This week I made my fifth trip to Japan for business. It had been two years since my last visit and each time I come I gain a greater admiration of the Japanese people.
While I do enjoy seeing the sites and touring various areas of the country what I enjoy most is the interaction with everyday Japanese citizens in hotels, on trains or in restaurants. They go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. I think they are especially considerate to western travelers and out-of-country visitors in general. I stick out like a sore thumb with my blond/reddish hair color and goatee so it’s fairly obvious that I am a foreigner.
This particular trip was to the Tokyo area so the travel wasn’t nearly as brutal as most of my other visits but it still took a 10 hour flight, 1 ½ hour bus ride and 40 minute train ride to arrive at the hotel. I hardly sleep when I come on these trips to intentionally avoid fatigue by trying to adjust to the time change. I just sincerely enjoy the time here so I manage to get by pretty much on pure adrenaline and get through all the meetings then I’m worthless for the next week after I get home.
This was the first trip alone. Typically I have traveled with other co-workers and they had been familiar with the train and bus schedules. This time I had to figure out myself. Surprisingly enough I didn’t get lost once! Everything here is small compared to the United States. Cars are smaller. Hotel rooms are MUCH smaller. Although there is a large population throughout the Tokyo area I am always so impressed by the Japanese efficiency. Trains absolutely arrive and leave on time, all the time. If the train is to be there at 10:11 then it’s always there like clock-work so don’t be late! Things just simply happen quicker and there is no room for wasted energy.
It’s always refreshing to visit and be part of this society even if it’s only for a few days. Of course there are some negative things such as most people don’t own vehicles so you must rely on public transportation. Or the fact that everything is small could throw someone with claustrophobia into an episode. But aside from a few inconveniences and adjustments that would take some getting-used-to much of the Japanese experience is what people should aspire to do. Be kind and considerate. Work hard and be respectful. And, above all else, don’t miss the last train home at night or you are stuck!