I’ve probably asked Ben to move to Japan about five times (per day) now. ☺ And after spending almost two weeks in this fabulous country and luckily still have time to visit a few more places, I think I’ll keep asking him. And before you ask, no, I don’t speak the language nor do I have a job offer on the table. But there are so many things we can learn from the Japanese that I wanted to take a shortcut and just move here rather than wait for a bit of their culture to drip over to the west.
I’ve fallen utterly and completely in love with Japan, its people and culture and it took me less than a couple of days to do so. Here are the top 10 things we can learn from the Japanese and the reasons why this is the country where I feel at my most relaxed and calm.
1. The people. Yes, people in general, all of them, from the hotel receptionist to a construction yard security guard, random lady with a baby in a cafe, the guy at the drugstore and all the rest. They’re incredibly polite. I know the Brits love their please and thank yous, but the Japanese go way beyond that and interacting with them makes me feel as if I’m growing to be a better person who’s happier to smile at everybody else, bow my head in polite recognition and not stress about everything we stress about at home.
2. No littering. None whatsoever. I’m having difficulties finding bins in every place we’ve been to, but there’s no trash, no chewing gum, no cigarette butts, no teeny tiny bits of paper lying on the roads. Not in Tokyo, not in Kyoto, not in small villages or towns. Trains get cleaned before every departure from the first stop, windows and all, while people politely wait. People here seem to respect the nature and environment.
3. Smart toilets. Even when I haven’t got the foggiest how to flush and I’m getting all worried while staring at it at Starbucks and willing it to just do it. They not only incorporate about four bidet options, they spray themselves with deodorant to stay fresh. Yes! Public toilets are also very mum friendly. There’s a seat/holder for babies/toddlers, so you can use the loo whithout worrying where to put your little one. And on top of that, some have “privacy” function, meaning you can regulate the sound volume while you do what you have to do without anyone hearing what you’re doing. Brilliant!
4. Queuing. Yes, standing in a queue. At train stations and underground stations there are designated queue lines and everybody just waits in them. Yes, we queue in Britain, but as soon as the tube door opens most people scramble to get on board as if the train’s going to leave in a second. Here, the queue moves onto the train one by one, following the drawn lines on the floor. No more stressing about the guy who jumps on before people get off.
5. The food. I can’t get enough of it. We’ve tried many different things from sushi, okonomiyaki, tempura, goods from bakery such as curry doughnuts and melon buns, it all tastes yummy.
And it’s relatively cheap to eat out too. And again, yes, living in London, there’s so much variety and great places to eat, but I can’t see myself sitting down in a restaurant every day, it’d just be too expensive.
Let’s get some smaller places that serve delicious and not too pricey food. And let’s learn how to make melon buns.
6. No rushing anywhere. No wonder the people here don’t appear stressed out, they do everything in a calm manner. In two weeks I saw one man running for a train. One! Maybe they do things slowly because it’s insanely hot, or maybe they just understand that rushing isn’t going to solve your problems or give you more time.
7. Shinkansen. Trains. They are absolutely amazing. We’re travelling the country at about 300 kph in bullet trains, rice fields rushing by (the scenery is doing all the rushing by it seems), sitting in comfortable and large seats with so much leg room I can barely touch the seat in front of me with my extended legs. And the conductor and all the staff that walk the train bow to the whole carriage when they enter and turn around and bow again when they exit. I almost feel like a barbarian from the West that’s how polite they are (and I know my please and thank yous!)
8. Fashion! There’s no way I won’t mention shops and clothes and shoes. The women here are dressed so well, they look so feminine and while as a westerner I feel bigger than I am most of the time (I bought an M sized item of clothing for the first time in my life!), I love the wide leg trousers, the ladylike skirts and flowy tops. Being more feminine is something I’ll be taking home with me.
9. Jingles on trains and stations. Oh, and classical music at stations in the morning. I guess it helps you relax when there’s a cute jingle on the train rather than the driver shouting. Each station in Tokyo has a different jingle to alert passengers they’re arriving and they have jingles on Shinkansen before every announcement. Think Eastenders theme music or similar. And in Kyoto there was classical music being played at stations in the morning. All aimed at helping people to relax. We definitely need that on the tube.
10. But most of all, what I’ll be taking back is the mindfulness and patience. Those two and the principles of the respect for others and nature that seem to permeate the Japanese culture are what makes our trip so joyful, relaxed and enjoyable.
You can shop my wardrobe here or look at the items from this post below (some have been sold out, but I linked to similar ones).