My time in Japan has come to an end. this morning I packed up all my belongings, checked out of my hostel and made my way to Tokyo’s Narita Airport to catch a flight to Hong Kong.
As I’ve done nothing but travel today, and as I sit in my new hostel, lacking the energy to do much in particular, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about some of the things I noticed about Japan.
The rail network in Japan is phenomenal. It’s efficient, punctual, reliable, comfortable, and fast. And it goes everywhere, think the London Underground, but if it were better, and spanned the entire country.
Organisation and Efficiency
The country is incredibly organised. Platforms are marked with areas to queue, tray tables on trains have information on them, people naturally walk on the left hand side of platforms/pavements/walkways/escalators, pedestrian crossings are automated, the list goes on. As someone who loves good organisation I could wax lyrical for hours.
Everyone seems to have a uniform. Train drivers, taxi drivers, workmen, pretty much everyone working in the public sector wears a crisp uniform, usually with an awesome hat, and sometimes with white gloves. It’s amazing how much more professional people look.
The toilets have heated seats and loads of buttons that I dared not press. I have an idea of what the buttons would do but I wasn’t too keen to find out just in case things went wrong. England really needs heated toilet seats.
Everything has a jingle. Most notably at train stations. I never figured out if there’s a different jingle for each line, or for each station, but whenever a train rolls up there’s a tuneful jingle, and then another when the doors are closing, and another when the trains pulls away, and another to announce what the next train will be. And then the escalators jingle at you, and street cleaning vans, and bill boards, and anything that might need your attention will acquire it with a merry little tune.
Surgical masks are all over the place. My thoughts were that it was to protect against pollution but a bit of research provided many different reasons that people wear them.
I forgot to mention maid cafes in yesterday’s post, but I saw a few around Akihabara. They seem strange and a little bit creepy. They operate in much the same way as a normal cafe, but the waitresses are all dressed as maids, they'll great you in ways such as "welcome home master" and then dote on you, decorating your food, offering compliments and generally just appeasing Japanese Otaku. They're also advertised by girls standing in the streets, dressed as maids.
This one became apparent as I wandered round Tokyo, but it can be applied to Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara as well. Everyone seems content and happy. This gives the cities a really nice atmosphere, I found myself wondering if there were any areas that didn’t feel like I was in Super Happy Awesome Land.
And now I’m in Hong Kong, my experience thus far has not been overly pleasant in all honesty. The airport was a nightmare to get through, people seem angry, and I’m not sure how I’ll get along. Time will no doubt tell.
For now though, I shall try to get some sleep with the memory of this view from the common room of my Tokyo hostel floating through my head.