AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

First impressions of Japan

It rains a lot here which scuppered our plans as did the lack of international driving licence, which means a big hole in the wallet but also another opportunity to take the Shinkansen. Although slower than the Chinese ‘G Trains’ you can feel the acceleration as it hits 250kmph.

We arrived in Japan via a ferry from Qingdao. After checking our temperature we had to sit around for an hour before being allowed into immigration and customs. We were queued up by the staff and then I was interrogated as to the name of the hotel in Kagoshima, which I didn’t know. Then I didn’t have a flight out of Japan, but was still allowed through into Japan. In the next room bags were fully checked and emptied, no x-ray scanners. The lady did a little sifting in my bag and we had a chat about travelling. Then I ended up having to show my passport to a Policeman and we ended up talking about travelling for a good 10 minutes. We were held up again trying to find an international ATM. Asking at the friendly tourist information desk we found ourselves at the Post Office, their ATMs are linked to Cirrus so international cards work here. In the first hour of our journey into Japan we met a number of people who were very friendly, smiling ( apart from the immigration guy) and helpful. A stark contrast to China where people rarely smile.

Buying train tickets was a calm experience with no queue and no need to show our passport. Japanese people also accept money with two-hands or use a little tray and are always polite.

Getting onto the train was simple, we put our ticket in the machine and walked onto the platform. There was no shoving and pushing, nor were there any people. We got on the local train, which was not full! A quick transfer to the Shinkansen and we were off. No police checks, no men with huge guns and no shoving. The train was pretty much empty, which you’d expect since it was a weekday at 11am. But this was a big change coming from China. With so many people everyone appears to be on the move all the time. We have never been on an empty train, it is always full or nearly full.

Walking down the street is also different in Japan. People think about others and move to the side. No-one walks into one another and because there were less people you could walk in a straight line, it was the first time in weeks. I bet Tokyo will be different though!

The language is also easier to differentiate words. I was able to listen out for the stops on the tram and have also heard ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’. The Japanese greet you warmly, so far anyhow.

Eating was a much quieter experience. At breakfast today there was no chomping or slurping – the Japanese do slurp their noodles, it seems to be the thing in Asia.

Japan is still a very patriarchal and sexist society. Traditions are styming economic growth and change is starting to happen but the image of 1980s Yuppie London still exists in the decor and even the mannerisms.

It’s raining and we’ve seen nothing of Japan as yet but sitting here in the extremely quiet waiting room thinking about Japan, idoes seem that this country does a lot of things right or at least very politely.

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