Brings me to the end of yet another fabulous (for me – hopefully fun for you) travel adventure with my cameras and my hubby – singular, that would be bigamy and biga him too.
Japan has left impressions, as does any country, but in mostly good ways:
Hospitality and kindness; from the evening we arrived when we were escorted to our hotel by a kind stranger who realised we were lost, to the minute the smiling bus station attendants relieved us of our bags for our last departure, I have been struck by the gentle courtesy of this culture. Nothing seems too much trouble, and I find it hard to think of my fellow Aussies extending this kind of graciousness to tourists.
Efficiency: the shinkansens stop within centimeters of the place they are meant to, the bag concierge service from hotel to hotel, finding a left-behind new iphone within 30 minutes of a train arriving and leaving, travelling between locations 700 kilometers apart in only a few hours.
Aesthetics: meals served next to a zen garden on your table, meals assembled with delicacy and beauty in different lacquer bowls, gardens that speak of the care that tends them, cafes with just one beautiful object to add that touch.
Respect: Bowing to trains when they arrive in the station, “thanks for visiting our store” pealing out if you go to any shop, “thank you very much” following you when you leave, standing aside to let alighting passengers out first.
Honesty and integrity: asking you to put your change on the counter and the sales person taking only the right amount while looking at you carefully to make sure you don’t think you’ve been cheated, a young waitress chasing me down the street to return the $6 pair of reading glasses I left on the table, putting the right amount of money into the black box on the bus and getting off, knowing you’ve put in the right amount.
Friendliness: on the occasions we had to interact with our hosts multiple times, I have been struck by the gentle friendliness: sharing my photos with one hotel owner, she presented me with a hand made card, being invited to a multi-lingual party at our guest house in Kanazawa. Genuine friendly greetings as opposed to the “Have a nice day” accompanied by a plastered-on smile; their service comes with genuine care, and you don’t tip – that would be the highest insult.
It all seems a world away from what I have experienced elsewhere; countries where the national past-time seems to be to develop elaborate schemes to rob you, countries where people are so paranoid they feel like they have to carry guns, where you get an uncomfortable feeling walking down dark roads. Oh, I’m sure Japan has its own share of deceit and crime, but the overwhelming feelings I am left with after visiting, are of comfort and safety and welcome – gemütlichkeit as the Germans would say.
I heartily recommend it to you, and hope that the Japanese can hold on to all these delightful aspects of their culture. It makes me vow to be a better host to tourists in my own country instead of cursing that they are in my way.
So, dear reader – if you’re still with me, please let me know how you found travelling in Japan, with or without me. I’d love your take on this interesting country.