I started my first visit to Tokyo with a toilet disaster—you know, the automatic bidet that almost gave me a facial wash. Should I say more? And the rest is, and should be, history.

Little did I know that that was just one of the automatics in almost everywhere I went. Here are some of the “amazing” high-tech things, and other observations that my keen eyes collected:

  1. Tollgates are uneventful. They just swiftly scan the bus, and that’s it. No drama, no person giving out a ticket, no traffic around it, nothing.
  2. Some train lines are run without a human driver.
  3. Every toilet, even public ones, are complete with facilities.
  4. There’s a vending machine of drinks at every corner.
  5. Weather forecast is accurate. If they say the sun will shine tomorrow, even if it’s raining today, it will.
  6. Right-hand driving. And the taxi’s rear door opens automatically at the taxi driver’s disposal.
  7. I don’t think I’ve ever touched a door knob, since all doors are automatic, except for my hotel room’s.
  8. My wake-up call was recorded! I couldn’t take it! I wanted to hear a human voice first thing in the morning but I didn’t!
  9. Once you got the bill after dining at a restaurant, you stand up and settle it at the cashier, not from your table.
  10. Riding the bus was boring—no bumps on the road, no traffic, no TV. Sucks, right?
  11. Black is the general color, as if everyone is going to the same office everyday, wearing the same uniform.
  12. Everywhere is generally quiet. If anything, it’s only the kids playing and crying who cause noise.
  13. People are skewed to the left of the road or the escalator. If you’re not rushing and you don’t want to be trampled upon, keep to the left.
  14. Did I mention that the train leaves on time? Given that, you can predict almost exactly what time you can make it to a certain destination. The maps posted in train stations even supply you with the time difference between stations (e.g. 2-minute train ride between Shinagawa Station and Shimbashi Station).

Anyway, I ended up being in Tokyo to join a delegation to the Software Development Expo (SODEC) held annually in Tokyo Big Sight, Japan. I followed a tight business schedule, but highlighted by the fun on the side:

Monday to Friday: Official Business, until evening came and I would end up either at an izakaya or a ramen house with two groups of Japanese friends whom I met at training programs I attended back home. I met a Japanese friend who’s now based in the US but was in Tokyo for a week–-the same week I was there! Another friend, who’s from Osaka, was also in Tokyo that same time. I was so lucky!

Saturday: Official Leisure, which started with a bargain shopping along Takeshita Street, and shrine visit at Meiji Jingu, where we chanced upon a rare, traditional Japanese wedding ceremony.

Sunday was a day of unplanned pleasantries. I was invited to a Japanese home by a Japanese classmate I also met in a training. I was welcomed like a supreme guest. We went biking and saw a festival at the nearby park. Who’d have thought there was a scheduled festival that time of the year!

Some useful phrases to get by:

  • Eigo deki masuka? = Do you speak English? (Now, when the Japanese I’m talking to answers with a “No”, I automatically call out a colleague who speaks Nihongo.)
  • Wakarimasen = I don’t know / I don’t understand
  • Arigato gozaimasu = Thank you
  • Sumimasen = Sorry / Excuse me

Of all these phrases, what I love most is Sumimasen. At an izakaya, my Japanese friends would always ask me to call out the waiter, and then perfunctorily and happily, I would shout “Sumimasen!” trying hard to sound natural as if Japanese is my native tongue.

A Society of Trust

More than my amazement of the technology around, which was already an expectation, what surprised me was how respectful people are.

  1. People talk softly especially on the telephone so as not to disturb anyone around them, an instruction that is repeated through the recorded voice-over in buses and trains.
  2. They say sorry even if you’re the one who bumped into them when you’re crossing an intersection.
  3. They bow countless times before and after a meeting, almost to the ground.
  4. Drivers don’t honk horns and patiently wait for slow-moving cars in front of them.
  5. It’s a society of trust. No visible guardmen around, and if there were, they don’t carry guns. No security procedures entering train stations or malls and hotels. No more checking of hotel rooms when guests leave because they trust that nothing is brought out.

For me, it was a taste of a utopian society.

I never dreamt of visiting but domo arigato gozaimasu I did. I would certainly go back to this country where, according to a Japanese friend, a broken ATM machine makes the headlines.

jap foodjap wedding 2jap weddingramenjap fishjap izakayajap wedding 3tokyo gardentokyo

 

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. […] I don’t mean per se, but the experience. While there is a toilet in Utrecht where the seat is covered with plastic and you turn it around when you want a new plastic cover altogether to sit on, or a toilet in Amsterdam where the seat turns and as it does, it gets sanitised somewhere where you can’t see it but you smell isopropyl alcohol in the air after pressing a button, I think the Japanese toilets are still the best in the world, forget even if I had an accidental facial wash the first time I tried the bidet. […]

    Like

    Reply
  2. […] I don’t mean per se, but the experience. While there is a toilet in Utrecht where the seat is covered with plastic and you turn it around when you want a new plastic cover altogether to sit on, or a toilet in Amsterdam where the seat turns and as it does, it gets sanitised somewhere where you can’t see it but you smell isopropyl alcohol in the air after pressing a button, I think the Japanese toilets are still the best in the world, forget even if I had an accidental facial wash the first time I tried the bidet. […]

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About hellopenville

Writing is my one true north. (The other is eating spaghetti. I make the best pastas in the whole world I swear!) I have been writing since age 10. I remember being in another school a lot because of Campus Journalism contests. I was a grade-school copyreader, headline-writer, and feature writer, who emerged to be a college editorial writer and eventually a TV news writer. However, I have always been an insecure artist. These constant condescending thoughts always stopped me from creating: “No one would read this.” “This has been written before and therefore no one would read this.” “This is not interesting enough and therefore no one would read this.” “This is not relevant, or factual, or trendy enough and therefore no one would read this.” But I learned to risk to write even if no one reads it, than not to have written anything at all. To resist writing is to resist truth itself, to betray that which comes freely to you when you do not allow it to be manifested through you. I didn’t think writing was serious work. But every time I thought about writing, it would make me nervous. It would rattle me and frighten me. I would shake the ground under me. Aren’t dreams like that too? Read more at penville.net.

Category

Asia, Japan, Travel

Tags

, , , , , , , ,