Please note that the following observations are mine alone, based on only a few days in Japan. I’m sure that these generalities can be easily disproven on many levels. Again, just my personal observations.
1. When you’re traveling, you have to get used to going to the bathroom in lots of public places. On our recent trip, that often meant train stations. The public bathrooms in Japan are immaculate and many of them feature a wonderful product know as the Toto toilet. Totos aren’t your average toilet. When you sit down, you’ll notice what seems to be an armrest on one side. Look closely and you’ll see dials and buttons. These controls operate features that are unfamiliar to most Americans. You see, these toilets have additional water jets–one that will duplicate a bidet and one that will…hmmmm….wash your butt. The dials control the water pressure and temperature.
I totally want a Toto, but they cost around $3,000 so I don’t think Santa will be putting one under my tree.
But here’s a contradiction–once you leave the stall with your freshly washed behind, you notice that there’s no soap and no towels and no hot water. The best you can do is to rinse your hands with cold water and then rub them on your pants. That’s right–your rear end is cleaner than your hands after a visit to a Japanese railway station bathroom.
2. As I said earlier, Japan is immaculate. But garbage cans are very hard to find. There are lots of recycling bins for plastic and aluminum, but no place to put regular garbage. On our last afternoon we were catching our breath and repacking our backpacks in the hotel lobby. Husband needed to discard an empty plum wine bottle and set off to find a garbage can. He looked and looked (the lobby was immense). One hotel worker came to his assistance. Then there were two. In all, three people helped him throw away his empty bottle…all apologising the entire time. I don’t know how a country that’s so clean can have so few places to put garbage.
3. Most Japanese people are quite small by American standards. The younger ones are definitely larger than their parents and grandparents, but I saw some of the tiniest people I’ve ever seen. However, when we were visiting some of the ancient temples and shrines, we walked up some of the steepest, tallest steps I’ve ever been on. I just measured the steps in my house–7.5 inches. I’m guessing that the ancient steps in Japan were at least 10 inches. They were a stretch for my long legs…I can’t imagine how the diminutive monks of old managed them.
4. Husband frequently travels on business to China and Japan and one of his observations is that the people living there never get hot. Everytime we sat on a train or went into our hotel room we felt like we were in a furnace. The temperature was around 60 degrees F–perfect for sightseeing. We were walking around in shirt sleeves and light fleeces. All around us though, people were bundled up in hats, coats, scarves and gloves.
5. There were Christmas decorations everywhere, including our hotel. Not sure why these devotees of Buddha and Shinotism are decking the halls, but it looked pretty.
So there you have my thoughts on Japan. It was a wonderful place to visit, and there’s lots more to see. It will never replace France as my favorite place. but if you have the chance to go, by all means, do. Just remember to take a buddy if you visit an onsen.