20.11.08

Why Japan Kicks Ass

I came back to the U.S. from Japan a week ago tomorrow, and I'm still in the post-Japan afterglow to some extent. In fact, I am putting even greater effort into working with my employer to try and get a transfer to our Tokyo office. I would really much rather be there than here.

Now, I do have a disclaimer here, because of course Japan is not 100% perfect-- there is no country that's perfect, right? That's what I've been told, anyway. From my own personal point of view, however, the benefits of life in Japan are much more substantial than {a} the negatives associated with Japan and {b} the "benefits" of living in the U.S. The list I keep of Japan's positive qualities, also, has a small quantity of exceptions; Japanese people are humans, after all. For the most part, however, these things are true pretty much ALL of the time. Finally, many of the characteristics of Japan that I list are not "benefits" at all from some folks' perspectives; they are for me however, and this is why it is my own unique point of view.

So, without further ado, here is my list of reasons why Japan Kicks Ass!

[1] Customer Service
I have visited many places in the world, and in my opinion ALL of them have a lot to learn about customer service; businesses in Japan should be the role model here. There is no other place where I have had the experience of salespeople, civil servants, taxi drivers, *everyone* going out of their way to see that customers' go away satisfied, informed, comfortable and fairly-treated. All of this delivered with an interested, friendly demeanor that is free of bad-attitudes, arrogance and/or preferential treatment for select individuals.

[2] Common Courtesy
For the most part, people in Japan behave with common courtesy. This means interacting with other people and with one's surroundings with respect and honour. Actions like helping others, giving up one's seat on the train for the elderly, keeping one's speaking volume low, or picking up after oneself are routine and practiced without instruction. The Japanese language, itself, is constructed in such a way that respect for strangers, elders, superiours or new acquaintances is built right in. That said, this is one of the rules that is most often broken or omitted, but I believe it is very rare for such indiscretions to cross the line into rudeness or disrespect. One time a random security guard used his own mobile phone to call up a record shop in Shibuya that I couldn't find. He asked them for directions and showed me how to get there on a map!!

[3] Cell Phone Etiquette
Japan has one of the most cellphone-centric societies in the world. STILL, people talk on mobile phones at a low, private, non-irritating volume; not loudly or obnoxiously like people in America. The use of mobile phones on public transportation is illegal and this is a very respected law. People use text messaging quite a lot during their journeys, but despite being very crowded at times, buses and trains are nice and QUIET! Soooo nice! The use of mobile phones while driving is also illegal, and because of this drivers in Japan are 1000 times more attentive, careful and respectful than their north american counterparts. Additionally, a Japanese person would never be seen/heard talking on a mobile phone while trying to interact with a cashier, teller or salesperson, while inside of a cinema, or in public places in general. In fact, I saw several people receive phone calls while shopping or eating at restaurants; if the conversation could not be finished in a few seconds, the person went outside! This is so wonderful to me, having only super-rude, irritating and obnoxious phone behaviour as a basis for comparison.

[4] Public Transportation
Trains and buses in Japan are modern, very comfortable, convenient and arrive on-time. They are also CLEAN and do not smell of urine and feces. Additionally, train and bus stations are loaded with clean public bathrooms, convenience stores, shopping, good food and smoking areas. Awesome! There are overwhelming crowds at times, especially in Tokyo, but this is a small price to pay for the other benefits that come with public transport in Japan. While I certainly would not describe the trains as "cheap," I really do not mind since I am not poor and this seems to prevent people from using the trains as a hotel/bathroom. If you are unable to read Japanese and you happen to be at a station without a map in English, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to figure out where to go, but there will certainly be someone nearby who's happy to help.

[5] Good Food
Very few people need to be informed about the healthiness of Japanese food as this is legendary world-wide. What still amazes me, though, is the high quality of food in Japan. I'm not just talking about sushi, soup and noodles, either. All foods ranging from steaks, cuts of beef or chicken to snacks, candy, chocolate and ice cream are very high quality! I do believe that a trip to any department store food court or train station take-out cart would astound most outsiders as there is pretty much nothing of poor quality to eat there. The only low-quality food I have seen, in fact, is that available from the foreign fast-food franchises like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. I guess wouldn't actually know for sure, however, since I haven't eaten food from one of those restaurants for nearly 20 years. When in Japan, however, if you DO feel the urge to enjoy a delicious fast-food burger, I recommend MosBurger. This Japanese burger place blows away pretty much every burger and fries place I've ever tried previously.

[6] I guess I could probably keep going on and on. I haven't even mentioned the art, spirituality, beautiful scenery, high technology, amazing cars, etc, etc. I think, however, that I've already stopped being interesting and have probably pissed a few people off. With that I'll end this post here. I just hope I'll have the opportunity soon to continue my life in the surroundings that I love most. I miss Japan.

(Photo Above: Sendai Daikannon statue near Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture)

2 comments:

ClearTranquil said...

You're pretty much correct on all accounts here. Most of those are reasons why I'm going back for a third time this Spring.

However, this is one thing I might add. Although everyone is polite, it's not correct to believe everyone is genuinely nice. In North America there are more genuinely nice and caring people, but in Japan their manners are built into them so they appear nice. Alot of them might secretly hate putting up the charade.

jonhohx said...

yes, i agree with your points...but when we really like something we usually ignore the bad points. I love being in Japan as well. Mostly everything is great, but also have had a few nasty experiences in Japan.But the good stuff out weighs the bad stuff for now so i look forward to my nxt visit