Japan: First Impressions

Everything is Smaller in Japan. Except the Bathtub. That’s about 4″ taller.

Riding in a car in Japan

I’m in a taxi.  The road is wide enough for two cars, at times.  Its twisty, windy, full of curves, up a hill. Houses on both sides of the road.  No sidewalk to speak of. 

This is Japan… It is the opposite of Texas. Everything is small.  The roads are narrow, the cars are small.  Everything is Small.  Except for the Bus coming at us, around the hairpin curve.  It is Huge. Taking up the whole road.  Too big for us, seemingly, and its coming at us from the wrong side… The cabbie deftly moves us a bit to the left. The bus passes.  On the right.  Pucker factor high.

I am used to oncoming traffic coming from the left, and huge busses are coming at us from the wrong side!  The effect is disconcerting.  I can’t shake it today. 

Exceptionally Polite and Service Oriented

My mind is full of hope as we wind our way through this hilly town.  We are heading to yochin kindergarten in Kobe that i attended.  The cabbie’s tie is so old, its  a bit threadbare, yet clean. I’ve worn plenty of ties, yet never wore one enough to have a threadbare hole.  Still he is dignified and pleasant, as all are.

After a few minutes of halting conversation, with me saying mostly wakarimasen, we arrive at the kindergarden.  I’ve shown him my photos… I take a few pictures.   Nobody is at the kindergarten.

Now, I show him my mothers address, on her business card from nearly 50 years ago.  boku mo haha I say… The address is 1272-843 Akatsukayama.  We drive to  the Akatsukauama stop, where he starts ringing doorbells on behalf of the gaijin.  Nobody knows anything about 1272-843 Akatsukayama, but they mention ubinkyoku (Post Office).  Everyone at the post office is fascinated with these 50 year old B&W photos… And they start asking visitors if they know gaijin Teri Comu.  The post office suggest trying a larger post office in Sumiyoshi.

Perhaps, another day.  

Essentially, everyone we met was most helpful, whether a passer-by or a taxi driver.  Many people speak english and are delighted to aid gaijin.  

Back at the hotel, I wander out into the hall to see if I can find another tiny trash bag, because the trashcan is super small, like everything else in this country.  The maid on the floor sees me and scurries off double time to grab a new bag, before I can even ask.  

When I visited the front desk, I asked them to help me with the train schedule.  They actually did call JR Rail, and immediately get a PERSON on the PHONE.  They easily found openings in the busy holiday schedule to accommodate my needs. Which is somewhat of a relief.

Everything is Smaller in Japan  

  • At the grocery store, the shopping carts are tiny, the size of a hand-basket in the USA.  
  • The counters in kitchens and baths are lower.
  • The buttons on the elevators are lower down on the wall.
  • Trash cans, when you can find them, are tiny.  
  • The luggage carts at the airport were smaller.
  • And the shaving sink in the bathroom is smaller, it contacts me on the thighs rather than at the waist.

About the only thing that’s taller in this country is the bathtub. That’s about 4 inches higher.  It’s wonderful.  

WiFi is Hard to Find

TIP:  Starbucks means Universal WiFi.  Almost anywhere you see a Starbucks, you can get good wifi signal.  

TIP:  JapanRailways at most stations has free wifi, provided you have a code.

JR West I am required to send an email to get wifi access.   Grrrrrr….  To get your code send an email to the JR office at jrw@forguest.wi2.ne.jp.  Fortunately, for JR East, I can get a code right at the station without sending an email.  


Author: Cultural Explorer

Multi-Day Thru-Hiker. Cultural Explorer. Traveler of thousand-year old trails. Cool forests of Japan, South America, North America and Europe. The East and the West.

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