After about 10 years of wishing and waiting, I’m actually in Japan!! I’m here for 18 days before I fly to Hong Kong and I’m going to hold myself to writing a blog post every day of my trip because, let’s be honest, I’m terrible at writing posts in good time.
A short and sweet post to start off with today. Here are my musings after 24 hours in Japan: (I’ll take some photos tomorrow to add in, oops…).
1. The toilets are weird
I knew they’d be weird but honestly, nothing prepares you for seeing them in real life. I spent a solid few minutes laughing out loud to myself in an airport toilet because I couldn’t get over it all. (Jet-lag might have been a contributing factor to my hysteria). The phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ springs to mind. Too many buttons and control panels. I just need to pee. I’m not flying to the moon. And heated toilet seats are just plain wrong. I don’t want to sit on something that feels like someone else has previously been sitting on it for 30 minutes!
2. The politeness stereotype prevails
Customer service is exemplary. It’s lovely to be spoken to so gently and bowed to as if I’m royalty but I feel like I’m always one step away from saying something not polite enough in return and I feel somewhat responsible for their wellbeing! As in, if I asked some dangerous demand of them, I feel like some would consider following through all in the name of customer satisfaction. Between British and Japanese customer service, I feel like there’s Hong Kong: they efficiently find you what you need and hand you your change with both hands but they won’t crack a smile or say anything too friendly. That’s my happy middle ground. Job done without any bowing or overly familiar small talk.
3. Tokyo’s a capitalist dream
I’ve travelled on a fair number of metro systems around the world but my god, nothing comes close to Tokyo’s density of adverts. Not only are they all over the walls of metro trains, but they’re also hanging down from the train ceiling and playing on video loops. Too many jingles, too many colours and too many photos of creepily happy-looking people. (No one truly looks that happy selling insurance etc.). It’s a difficult task trying to locate the train line map amongst all the adverts, which brings me on to my next point…
4. Tokyo’s train system is a dyslexic’s nightmare
SO MANY bloody letters, colours, numbers, symbols, abbreviations, languages. I can’t begin to explain because my brain can’t compute. As above, I’ve managed to work my way through numerous metro systems but Tokyo almost has me beaten. I think whoever invented the metro mapping system was trying to be overly helpful. It embodies the Japanese spirit. In my humble opinion, the metro would benefit from a minimalist makeover.
5. Tokyo-ites (?) stand on the left of escalators
I’m a Londoner. Standing on the righthand side of escalators is permanently ingrained in me. It taking some active brain power to make my legs move down the righthand side. I encountered the same problem in Malaysia two years ago. I’ll get through it.
6. Washing your clothes with bleach is apparently an easy mistake to make
I tried to buy washing detergent and legitimately spent 10 minutes staring at the options, trying to decipher them (with a little help from google translate). I think it was only thanks to the shop keeper’s unwavering politeness that I wasn’t asked to leave. But it was also his lack of English skills and my lack of Japanese that left me in this conundrum. The internet wisely warned me that bottles of bleach and bottles of washing detergent are often stacked next to each other and have extremely similar packaging yet do very not-similar things to your clothes… (And no, I didn’t go with the easy option and pick the one simply marked with the English ‘laundry detergent’. It was a 7-11 own-brand one and I didn’t trust it’s cheapness not to destroy my beloved galaxy-print leggings!). At the checkout I pointed to the translation for ‘no bleach’ (thank you google), gestured to the bottle and looked quizzical. I got a thumbs up and a lot of spoken Japanese in return. It was the best I could hope for. I think I’ll just wash a single sock to start with…
7. A lot of back roads don’t have pavement.
Instead, there’s only a painted line marking an area for people to walk down and you’ve just got to trust drivers not to cross that line… It’s a little unnerving and takes some getting used to as trucks speed up behind you and you don’t have any pavement to safety jump onto!
Despite what you’ve just read, I’m liking Japan so far! It isn’t entirely what I expected but honestly, I had many preconceptions about Japan so I’m bound to be wrong about at least a few things.
Until tomorrow, sayonara!