A Travellerspoint blog

Japan, Part 1

A Quick preface:

At first I thought my home stay father was merely very traditionally Japanese, but now I know he’s just plain weird. He makes us take showers whenever we get home because “everyone has their own unique scent”. The other old men in the choir we are performing kept coming up to Sho and I asking how the homestay was—it turns out that everyone in the choir knew he was going to be like that, but they couldn’t turn down his offer to host us out of respect. I really shouldn’t complain… he is very accommodating. He paid for our dry cleaning; bought us 5,000 yens worth of public transportation pass credit, and things like that. The only problem is he is missing the human element. There is no sincere warmth in here, and it makes me miss home a lot. The Portuguese have a word for what I’m feeling, saudade. It’s a deliciously specific word, and the English language doesn’t have quite anything comparable to it.

But now that I’ve vented (it’s my blog so I’m allowed to do that), I can write something lighter!

Seven things I’ve learned about of Japan since I got here

1) They have really cool vending machines. They’re more like space ships with soda in them, really. If a robot alien had to choose how to inconspicuously hibernate on earth by shape shifting into some device alla Transformers, it would surely decide to become a Japanese vending machine.
2) The people are eager, earnest, and efficient. Everyone in Japan takes great pride in providing excellent service. In our hotel restaurant, our waiter last night handed me the menu and waited patiently as I surveyed the menu and made up my mind. As soon I as ordered, he sprinted back to the kitchen to get it whipped up.
3) It is clean. Verry Clean. There is no litter. When people are sick, they wear surgical masks. They wipe down handrails. Unbelievable.
4) The toilets are fancy. Lots of buttons. (Note to self: don’t press the wrong one. Unless you want to get a surprise from a robot water gun.)
5) When the Japanese speak their language at normal volume, it sounds like they are yelling at you. I don’t mean yelling in an angry way, but there is a marked intensity in their voices when they talk.
6) A corollary to that is when they whisper, it sounds like they are trying to sound sexy.
7) The people are skinny because it’s impossible to eat any substantial amount of sustenance with chop sticks. It’s like trying to eat with giant toothpicks. It is very frustrating. The physical and emotional effort put into securing one bite of food usually offsets the calories of the nibblet of food. Regardless of the hassle it brings, food is an interesting and beautiful part of the Japanese culture. It is polite to slurp your noodles. In fact, it is impolite not to. It’s okay if you don’t though. The Japanese have this rule that is (phonetically, and wrongly) called Jheeshu Smash, which is basically an unwritten law that states that all foreigners are excused from being ignorant to Japanese culture.

Posted by Rydin' the Wave 10:00

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