Farewell Japan

Another 5 this morning…

Our flight wasn’t till 10am, we could have had at least another hour in bed!


Newly married and on honeymoon….

I’m looking forward to the 5 refering to the stars on the hotel and not the time….

We have a short hop up the country back to Tokyo first. It was cheaper than the bullet train, and as much as I enjoy it, we’ve done that 3 times so its been ticked off.

Aimi is really sad to be leaving Japan. Its been a long time dream of hers to come here so I’m glad we changed our plans and did this. We saw a lot of the country and didnt have many days where we had nothing planned. There is so much to see here, we ticked off a lot, but have plenty to come back for. Mainly stuff that needs booking really far in advance, like the Ghibli museum and theme park and the huts on Mt. Fuji. Barely any excuse will be needed tho, I’ve also really enjoyed it here. 

All the cities were unique and all of them were better than any city in the UK. I’m sorry but its true. The culture of consideration and respect means everyone is defferential, kind and accomodating to eachother. Its very easy to feel welcomed and at home here. While we may not get all the customs correct, it seems everyone has been appreciative that we try. Its also refreshing to see people doing their best at whatever job it is. From train conductors bowing to the passengers as they go from one carriage to another, to convenience store clerks always welcoming you to the store and passing money and receipts with 2 hands. It naturally fits in with our personalities. The maid cafes are something a little strange and devient, but I stand by my statement. Make of that what you will.

While we have been here, I’ve been keeping a list of all the differences we have noticed. This is what we came up with:

  • There is no rubbish anywhere. Not just big bits, but there is nothing, not even tiny scraps of paper or bits of plastic in gutters.
  • Everything is very clean, you could happily extend the 5 second rule to about 5 minutes
  • But there are no rubbish bins anywhere. Each shop or cafe has a rubbish bin inside, but train station rubbish bins were rare and you really didnt see any in the streets at all.
  • However, we did notice everything came in a lot of packaging. Aimi lamented that weren’t any big chocolate bars, only big packs of individually wrapped bite sized chunks, not even bars. 
  • Shops often wrapped goods in paper or plastic before giving them to us.
  • In cafes people sort their rubbish diligently into different bins, pour liquids down a drain and stack cups and plates neatly. Or there way a tray return hatch into the kitchen. 
  • There is a culture of no walking while eating or drinking. We think this is to do with the respect you should be giving the cook by standing still and devoting your entire attention to to the task, but we arent sure.
  • Pedal bikes are used to go everywhere, about 50% are electric assist
  • Bikes all have stands and mostly left unlocked just at the side of the pavement. No one seems concerned about bike theft.
  • Restaurants are stacked up in highrise buildings with signs on the outside at each level. You access them via public lift to the one you want. This was a bit strange to get used to as you can’t see in to decide if you like it before you commit. It makes browsing a little tricky.
  • Giving and receiving items is done with 2 hands, open flat palms up.
  • Money is usually placed in a small tray, not handed directly to the person.
  • Lots of shops had a machine you can just tip coins into and it counts and uses them towards your bill. It also accepts bank notes and then dishes out coins and notes as change. Sounds normal, but this would be at a normal checkout with a person, the money handling is just done by a computer.
  • Most people keep a small flannel on their person to use to dry their hands after washing in public loos. We bought some and did the same as paper or air dryers were not always present.
  • There was not as much traffic as I expected.
  • Drivers were very calm and slow and allowed people to cross without pressure.
  • Pedestrians were militantly obedient to crossing lights. To the point that people stopped and waited at tiny single lane side roads with crossing lights when it would have been very easy to cross in about 4 steps.
  • Bowing is done with eyes closed or eyes to the floor adopted to show venerability and trust as anything could happen when you can’t see. But don’t over do it as that could be considered sarcastic. Foreigners get a little more elasticity with this it seems.
  • Keeping eye contact while bowing is disrespectful and untrusting, but again foreigners get some wiggle room.
  • Bring a wheely bag – soft luggage sucks and everywhere is paved.
  • Most people wear backpacks on their front on trains
  • Houses have very very small front gardens, if any outdoor space at all.
  • All green space is very well cared for.
  • People spend a lot of time in cafés, probably because their homes are so small. We saw lots of people doing full detailed work in cafes and must have been there for some time.
  • Trams and busses you pay when you get off and only for how far you go.
  • Trains you pay in advance for how far you want to go, but it doesnt matter what route. Also you can adjust your fair if you get it wrong at a machine near each exit.
  • About 90% of people wear face masks at all times on the trains, even walking on outdoor platforms. Even outside in the street I’d estimate about 50% of people wear masks.
  • We saw 12 Shiba Inu dogs while here which was a little less than I thought we would see. 

One big concern for us was that, being a well developed and advanced country, it would be expensive to travel here. But honestly, I’d say it was about 10-15% cheaper for everything in Japan compared to the UK. (Unless you are paying tourist tax) The exception being fuel which is about 35% cheaper than the UK! We are getting absolutely screwed. A liter of fuel in Japan is about 100 yen give or take, which is £1.00!!

But the most shocking was that we saw almost no homeless people. In the UK and all other countries cities across the globe there are always beggars on the corners of tourist centres. Or you’ll see a group of homeless under a bridge or by a railway yard. But in Japan, the only homeless we saw were about 3 or 4 of them in very neatly made cardboard houses under a pedestrian bridge. A bit of googling gives a Japan wide statistic of just 3,448 homeless people. Compared to 271,000 homeless in the UK. But thats not the worst bit. Japan has DOUBLE the total population of the UK. The UK is a well developed and modern country, I feel a bit disgusted by this comparative statistic. We need to learn from Japan, they are doing something that we aren’t and we are suffering for it.

Now we are sitting on the flight from Tokyo to Singapore, in comfort, because I got us long legroom seats like a pro traveller. Unlike a pro traveller, I didn’t realise this low cost airline doesn’t include food on a 7 hour flight, so Aimi is a little grumpy and hungry. To be fair, so am I, but we loaded up on the in-flight pot noodles and they weren’t too bad. 

Arriving at Singapore Changi airport we had agreed to just sleep on the plane and then on a chair in a corner somewhere. We would get a few hours sleep before having an easy day and an early check in to the next place. Part of the reason is that Singapore is chuffing expensive. Even shitty looking hostels are over £50 per night and anywhere remotely decent is over £100. Seeing as we’d only be getting a few hours use of it this seemed like a good option. But Changi Airport is not the place to try and couch surf. There just aren’t any. In the end we found a seat styled on a pebble which was as good as it got. I slept on the floor just using a towel as a bit of insulation from the cool tiles and a jumper over my eyes to make it dark. As uncomfortable as it was, we were so tired we actually got about 5 hours sleep.