I am asked or almost on daily basis about how is like to live in Japan? "Two extremes!" I 've been told, regarding my "Latin culture" and the Japanese ways.
Well , it is not that different if you pay attention to the details and forget a little bit about the many times digested predjuices you could have about Far East and "Latin Culture". But there is, indeed, a big difference in how the regular Japanese citizen tackles certain problems. In case of failure or accident, the Japanese would never automatically blaim others to save face and responsability. Perhaps, very innocently, it will make an introspective analysis of his/her faults and will come up with a more balanced view. If it has to accept a degree of responability, or the whole responsability, it will.
I have learned a lot in this in 20 years, but I do recognize that I still get very upset when I have to deal with western people that automatically blaim others, and happily call name others, when failure and/or accidents occurred because their own faults.
I'm not exactly the best person to write about female fashion. However when it involves high heels, even if they are platforms and miniskirts then I'm your man.
In Tokyo we came across several Ganguro's - an attempt to look 'western' in a weirdly sterotyped way - with very non-japanese dark make-up, high platform heels (to make up for the Japanese lack of height), girlie type clothes and strong make up. I thought the attempt to stand out was fine, as they just looked like 24hour party girls - good luck (or look) to them.
The more punky / gothic style of the Yamanba (or Japanese witches) was perhaps less appealing asethetically - but at least they are enjoying it !
Opinions are very divided about the homeless who live in such places as Uneo park. I must admit it came as something of a shock to find so many older men, in suits, who were homeless. Their neat rows of turquiose coloured taupaulin tents in the park seem to give them some kind of dignity.
When you learn that many helped re-build Japan after the war years and are now seen as useless to the heartless economic machine you sympathy is aroused.
In comparison to the "got 30p for a cup of tea, guv" merchants of London or the varoius smackheads found in every other large city across the world, it seemed to speak volumes about the values of that particular generation of Japanese.
On the other hand I came across a very sourbugger on the internet indeed who described Uneo park and it's homeless thus :
" Japan's ugliest park is filled with homeless people, illegal phone card venders, and drug dealers. The grass is sparse and sickly, and there is too much concrete. Although it is home to the excellent National Museum, you go there in spite of its being in Ueno park, not because of it. There is also a zoo, whose animals are said to be unhealthy and depressed. If you live in Tokyo, there is a good chance that someone will invite you for cherry blossom viewing in April. Unless you like looking at mountains of garbage, listening to portable karaoke machines, and stepping over drunks passed out in their own vomit, give it a miss. "
It made me feel quite fluffy in comparison!
It seems that I spend most of my day telling children to wear their school uniform correctly. They hit the age of 13 and the shirt must be untucked, the tie skew-wiff and the blazer adorned with a silly badge.
It therefore comes as something of a shock to see thousands of well turned out school children in Tokyo. They really do seem proud of it, even wearing it on their days off !
Ignoring the fact that it must have been designed by middle-aged men with a middle-aged men's fantasies in mind, and the fact it has spawned a vast pornographic industry - it is ceratinly a feature of Tokyo life.
The ruffled up socks really do look a bit dated though - very Olivia Newton-John in a pink leotard.
For some reason all bikes in Japan look the same and I hear they are as commonly stolen as umbrellas. I find that hard to believe however and choose to believe that - if anything people merely forget where they put their bikes and hence claim they are stolen.
Tokyo is a very busy town. It can once and a while be too much, but it also might enchant you how one tries to do everything as efficient as possible. Buildings are erected in no-time and cityscape is changing almost from day to day. Japanese culture is (more and more 'was') one of 'serving society' and 'together we're strong'. Work was important and unemployment is/was low. The level of industrial belongs to the highest in the world and there is an amazing process of descision in which all employees wishes and statements are considered. The time before a discision can take very long, but if it is made ... seldomly changes need to be done along the way in realising things. This and many other things might be strange for the average foreigner, but look closer ... at least you will see the benefits of being a little less selfish or privatised. we can learn a lot from eachother, that's for sure and I enjoyed my Japanese lifelessons to the fullest.
Picture (Ueno-zoo, where you can see real panda's!).
What a culture! We found the Japanese to be VERY respectful. It should be expected of the traveler. All conversations were held in private with no loud talking. Cells phones did not ring, they buzzed. The recipient would then find a out of the way place to talk. Orderly lines are formed for any waits so look for the stripes on the floor. Even coughing was quiet and discrete. In short, for a city of 15 million people during the day, Tokyo is very organized and respectful of others; some things we Westerners could learn. A traveler there would have to observe the 'rules' to better enjoy the city.
As I got back to Kyoto, I realized that the thing that made this trip so special, were the people who shared it with me. Though I didn't take any pictures of them, they were there guiding me along at this corner, to this subway, to that 'spot'!! This was such a wonderful experience. However if you do not speak Japanese I wouldn't recommend it!! Tokyo is BIG!! Bring a guide book and a map!!! :)
The Tokyo Subways: In Tokyo, crowds can get so densed during rush hours that special employees wearing white gloves have been hired to help squeeze in as many people as possible on to the trains and to help shut the doors after them.
- If you're jetlagged and traveling in from the airport after an all-night flight.... please note that even during off-hours (when crowds have thinned out considerably), NEVER take your eyes off your baggage! Experienced thieves wait for these kinds of moments and if you're not alert enough, they'd just grab your luggage and dash out of the subway door... your suitcase in hand, in seconds!
Photo Below: Inside a subway train (the Yamanote line).
This is a graceful society. The people are proud being a Japanese. They value their job as a profession and give respect to others who uphold their own. They will take ownership of their work regardless of credit or criticism.One encounter at a shop: We were pleasantly suprised by their attitute towards their jobs when a sale was closed, there were a round of applause from all the staff.Many a times, customers who step into the shops were greeted, 'Konichiwa....' and with a smile that you known it was sincere. The astronomical prices were most probably the only reason for not buying. Nevertheless, customers would still greeted with '....sayonara' with the same smile as they leave the shops.
In the Harajuku district, teenagers engage in "cosplay". This is basically dressing up in outrageous fashion based upon anime. This is definitely a "must see"!
When you seeing a japanese showing this 'sign' to you....it means 'NO'. Is not a ultraman you saw on the TV program...:)
If you haven't been able to sleep well at home, take my advice and sleep on the train. My transportation tip on this subject might need referring to.
BUSINESSMEN ON BICYCLES are a common sight in the downtown area of Otemachi !