As a first timer in overseas travelling, we set our standards and expectations low. We only know a few little things before entering Japan and this journey left a big mark on our hearts. If you set foot on this land, you’ll definitely be in awe and will be amazed too! Just like what it did to us! Here are some of those that I shall share with you.
1. Respect for the Elderly
There’s this thing about the Japanese people that I greatly admire. They are genuinely kind for the elderly people. I can attest to that since I have seen how they act and interact with them. Maybe on the other parts of the world, this practice is getting lost, but to the Japanese, it means a lot. On a bus ride from Osaka Station to the other parts of Kyoto, people are making sure not to seat on the elderly, pregnant and physically challenged seating area unless there are none of them. If a seat was already taken, a person seating in that area will most likely to stand up and offer the chair to them. It’s heart-warming and undeniably a genuine act of kindness.
2. Preservation of Tourist Destinations
Part of the journey is going to places that are very dear to the Japanese people. As a witness on how they maintain their tourist sites, I would say it’s definitely a genuine act of how they love their culture and the remaining of it. From the repairs of the walls to the smallest of the plants in the garden, all are being well taken care of. On our Ginkaku-ji Temple and Kinkaku-ji Temple tour, a man is in the gardens planting seeds and another is watering the plants. Imagine how big the temple’s vicinity is and if you look around, there are almost no signs of dead plants. All plants are blooming and are well groomed. If not for the fall season, it’ll be a very colourful garden for sure.
3. Public Transport is for Everyone
This is one thing that a traveller is mostly concerned about. We all need to know how to get to a certain place from spot A to spot B, how much time will it take to get there, and such. Transportation in Japan is so efficient that traffic is not an excuse. If you came to work late, will probably mean that you don’t like your job or you woke up late. If in case there’s a repair on the train, they will give you a written report for you to show to your boss why you were late.
Trains in Japan are the best. Trains have their specific time of departure and are scheduled. You will know by a notice if a train is delayed in arrival or not in service because the time was adjusted. Plus, it runs at enormous speeds so going to a place from another will be shorter and definitely faster. They also offer rapid service trains, meaning that they will be skipping stations in order to provide faster trips. But the train stations are only open until 12 am.
Buses are efficient too as it provides a faster way to your destination than walking. There are several bus stops in Kyoto. Some of them are those that provide information about a certain place. The bus stop waiting area also has an estimated time of arrival/departure information and what bus number will arrive which makes transporting from one point to another relatively easier. All that information is very helpful for tourists.
PS. Even the CEOs here are taking trains!
4. Pedestrian Crossings and Bike Lanes
Japan truly is a haven for pedestrians. Streets have traffic lights for pedestrian crossing, even a small street does. As usual, red for stop, green for go. Surprisingly, most of the Japanese people are abiding by the rules of crossing the street! We saw a few where the light is red and people are still crossing the street but only happens when they know that there are no vehicles around.
Bike lanes, oh! One of the most enjoyable experiences we did was the Bike tour in Kyoto from Hostel Ginkakuji to Fushimi Inari Shrine at midnight and bike rental at Himeji Castle. Just like regular cars, bikes also have their own lane and they can opt to use the pedestrian’s sidewalk for safer trips. Same traffic rule applies for both cars, bikes, and humans. The beautiful thing about this is that Japan encourages people to use regular (pedal) bicycles than motorbikes. No traffic, no hassle, no pollution!
5. Bicycle Rental Kiosks
Japanese people are fond of using bicycles. If you do not own one, there are plenty of bicycle rental kiosk outside a plaza. Yes, the kiosks are outside and are fully automated! Just wow! For 100 Yen per hour, you’ll get the most out of your bike use. Just do not bring it home or try to steal it. It will surely cost a lot to your bank account because the bike rental kiosks are paid using your debit or credit card! Smart, huh?
6. Coin Lockers
You will see no baggage counters in the malls of Japan. Instead, what you’ll find are the “coin lockers” ready for everyone’s use. With a small payment of 200-1000 Yen, your belongings are surely safe and secure. From small bags to large travel luggage, it’ll fit in if you find the right size for your baggage. This is especially significant when you need to leave your things while on a tour. Plan your itinerary to Japan very well!
7. Trust Level 99%
Trust level 99% or maybe I am just not used to malls not having guards on their entrance or those that check the bags before entering the mall premises but this is absolutely amazing (at least for me). Their security personnel is inside the mall, roaming around, maintaining the peace inside. Even people with big, heavy bags are not being recognized as a threat to anyone. Even on the train stations, there are almost no guards to be seen. I am actually surprised that the building where our AirBnB host is located has no security personnel. The shrines and castles, no such thing visible too! You can feel the sense of security everywhere, even when there are no security guards around.
8. Tourist Friendly Stations
This is a great deal for travellers! If you do not know how to speak Japanese, there will always be a Tourist Information centre with one who speaks good English to get you informed. There also are free English translated flyers/magazines/leaflets to help tourists on their journey and adventure in Japan. I even saw someone who speaks Korean/Chinese too! Sugoi! Worry not much if you get lost, almost every station (but not all) has an information centre. Japan is a very tourist friendly country indeed!
9. Cleanliness, everywhere!
You will see fallen leaves but not a single trash on the ground. People are informed of waste segregation and management. I do not know how they do it but the people are disciplined not to just throw away their trash and used products everywhere. They know how to take care of the environment. They know that they have to dispose of their garbage in the right places. Amazing it is and I am envious. Yes, really.
10. Vending Machines
Instant food, instant drink, anytime, anywhere! Yeah, there are vending machines everywhere in Japan. If you are thirsty, go find a box with lights down the street, put your coin in and tadaa! Instant drink for you! Hungry? A sandwich vending machine is also available! Hmm, getting called by nicotine on your body? Yeah, even this, cigarettes, they have a vending machine for it. Oh, if you happen to insert an extra amount, always expect a change!
11. Escalator Etiquette
Walkers on the right side, runners on the left side. Those who are walking fast may take the left side of the escalator lane whilst those who are happily enjoying the escalator ride may take the right lane. Usually, it’s the side lane that’s for the slow walkers. Hope this could be practiced well enough in our nation!
So yeah, that’s an unforgettable experience in the Land of the Rising Sun on the preserved city of Kyoto (and Osaka). We are very fortunate that we had Japan as our first international trip. We are definitely going back for more. This list is not even complete as I have yet to enumerate every amazing experience we had. It’s very tempting to go back, explore, and even live there. Japan exceeded our expectations and now, we are looking for another chance to step foot on that land.
This list is not even complete as I have yet to enumerate every amazing experience we had. It’s very tempting to go back, explore, and even live there. Japan exceeded our expectations and now, we are looking for another chance to step foot on that land.