Since my previous posts, people have asked for more Japan stories. So, I decided to do weekly Japan posts, called “Fun in Japan.” I realize I was a bit hard on Japan in my previous posts, which is a shame because it’s an incredible place, and the three years I spent there were some of the best in my life. I’ll eventually blog about all of this in depth. So to start, here’s the ten best things about Japan:
1) The People: I was stunned by the kindness I saw in people. Junior high girls carried my luggage up flights of stairs, a man once rode two hours out of his way because I was lost on the train and he wanted to help me get home, and a woman walked me hone when I was terribly sick. People watch out for the elderly, pick up and cuddle hurt children, tend to lost toddlers, and help their neighbors. Neighborhoods are tight knit and protective.
2) Cleanliness: Japan is clean. People scrub public trashcans and power bleach the train station. Sick people wear masks to avoid spreading disease. Gardens are beautifully tended, houses kept up well, and stores immaculate.
3) Tranquility: Forests, temples and lush gardens are placed everywhere in the busy cities. When you need a breather, you can get a warm cup of tea and take a time out. Meditation and quiet are highly valued, and sitting in silence is okay.
4) Safety: I could walk home at 3 am in Tokyo and was never afraid. People are up all the time, noise attracts a huge amount of attention, and there are “police boxes” with officers on every corner. If you commit a crime in Japan, you will be caught, and you will go to a nasty prison. I’ve seen people leave a purse on a train and find it three days later in the same spot!
5) True Freedom of Religion: Talking about religion is rude. The primary religions are Buddhism and Shintoism. Both forbid proselytizing–you only talk about it if asked. Everyone is welcome in any temple as long as they are peaceful, but the monks don’t approach you unless you ask. Topics like politics and religion overall are avoided, to keep conversation polite. I once had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my door, and when I said I wasn’t interested, he politely left. I also once saw an obnoxious American missionary be flung from the temple gates by a stoic but angry kickass Buddhist monk.
6) Efficiency: This place runs like clockwork. Trains run on time, food is hot, products are made to last and wrapped like presents. The rush can be tiring, but you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy whatever you get. People take pride in their work and speed is essential. When things are running correctly, it’s smooth sailing. (Just don’t put a wrench in the system, or it stops)
7) Nightlife: It is impossible to be bored in Japan. Tokyo runs 24/7, with a myriad of restaurants, bars, karaoke, and craziness. Even the smallest towns have an izakaya, a little local pub with amazing food.
8) Variety: Mountains, open fields, monstrous cities, oceans, volcanoes, snow–travel up and down the islands and you’ll find it all!
9) History: Castles, temples, you name it, they have it. They protect these treasures, and I even saw a shopping mall that was built over several small ancient temples, which were nestled between the shops, incense burning.
10) Geek Paradise: Video games, anime, and robots everywhere! They have to be seen to be believed, and there are showrooms where you can go play with robots, if you feel inclined.