It's evident we loved Japan. We had stressed over it a bit before we left, since we had read so much about how it is so easy to make an embarrassing mistake. Eat with your chopsticks wrong, lets say, or leave them crossed on your plate and it means you hated their grandparents...or something to that effect. We found none of that though. No one made us feel like fools and we never felt self-conscious. We were surprised and delighted to find that yes, the Japanese are extremely polite, but also super friendly! And its nice to be polite! Everybody does it!
For example, when we went into a random store to ask directions, the woman behind the counter came out with us and walked with us to the stairway to the train we were looking for. Smiling the whole time and making sure we found it. This type of thing happened all the time. Even in the 7-11 (see, I told you they are everywhere), where everyone tells you good-by as you are leaving the store...smiling!
I can't communicate enough how efficient their transportation is. You can get anywhere by train. Everyone uses them. We waited no longer than a few minutes for any train to come. Yes, it was a challenge to get the hang of it since many of the signs are in Japanese. I give Andy super kudos to figuring it all out and speaking enough Japanese to ask questions and understand the answers. At times it felt a bit like a scavenger hunt, but we never wondered how to get somewhere. We knew there was a train. and we had Hyperdia, a phone app that was in english and helped figure out the routes and the stations we needed.
Wow. This covers alot of territory. There are so many little things.
In hotels, they have large containers of soap, shampoo, and conditioner. They refill them. No little plastic bottles to litter the environment. Yay for them. A related observation is that the country is the cleanest we've seen, right up there with New Zealand, which has a lot less people. No one litters. Its spotless.
The toilets are everything you've read about. Warm sprays, heated seats, air deodorizer, and even "white noise" or music to cover any unsavory sounds you may be making. Seriously. Boy, am I going to miss them. Not that I make any of those sounds, of course.
Every restaurant has baskets at each table to hold whatever you are carrying. Grab one and put it by your seat. Umbrella management is beyond belief, and let me tell you, we noticed it since it rained 12 of the 15 days we were there. Larger places have racks where you lock up your umbrella and just take the key. Even convenience stores have bins outside.
Damn it, I am so mad I did not get more pics of actual people. I am always hesitant to do this, and usually the opportunity passes too quickly. The young Japanese are hip, they are lookin' good! Even their iphones wear jewelry! The women are stylish and beautiful. The salarymen (and women) all wear black suits....rush hour is a sea of black. But they still look good! Well tailored, skinny cut slacks, an unusual tie. And these men must spend a good hour on their hair, which is cut with razor sharp precision. We also saw a good deal of women made up like geisha in Kyoto. Just out strolling. Gorgeous. I never tired of the people watching. It was epic.
Ahhh, the food. I miss it already. Always beautifully presented. First, the hot towel. We had everything. Sushi, ramen, udon, tempura, japanese bbq, soba, the daintiest little sandwiches...it was the first country where I didn't miss western style food at all. We went into little 5 seat restaurants with menus all in Japanese and just winged it. Once when Andy just asked for "beef" in Japanese we had the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef I've ever tasted. Heaven.
I could go on, but again this is getting long-winded. If you are interested in Japan and its culture, I recommend a website called Japan Talk Most of what I read on that site proved to be as it was in Japan. Strange and wonderful.