A Japan visit
TRAVEL UPDATE - Marlinda Angbetic Tan (The Freeman) - January 29, 2015 - 12:00am

Last December 20, my whole family & I left for Osaka to enjoy winter in the Land of the Rising Sun. Being Japanese food lovers, the five adults were looking forward to culinary treats, while the four little ones have learned to enjoy the fried rice and meats in our visits to Japanese restaurants.

What remains to my mind until now is the positive traits unique to the Japanese: quiet outward manner, giving way to others in public places, neatness and, most of all, an ingrained honesty. These were all the more made significant after my trip to China immediately before we went to Japan.

Despite being Chinese-Filipino, I promised myself to avoid going back to China, if I can help it! This latest trip was my first as an independent tourist, not part of a tour group. Hence, it was a reality check indeed! Despite my travel companion’s ability to communicate in and read Chinese, we found various kinds of inconveniences from start to finish. We started in Hangzhou and ended in Shanghai within nine days, then to Hong Kong for three days. The problem was mostly due to cultural discrepancies: unhygenic practices of locals (spitting & expectorating in public), no respect for personal space and priority when in line (which can also be true on the Philippines!), noisy gaggles everywhere. No wonder my immersion to Japanese culture was so amazing!  

Take for instance, honesty. The first time I was in Japan was in the early 80s, when I accompanied a good friend who was a manager of a topnotch Japanese restaurant in Cebu. We forgot our shopping bags in the overhead rack of the train we took. Our host, Mr. Ito, assured us that it will be traced. True enough, the train station personnel where we were, phoned the last stop of our train and our bags were recovered shortly thereafter.

In our recent trip, with four strollers in tow, we tend to forget things, too, despite all precautions. In our Disneyland visit, my daughter-in-law Jinjin misplaced her handbag (containing cash, mobile phone, credit cards, etcetera) somewhere along the way. And I also left my favorite grey leather winter gloves in the toilet. We just went to the Customer Service office near the exit, at closing time, where we saw a long line of people. Everyone was patiently waiting for their turn. I saw many recovered their expensive smartphones, wallets, handbags — like Jinjin’s case — and other personal belongings. What you need to report is probable time and place where you lost an item. They bunch lost things accordingly, for easy retrieval. We got back our lost things, thanks to Japanese honesty & efficiency.  

A notable aspect that highlights the Japanese sense of cleanliness is the beautiful toilets that are with dry floors, everything in working order, and without an unpleasant odor. And toilets are almost everywhere. As it was winter, the warm toilet seats are so welcome...so with hot water in the lavatories or the option of hand sanitizers. In some countries, you get frozen fingers when washing in cold tap water.  

Most important of all is the politeness, the sense of civility, among the Japanese. They move about in their quiet ways, even hurry along but still aware of not bumping into others. As someone with a stroller, one tends to cause an obstruction at certain times. Never have I felt impatience or irritation around me; on the contrary, people gave way and even helped so I could get on to/get off the train. Quite impressive! And this sense of respect for others is also reflected, in a more fun way, in the way COSPLAY (costume play when you dress up according to your favorite comic or movie character) has gained wide acceptance in the country. As the leader of our COSPLAY group, I was sporting a lilac wig for the day we were in Disneyland in Tokyo. As we were moving around — outside the theme park — nobody even looked at me with my unusual get-up. They just let you be!

 As we were given each a five-year Japan visa, we will all be going back in December. Japan is such a lovely fun experience we want to repeat.

Travel safely!

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