Nihon e youkoso, or welcome to Japan. N and I have found our spiritual home in this lovely country. This is a society that values respect and politeness above all else, and we’ve loved everything thus far. Thinking of visiting Japan? Allow me to provide you with a few solid reasons to do so.
- The people. From navigating our way from Tokyo to Kyoto via shinkasen bullet train, subway with transfers and elevated vintage tram to every person we’ve encountered in shops or restaurants, the people here are unfailingly polite and helpful, especially when you’re tall, fair-haired and very confused-looking. It is delightful.
- The silence. On public transportation, you’re greeted with numerous (polite) requests to silence your phone and if you do need to talk, to please remove yourself to the compartment between carriages. Thus, train rides are silent and peaceful, with a slight rustle of paper as everyone tucks into their meals and snacks. (Except for our carriage, where two American men – U.S. Department of Defense employees en route from Guam to the U.S. – FaceTimed loudly and disrupted much of the journey. N and I tried in vain to hide.)
- The toilets. If you’re not familiar with Japanese toilets, do a little reading. They may be reason enough to visit this magical land.
- The cleanliness. Streets contain virtually no litter, everyone cleans up after their dogs (they rinse the pavement with spray bottles!) and did I mention the toilets? Even public transport bathrooms – places most of us might normally avoid if at all possible – are immaculate. On our Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo the airplane toilet was freshened between every visit.
Arigatou gozaimasu, Japan. You’ve stolen our hearts.