Thursday, December 13, 2007

what did you like most about japan?

i've tried to answer this question about a half dozen times in the past couple of days. through my jet-lag haze (it is SO much worse coming back) i don't know how coherent i've been.

but this recent post on ann althouse's blog got me thinking.

no matter where i went in japan -- big city tokyo, small town masuda, temples, shrines, airports, train stations, restaurants, post offices, hotels, the seven-eleven -- every person i came into contact with was kind, courteous, and helpful. every person. the teenage girl working at the convenience store takes such pride in her job. imagine that. (and p.s. the japanese don't accept tips. many japanese people consider tipping to be rude.)

"...every person i came into contact with was kind, courteous and helpful."

we all did better than most with the language. but when we couldn't speak enough japanese to get by? no one mocked us. no one treated us differently.

okay, wait. that's not true. they did treat us differently...

when we were trying to make arrangements for ten of us to have dinner at a small restaurant in tokyo and no one on the staff
spoke enough english to actually help us, a waiter called his english-speaking friend on his cell phone to translate.

when blake and tobi were lost, looking for a specific local eatery, they stopped an older man riding by on a bicycle to ask for directions. the man didn't speak english, so he phoned a friend. the friend didn't know the restaurant, so the man on the bike took blake and tobi to a nearby police station and explained to the policeman where blake and tobi wanted to go. the policeman then drew a detailed map.

contrast those experiences with this one: at JFK last sunday, our cabbie looked at our five huge suitcases, looked to the back of his taxi, and pointed -- as if to say "i ain't pickin' those up." and at the end of the ride home the driver announced angrily, "that'll be $49.50...PLUS TIP!"

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