It’s always interesting to note the little things that sum up to make a culture different than the one you’re used to. After all, it’s many of the little things that keep me in Germany.
Although Japan is seen as this highly technological country, I haven’t really experienced it. Okay, they have more buttons on their toilets than you could ever hope to comprehend and there are always drink vending machines everywhere you go but a lot of things are done the old fashioned way. Many stores have a person employed to just stand there and tell you stuff. Bank machines might sing a song and greet you out loud but the keypads are something out of the 80s. I’ve even seen rotary phones!
They seem to employ a lot of old people to do unnecessary jobs. If there is a construction site, rather than have a simple warning sign, there will be an old man directing pedestrians around the area. I couldn’t find a garbage can on this train but an old man just came through to collect everybody’s garbage!
People aren’t afraid to openly laugh at foreigners or just be amazed in general. I’ve already had my picture taken with a curious old couple. Bert was mocked (hah hah, foreigner!) for helpfully sorting his garbage after the sumo match. They never do it in a mean way. You’re more of a curiosity to Japanese people.
However, I can’t mention enough times how polite and helpful people are here. On the first day, I forgot a piece of paper about my hotel booking at the train ticket counter. Just as we were about to board the train, the ticket lady came running (maybe a 2-3 minute walk) with the paper in hand. I lost my hat on Mount Fuji. As we began our descent, there it was, tied to a post. I thanked the mountain god for that one.
Luck is definitely a huge thing. The shrines are always filled with people coming to ask for a blessing or whatever, which Akemi said is about luck really. There are different shrines for different things but it seems to all boil down to luck. I guess that’s why it’s always a factor in RPGs.
Speaking of games, being in Japan puts all this stuff in context. The quirky menus of Japanese video games aren’t just how they make their games; everything is like that. The bank machines sing to you. The trains play zany noises when they are arriving. TV commercials are all absurd.
Japan is not what I expected in some ways but that’s great: it’s definitely a different experience than anywhere else I’ve been and that was, after all, my primary mission.