish an opportunity to use it… that said, when I’ve asked someone to switch I continued to struggle because of the accent. Given more time I’m sure my ear would learn to discern, but within 2 weeks it didn’t happen.
- The expensive nature of Tokyo. It’s pricey here… plain and simple. Combine that with a historically low exchange rate and it hurts. Granted, most of my expenses are charged to the company, but I still want to remain reasonable. On top of that it impacts my personal spending capabilities as well.
There is more, but my writing (and thought process) has been interrupted…