It's hard to talk about Japan without using superlatives. Friendly and considerate people, heavenly food, unimaginable dedication and superb bizarreness that stretches beyond the imaginable. Everything about Japan is surprising in one way or another.
Take the toilets for example, which have not only seat warming and different washing options, but also produce flushing noise on your demand, if your bodily noises embaras you.
Mind you, after seeing Toilet exhibition in Miraikan, we found that Japanese fascination with toilets stretches much further than we've though.
My first impressions of Japan were that people make and follow many rules. People wait and cue patiently, they are considerate and polite in any situation and strive towards what it seems continuous improvement of everything. Big things, small things, microscopic details you wouldn't even think of.
Too busy for pets but still want to have them? Visit pet cafes. Surprised by the rain during your guided tour? Use some of provided umbrellas. Want to have a snack on the go but don't want to stink up the train? Get a bento box. There is a solution for every challenge. I am pretty sure there aren't many (if any) things that could surprise the Japanese.
Time is precious in Japan and counted in seconds rather than minutes. Accustomed to more leisure Brussels time, I was rather surprised to hear apologies every time I had to wait for a minute or more. No seconds are lost and there is an efficient system in place for just about everything.
Another distinctive Japanese feature is love for good food and culture. And I mean probably the best food I've ever eaten, fresh and accompanied by a fair amount of cold or hot green tea - ceremonially served in places with the red umbrella.
But as efficient, thoughtful and enchanting Japanese culture is, it has the darker side. Determination and dedication to continuos improvement of life and everything is taking its toll. While more and more time is spent improving things at work, less and less time is left for family and personal fulfillment.
Streets and subways are full of salary men who work from dawn till dusk, often spending the few hours left to sleep in a hotel, to increase the efficiency. They focus career and if they find time to meet someone or have a relationship, they would see each other only on the weekends and most likely never have any friends in common. They would use a third of their two week vacation time so no wonder many burn out and do that often.
Yes, Japan is weird but at the same time extremely magnetic and thought this is my first journey (spending my last days in Tokyo) I have a strong feelings it won't be the last one. It's just too good to miss.
To be continued...