This trip was amazing! It was educational but it was also tiring. Lots of walking, taking trains and buses and dealing with immense crowds made it quite tiring. But it was great to not only see another country but the country of my roots.
What I Liked
The thing I came home most impressed by was their level if courtesy, politeness, sense for order and an individual sense of belonging to one society (not a “me first” society). I’m still in awe how millions of people can travel through their train system everyday in such an orderly way. People line up at designated spots and simply wait their turn. No pushing. No shoving. No butting in. Everyone makes an effort so that all can fit on the train. So thoughtful! This allows many people to exit and board the train in less time in an orderly fashion. When people are stuck away from doors but need to get off, a simple motion by the person and a walkway opens up allowing the person to leave. At crosswalks, people wait until the light changes regardless of whether or not cars are coming. I’ve noticed that this used to be the case here too but has changed. Japan is a society of greater order and patience. I only saw one person go ahead and cross. He withered his way through the waiting crowd and crossed against the red light…..he was not Japanese. Their reputation for being polite has been known but to experience it was a real treat. Even on the roads we saw acts of working together instead of the “me first” attitude that is so popular here at home. There were a few places where two lanes would merge to one. Traffic simply alternated doing a zipper effect. At one point two taxi’s got their timing messed up at went at the same time and stopped to avoid a collision. One taxi driver simply motioned for the other to go. The second taxi driver bowed and went ahead. No horn honking and fists flying like here. They all just work together and because of their selflessness, everything works better.
We visited five shrines on our trip – Kamakura, Tokyo Zenkoji, Yasukuni, Asakusa and Meiji. They all had similarities but at the same time something to make them unique. It was very interesting to see these great structures. We also participated in a Shinto prayer with my cousin and her family at the Kamakura Shrine. That was nice to experience.
While there are still many smokers, they’ve done a great job of making separate smoking spaces. We were in a coffee shop that had a sealed smoking room. I was really surprised that even though the door was opening and closing that we could not smell anything. There was also no smoking in the train stations nor the trains. We never saw any traces of anyone going against this rule.
Everything and everywhere was very clean. From the hotel room to the trains to the taxi’s. Everything was very clean. The taxi cars were like new. Even though they were not, they smelled like new. Very clean inside. We also didn’t see any graffiti. Very clean city.
What I Didn’t Like So Much
First, they need to improve their immigration system. It took a little over an hour after we got off the plane to make it through immigration. Lots of people were not happy. After spending 13 hours on a plane and then having to stand in a hot and stuffy area for over an hour wasn’t a fun way to begin a trip.
While their transit system is amazing, it can be very time consuming and exhausting to go places. Just to travel to Gora to view Mount Fuji, it took a good few hours and multiple trains, Shinkansen (bullet train), street car and two cable cars. Due to the crowds there were some long line ups. By the time we got there we had to hurry and then start making the trek back so we would not miss any trains back to Tokyo.
Again because of their amazing transit system we went with the plan that we could make Tokyo our base and tour around. This is what we did and it sounds great in theory but is really exhausting. The walking, standing, line ups and crowds make it pretty exhausting to go anywhere. Now, I know some if this is probably good for our physical shape. Walking is great exercise. But to do this day after day when we are not used to this style made it exhausting. It would be better next time to perhaps travel around a bit. Stay in one spot and tour for a few days then go stay somewhere else. Next time.
Generally though I have no real complaints. No regrets. I would do a few things differently next time. But this trip was educational and very much enjoyable. Everything about this trip – good and bad – we’re great to experience. I can also now say that I have been to Japan!