Two weeks in Japan with my Cass’ family. My first trip was 33 years ago with two relatively quick visits in between! This is the first of 5 short pieces – I write to trigger memories in distant days.
Getting immediate impressions and things we could learn out of the way first.
- The public population moves library quietly with admirable self-containment
- Although superficially the crowd appears internationally homogenous, there is an occasional flash of traditional Japan with girls and women in kimonos paddling along unselfconsciously in the wooden shoes of history and less often, an old man in traditional dress.
- A polite kindness marks all interactions
- People, even the cutting edge outlandish, or kids from the latest fashion cults dress with care…no trackie daks here and if there were, they would be smart!
- In contrast, the malls and major centres scream with garish advertising
- Underneath the obvious and the elegance there is a uniquely Japanese youth sub-culture – Hello Kitty, manga, anime, dress-ups, style, bars, booze etc. etc
- There are many layers
- The kindness of strangers to foreign tourists is repetitive
- Signs on street, subways, railways, buses are in English as well as Japanese
- Train and buses have spoken English information repeated after the Japanese
- Transport is an easy, frequent, seamless series of connection even when mode is changed
- Much unselfconscious sleeping happens on the trains, even standing.
- Generation change is clear when the young do not appear to stand for the elderly on the trains
- Lines and doors are marked on every rail platform
- The cleanliness is stunning with neat cleaning squads waiting at every train terminus
- The toilets with their bidet improved bottom sprays are a joy!
These above were the first superficial generalisations. At a deeper level, I was putting down memories with my youngest child and her family. I left with a renewed admiration and love for her – her strength and humour, her mothering and loyalty and in this case, her ability to negotiate the JR and subway systems. Her partner, Stuart’s quiet calm and his gentle parenting were admired anew; while these two wondrous grandchildren brought me buckets of joy.