General things I notice about Japan

1
Nov
2014

We arrived in Kyoto yesterday but have yet to really dig in to explore, just a bit around our neighborhood which is a little out of the way (having been rather quickly chosen on AirBnB) and not exactly densely packed with major sites, as least not that we can tell so far. And since it was raining heavily yesterday, we didn’t venture too far afield. Weather permitting, today we will see some major temples, shrines, and other buildings.  Separately from specific musings about this place, I have been maintaining a small list of things I have noticed in general about Japan and Japanese culture which I will share below:

– This country is shockingly clean. There is no garbage anywhere to be seen, everything is neat and ordered and tidy. Anyone that knows me knows that for this reason alone I am in heaven here.

– Probably not unrelated, the entire culture seems a little OCD about a lot of things. For example, almost without fail we see cars backing into spaces where possible for easy exit afterwards.

– There is a particular way of walking here, especially among the old, but even a bit among the young. They definitely favor many smaller strides over fewer longer ones. Everyone seems to be hopping about a bit.

– Similarly, people always seem in a hurry and are rushing to get places, which speeds up the above small steps routine into something staccato and cartoonish, especially when they are pushing into a crowd of people.

– I have mixed feelings about Japansese desserts involving rice and forms of gelatin. They are not hugely satisfying to me and often represent a choking hazard. On the other hand, the creamy and bready things they make are often better and tastier than their analogues in the west.

– Moist (very often plastic wrapped) towels are everywhere, hot and cold. It feels as though I have wiped my hands with these more times in a week than in my entire life beforehand.

– And they really seem to eschew napkins in general, especially dry ones. Everyone is just so clean while eating that they never need one I guess.

– I really love the fancy toilets here. The seats are warm on a cold night. They lovingly spray wash your ass with whatever temperature or pressure of water you like. And yet, their aim is somehow always perfect, how do they accomplish that? Is there some sensor that judges the exact distance to your asshole from the back of the seat?

– Japan is much less expensive than I had heard about. Granted, we are not in 5 star luxury, but without trying to be budget-conscious here everything is very affordable. The housing, the taxis, the food — all of it surprisingly good value.

– The train system here is mostly amazing in how well setup and modern it all seems, and how easy it is to use, even then you don’t speak the language. And yet, for as advanced as everything is, why can’t you reserve and get your ticket online? Why on earth can’t I have an electronic ticket on my phone and present that instead of the paper one? This seems silly and backward in a country that is so otherwise far in advance of us with trains.

bullittrain