Huge Buddha statue in Kyoto

First some first impressions;

Japan is pretty much a western looking country, but there are a lot of big differences that jump right out.  The biggest is that the people are very friendly, gracious, and there is a lot of bowing going on. You can not hear the thank you’s but you see them all around you. Thank you in Japanese has a little more meaning than in the US. They do not know how to be pushy, they prefer to back off and bow and let you by. What a pleasant surprise.

The doctors leave their office and walk in public with their surgical masks on and about half of the school kids imitate the doctors. A very confusing custom.

Lots of bicycles, and they are on the sidewalks. Did not even expect bicycles in Japan. No casual strolling on city sidewalks. Not a pleasant surprise.

Most Japanese people are thin so it makes walking easier on the crowded sidewalks and they can pack more of them of the crowded rush hour trains. Speaking of the trains they are everywhere, easy to use with the latest technology to help passengers get to the correct track. At the station there are easy to use directions for everything and at the track you can find yellow guiding pathways to where the train door will be and at pathway end it will have blinking lights when the train is arriving.  There is not enough space to mention everything about the trains, but it’s all very impressive.

The Japanese like their gadgets, as Americans know with the Japanese cars, it’s all over the train stations, street sidewalks are cushioned, creature comforts everywhere, but the biggest surprise is the electronic toilets, complete with control panel. It’s like the Japanese adopted Western culture and put some finishing touches to it.

Not so much of a surprise is that the USD does not go as far as in the USA.


Mariko Shotaro Ann at the Golden Pavillion in Kyoto

The highlight of Japan has been meeting with our good friend Mariko and her 8-year-old son Shotaro. Mariko was more than gracious in meeting us in Kyoto, a 3 hour train trip for her and showing us the traditional city of Koyoto. How lucky we were!! She toured us to the Golden Pavillion, Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Chion-in temple, Ryozen Kannon statue, Nijo Castle, Nanzen-ji, and Heian Jingu Shrine.  Our last day with Mariko was in Osaka were she showed us the Osaka castle built in 1540 that marked the beginning of the city of Osaka. That evening it was our pleasure to have dinner with Mariko and her mother. The next day used our last day on our JR rail pass and we took the train for 10 days in Tokyo. (more…)