The only downside is that, as in the UK, they have a mix of JR (Japan Railways) and numerous private railway networks. Tickets and passes are not universally accepted and this can really bump up travelling costs. Sound familiar? Our best and cheapest train travels were in Russia and China, both nationalised systems. I don’t suppose they have Unions to mess it all up?
People gave up their seats to us when they saw the children in both Russia and China. No such courtesy in Japan. The elderly, those carrying babies are left standing, while the designated priority seats are full of young Japanese workers on their phones or slumbering. We couldn’t understand the strict adherence to queuing in precise lines at every platform and the thoughtless free for all on the actual trains.
Japanese buses are as frequent and punctual as their trains. You get on at the back and take a ticket. When you reach your destination, the indicator board at the front of the bus tells you the fare corresponding to the number on your ticket. We didn’t venture onto Chinese buses for fear of having the children crushed. Not sure in either country what corresponds to a bus being full…they just keep packing them in…
Continuing the transport theme, Japanese cars are functional but not easy on the eye. They are very square, which I suppose makes them easier to stack in their fabulous multi storey car parks.
Now for food – my pet subject.
China – other than the exotic taste in anything that moves, the basic diet seems very healthy. We enjoyed rice, noodles, pan fried veg and fresh fruit for breakfast. There are numerous cheap noodle joints on every street and few ‘dessert’ outlets. The kids are all gathered around noodle or rice outlets after school. It’s such a shame that you know what’s round the corner with the advance of Western junk food. Already, you can see McDonalds in many cities and the attraction of free wifi makes it a popular hangout for kids.
Japanese food is truly an art form. The presentation of the food is amazing and so appealing if you like fish and rice. Several times we’ve asked ourselves if the Japanese don’t get bored of endless variations of fish and rice?? Certainly the traditional Japanese diet is sooo healthy. When we stayed half board at a Ryokan in the mountains, it was like a detox. Fish (cooked and raw), other seafood, tofu, pickled veg, endless boiled rice, green tea for each meal including breakfast. Not a piece of toast or cereal in sight. Very little dairy or meat. It was the perfect ‘prostate friendly’ diet, but after 3 days, we let the side down and headed straight for ‘Mr Donut’ and the local Irish bar.
The checkout experience is interesting. The assistant takes your goods out of one basket and re-orders them perfectly after scanning into another basket. The till takes your cash and automatically produces change, removing any human error. You take your basket to the tables at the back and pack there, so it keeps the queue moving quickly. They are still predominantly a cash based society and we didn’t have many options of paying by card.
of foreigners that each Sumo stable could have to one. That seems fair!!
In Japan, it’s still a mix of flats and houses. The houses are functional and the people generally don’t seem to focus on their gardens. There’s an element of shanty town about many streets with power cables running everywhere and boxed grey functional housing. The houses that we have rented through Airbnb have small kitchens, as they don’t normally entertain at home. A lot of gadgets and everything working perfectly, although we have needed to look up the manual for how to use some.
We’ve enjoyed some nice picnics in the local parks and you often see large groups of people eating, laughing and chilling together. A contrast to the unhappy looking commuters waiting in long queues at train and bus stops not talking, engrossed in their mobiles. The mass of Chinese are poorer, but we heard much more laughter there.
- Caroline wanted a Chinese baby until she got to Japan, where she wanted a Japanese one. She would settle for one of each as they are gorgeous.
- Not quite sure why so many dress like school girls with the white socks and shoes they can’t walk in and what can we say about the Ganguro look – see the photo below (darkened skin with contrasting pale accessories?)
- Japanese shop assistants bow to the shop floor before they leave for the store room.
- It seems acceptable for Chinese staff to sleep at their desks during quiet periods.
- Japanese train staff bow to the carriage on entering or leaving. Station staff salute passing trains.
- Japanese Sakura Blossom have the best marketing team ever, bringing in tourists from all over the world for a few flowers. Guys, really, it’s just blossom! We have orchards full of it in Kent, and it produces fruit there.
- As Westerners, we were treated with a great deal of respect in China – I remember similar in Turkey many years ago. Whilst they are unlikely to become the mass stag/hen party venue destination in the near future, I am sure their first International Football Tournament will soon have them reassessing their view of us.
- It’s impossible to find a litter bin in Japan. Recycling is no problem, although the man in Lawson’s today watched our every move as we deposited four wine bottles and six empty beer cans in his precious bins. Probably because we hadn’t bought the booze there…..