Ten Random Things to Love About Japan

Why did I move to Japan? That’s a huge question with an answer that would probably be extremely long-winded and uncomfortably personal. Instead, how about I show you ten things I love about this country? In no particular order…

1: Beauty everywhere you look.

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Literally (and I mean that literally) everywhere I go in Japan I find beauty. The architecture of even humble homes; the plants, trees, and landscaping are like nowhere else; the fashion; the graceful sound and crisp minimalism of the language. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, so suffice it to say you may disagree, but for me there are innumerable facets of Japan which are indescribably beautiful. This gallery of images is a small sample of those alluring qualities which might be captured in a photo, and you can see many more examples in all my other posts.

2: Tactile paving.

blind-paths-2

I’m not visually impaired, but I bet the segment of the Japanese population that is is grateful for these tactile paving tiles, which are everywhere. Seriously, I’ve never been on a sidewalk in Japan without them. Japan invented the stuff, and it’s used all over the world now (in America you’ve seen it at intersections where a sidewalk slopes down to street-level) but nowhere is it as common as Japan. With over 30% of Japan’s 2014 population over the age of 65, I can imagine heavy reliance on it. One of a myriad of good ideas with it’s birthplace and ubiquitous implementation here.

3: The “call your waiter” button.

Yeah my mango sorbet looks delicious, but I'm trying to show you that black thing in the back.
Yeah my mango sorbet looks delicious, but I’m trying to show you that black thing in the back.

It’s not uncommon to find these buttons on every table in a Japanese restaurant. You come in, are escorted to your table, given water and menus, then left alone until you need service again. Ever been having dinner conversation in an American restaurant and had to pause mid-sentence to tell the server “We’re fine, thanks?” This button, man. It’s incredible.

4: Conbini.

Nearly everything mentioned below is pictured here, and this is just one shelf among a dozen.
Nearly everything mentioned below is pictured here, and this is just one shelf among a dozen.

Everyone who’s ever been to Japan loves the convenience stores (“conbini”) here. Seriously, everyone; Google it. Things you can find in a conbini you often won’t find in an American convenience store include but are not limited to socks, ties, dress shirts, under-shirts, boxer-briefs, tasty freshly cooked food, shampoo and other toiletries, a variety of writing implements, towels… You could probably honestly survive here fine making only conbini purchases. That would make a pretty fun experiment, actually.

5: Everybody lines up on the left on escalators.

everyone-lines-up-to-the-left

If you’re standing still, you stand to the left. If want to walk up the escalator, you can always do so on the right. People also always form two orderly lines in front of the subway car doors: one on the left, one on the right, with a path in the middle for people getting off.

6: Safety.

Here's a picture of some children walking alone down a sidewalk in the most populous metropolitan area in the world. They're fine.
Here’s a picture of some children walking alone down a sidewalk in the most populous metropolitan area in the world. They’re fine.

It’s not uncommon to see very young children unaccompanied on a train to/from school or walking down the sidewalk. They’re totally safe and their parents know this. What would many American parents give to feel this secure about their kids’ safety in their city? How many older Americans pine for the days of their own youth when their families also felt this way?

7: Quiet.

Watch this video. Turn it up really loud. Hear that? It’s the wind. This was filmed at 8:30am on a Thursday. There are probably a hundred people within earshot of me while I’m filming and if any of them is saying a word I sure can’t hear them. It’s like that just about everywhere, and the stillness is more pleasant than I could have imagined. Here’s some more silence amidst a bunch of people:

8: Trains are on time.

Just watch this clock turn 12:01 literally as the 12:01 train arrives. Also commonplace.

9: Employees are rarely idle.

This shop had no customers, so the worker spent her down-time meticulously cleaning the floor.

There’s something very impressive to me about the Japanese work-ethic. At Rakuten, every Tuesday we begin our days at our desk by cleaning them ourselves. The company doesn’t employ a cleaning staff. When a shop is not busy, workers are seen straightening shelf items, cleaning, or otherwise giving their employer the full extent of the wage they’re paid. To me this displays a level of pride in one’s work I think everyone in the world could benefit from.

10: This thing.

Might be the greatest invention of all time.
Might be the greatest invention of all time.

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