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Email: Greetings from Japan – Final Thoughts

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Date: Sunday, 23 June 2002 01:19 PDT
Subject: Greetings from Japan – Final Thoughts

Well, tomorrow we return to the US. So I thought I would take a few paragraphs to summarize my thoughts in a fun way.

The 10 most surprising things I found in Japan:

Number 10: Comic books are big here… even with adults. They are read backwards from the last page to the first.

Number 9: The Japanese drive on the left. Should have known this. But it surprised me.

Number 8: No automobile traffic in Tokyo. At 8am on Monday it looked like midnight on Sunday. There is an extensive public transportation system including 12 subway lines, light rail and bus.

Number 7: They have diagonal crosswalks in addition to the normal ones at intersections. There are a lot of people walking once they leave the public transportation system.

Number 6: The suit and tie (for men) is alive and well in Japan. No Dockers here.

Number 5: Starbucks is big here. However, it’s more of a night thing. The place is bursting at the seams at 10pm. We got to a Starbucks at 9:45AM and found it was closed. We expected it to open at 10AM. Amazingly, it didn’t. Other Starbucks opened earlier.

Number 4: People don’t talk on their cell phones. Instead they use them for two way messaging. We saw kids all over Japan pecking out Kanji characters on their phones. I even saw people messaging while riding bikes and driving cars. They can even take pictures with their cells!

Number 3: The Internet is not a force in Japan. My theory is that it lacks the “killer app”. For us in the U.S., it was email. However, since most people are messaging with their phone, there’s little reason to sit down at a hard wired PC to communicate.

Number 2: Vending machines are everywhere. In fact, we learned that Japan has more than any other country. You only have to walk a block or two to find one. They sell Coke, and ice coffee and cold tea. They sell cigarettes (70% of the men and 40% of the women smoke). They even sell beer! I counted six different sizes of beer cans: 100ml (just a sip), 180ml (half a 12 oz can), 350 ml (12 oz can), 500ml (16 oz can), 1liter and 2 liters (oil can size for that monstrous thirst).

Number 1: Bowing is one of the core elements of Japanese culture. People bow to each other on the street. Sometimes it’s a head gesture. Other times it’s a deep bow at the waist. The rail staff all bow upon entry and exit of each car, including the conductor and the those that push the food carts. I was watching the news and two newscasters started and ended their story by bowing to each other and then to the camera. This is the biggest contrast with our culture which has become so informal.

Today, we spent the day walking around Tokyo. We used the subway system extensively – 9 or 10 rides. Today’s highlight was walking the grounds of the Imperial Gardens, home of Japan’s ruler. We also went to the west side of town where the young kids hang out. There was live music and lots of orange hair.

See you all soon.
Darren and Sandy

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