It’s a bit late for first impressions, I know, as we’ve already been here a number of weeks. But, I wrote this earlier and have been collecting pics for it, so here goes. (Look at the gallery at the end for the pics—click on any of them for a bigger view).
Totally Subjective First Impressions
—Japan reveals itself only slowly. It’s polite, reserved people, who show you only the exterior until you get to know them.
—wonderfully polite service personnel, who smile, bow and greet you with a lovely old-worlde touch of formality. It makes shopping and any commercial activity so much more pleasant.
—drivers, baggage handlers, security personnel, gate control people who wear white gloves.
—cyclists who wear half-gloves, black or white.
—a land of bike riders, of all ages, shapes and sizes, wearing clothes from the very formal to the very casual. In a few days here we already saw more bike riders than we did on our last visit to China.
—a land where cars and vans are getting much smaller, many like little boxes on wheels, so it seems that in many ways they really are trying to embrace conservation.
—a place where many basic public signs (toilets, street and station signs, for example) are in both Japanese and English, thank goodness for us visitors!
—a country of consumerism and a love of brand names; just wander any large (or small for that matter) department store or speciality store and witness the frenzy of buying.
—a country of bright, gorgeous, in-your-face decorations and ads, side by side with beautiful, small, understated ones
—a gastronomic delight. Even if you don’t speak the language you have a chance of picking a good dish, as in all restaurants, bars and cafes they have either a picture or a plastic model of each dish.
—seafood, sushi and noodles, cheek by jowl with McDonalds and Starbucks.
—old, but also new, modern, a fast, frenetic, neon-light fantasy land, with billboard wonders (or horrors), depending on your viewpoint.
—peace and serenity, in temple and shrine gardens with green trees and often misty, mystical vistas.
—green tea, tea ceremonies, love of koi fish and cherry blossom.
—a country where “face” is all important, and social mores strong
—a country with a love-hate relationship with the west and with the English language; people who value and aspire to perfection and therefore won’t speak English even when they actually can, because “I can’t do it perfectly”. Rather than give directions in broken English, they’ll pretend not to understand you.