So, as I was saying during my last entry, considering that Japan has so much that is different to what I’m accustomed to, I figured that this needed a second article. Because the longer I live here, the more things I discover and I simply can’t help but write about it.
I’m sure this is no secret but Japan is full of vending machines. It is physically impossible to walk down a residential or communal street corner and not come across some manner of watering hole where for a couple hundred yen, you can grab yourself a quick pick me up on your way to work or what have you. I’m not sure why they’re so prevalent but I reckon it must come in handy during those hot humid summers when you’re gasping for a drink but don’t quite want to make the trek all the way to your local convenience store. Heck, there’s actually a machine downstairs not one minute from my front door so if you ever fancy something quick to wet your whistle, fret not – Japan has got you covered.
|I kid you not; this is exactly what it looks like coming home from work|
It’s contagious. Heck, I even noticed it before leaving the UK, but in Japan, the mobile phone is a necessity. And even I’m walking down the street at night with my nose in my phone. The iPhone and the Android are the way forward and even though we know that some big wig will come up with the next popularity boom sooner or later, people simply can’t help themselves. And with so many handy little applications, there’s something for everyone. I constantly see people using the internet, playing games, watching movies or listening to music. The mobile phone is no longer a source of communication for people; it’s a mini entertainment system in your hand. It’s also, a language translator, a shop and a GPS all in one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve managed to find my way when I’ve been lost. 4G is the way forward. And I’m already aware that it’s hit the west too in full force. So join the epidemic! It’s catching.
There have been many a time that I’ve discovered something about Japan that does exist in the UK that has made me exhale in pure ecstasy. And I know what you’re thinking so please take your head out of the gutter because I’m talking about how systematically clever things seem to be here; things that often make me think – why don’t we have those in the UK. My first discovery was how Japanese train carriages are almost always warm in the winter. I can’t tell you how pleasant it is to step out of the blistering cold and to park myself in a booth where there’s a heater underneath ready to warm up my tush. (I look forward to the summer when the trains will then sport air con; no more sweltering hot underground trains for me) Not to mention that more often than not, these seats are moveable meaning that you can angle the seat back into the designated direction of travel as and how you please. Trains aside though, even western-style public toilets are convenient from its seat warming properties to their in-cubicle sanitisers meaning that you can sanitise the seat before you do your business; no need for squatting here (unless you’re find yourself face to face with a Japanese style toilet but that’s another story).
Where I’m from, a large department store like Debenhams or a Shopping Centre like Westfields with have multiple floors containing different shops, stalls and what have you trying to sell their wares on to the consuming public. What I’ve noticed about being in Japan however is that while this notion exists, shopping aside, multiple businesses will use the same address to sell slightly different services. All they have to do is pick a floor. For example, the ground floor (or the first floor as it’s known here) could contain a restaurant of some kind, but subsequent floors right the way up to sixth or seventh will contain karaoke bars, night clubs, eikaiwa and all manner of industry depending on where you look. And certainly, this does exist in the UK. I’ve worked in a training office where directly above me was a law firm, but in Japan, it seems that even their night life adopts this manner and I reckon it’s because everything here is much smaller and compact. Therefore, if you wanted, you could check out the jewellery shop on the ground floor and then after hours head up to that karaoke place on the third floor, have a meal on a fifth floor, grab some drinks at the pub on the fourth and then head down to the basement to dance the night away at a basement rave. Who says you need to travel from A to B to have a good time.
Remember that thing that I mentioned about politeness in an earlier article? Well it doesn’t just extend to verbal pleasantries but also to manner as well. For example, it’s sort of an unwritten rule here to queue and not just at convenience stores of ticket booths either. People will queue for public transport be it train, bus or taxi; it’s just the done thing here. People will also form a sort of queue at times when waiting to cross the road. I’ve seen people hang back a little bit when someone is in front of them whereas it’s always been my natural instinct to simply file into the gap that’s available at the crossing. What’s more (and it’s something that I discovered only today in fact) is that Japanese pavements come with these little textured portions that for the longest while I’d only considered were merely decoration (and also, an inconvenience when trying to walk in heels). Turns out, these portions of pavement are for blind people so they can navigate their way along the pavement. I thought this was quite brilliant actually until I discovered that it's actually old news and exists all over the world. What I can say however is that this "tactile paving" at least originates from Japan and complements this idea of consideration quite nicely.
As for me, I’m hoping they’ll be a Part III to this expedition as it seems that every day I’m discovering something new about this country – including the string of okonomiyaki restaurants that are within walking distance from my apartment.
How did I manage to miss those?