Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Random observations about Japan

Right now I am sitting at Starbucks (pronounced Starbuksu) enjoying a green tea frapiccino, and I want to share a few things I have noticed so far.

* The Japanese have customer service down to an art form. While in line for the aforementioned frapiccino, the clerk came out from behind the counter and with elegance of an accomplished dancer, presented us with the day’s menu. In other restaurants the waitresses kneel down as they place fine bone china in front of you.

* Japanese love good food. One sign of this is that a vast majority of their game and morning shows consist of people being shown food and eating it. I’m not talking about Fear Factor grossness. The contestants, usually TV personalities, compete in order to be able to partake in the delectables. And if they do not win, they put on quite the melodrama about the torture of watching the others eat.

* Recycling is paramount. When you live on an island nation, there is not a lot of room for landfill. So you must be very careful where you put your trash. It would be OK if there were pictures at the trash receptacles with a can or paper, but no they are marked in Japanese with images that look like squatting men with their hands in front of their eyes. I usually slip my garbage in My Sweet’s pocket and let him deal with it. When I was waiting for customs, I saw a young man being lead to an imposing looking back room. I bet it was because he threw his empty sake bottle in the wrong can!

* I got to ride the infamous Bullet Train. The take off was so smooth that it was like gliding through butter. Because of this lack of friction, you never know how fast you are going.

* Everything is a lush green, a huge benefit of the tropical humidity. And also every bit space is compactly used. Even the nooks and crannies are usually filled with a plant, which is good given that most people have no yard.

* I constantly feel like everything is just an inch or two too short – chairs, bus seats, sinks, etc. My thighs ache the first few days here because they are stretched when my knees are higher than usual (and often jammed against the seat in front of me).

* This high tech country has public telephones that talk. And not “Please deposit 60 cents,” but it actually thanks you for using it. My mother-in-law has one that calls out “You have a call” while it is ringing, which I think is a bit redundant. Now if it said, “You have a call coming in, and it is not from a telemarketer but from that cute guy you met at the market,” that would be pretty darn amazing. And I saw on TV that they have a stove that will talk to you. It reminds you that it is still on, or that something is about to burn. Pretty cool, especially considering my ability to get distracted during dinner prep.

What’ll they think of next? A milk carton that warns when it's expired?
Pens that signal a siren when it is about to leak or run out of ink? Who knows.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

1 comment:

doodah! said...

Love these dispatches! This is the kind of writing you were born to do, baby!

I love the image of lush green things cohabitating with all that technology. That these humans, in all their high-tech pizzazz haven't lost sight of the soul's need for nature. Cool.