Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Back from Japan

Well I'm back from Japan and had an absolute blast. Where do I even start?

I have now visited almost 20 countries and have pretty strong impressions about what makes a country good to visit and travel in, and what makes it bad.

After 2 weeks in Japan I can honestly say I can't really think of too many negatives.

First of all the people are amazingly humble, polite, helpful and seem happy to help/serve you. OK maybe not all of them but most of them.

Second of all, the information signage is out of this world. I find myself in some sort of mental pain when I'm in a country where I don't speak the language and the signs are extremely inadequate. Even in my home town of Sydney where I DO speak/read the language and have visited certain places thousands of times I can still find myself getting lost. Nope, I'm not stupid. The signage is just seriously lacking and what little signage there is is not exactly that helpful.

Most of the signs are pictorial so you don't even need to know how to read anything and self explanatory.

Eg 1. In the airport coming back to Shanghai near the waiting area there was a sign outside the public toilet with a map of the layout! That's right. The walls and little toilet stalls were illustrated. Also, it had a map pointing you to the next closest toilets should these be closed for cleaning.

2. In most places where there are public toilets it tells you on the door if it is a "Japanese style" toilet (squat) or "Western style" (seated).

3. If you find yourself lost you will sooner or later find a sign telling you which direction to go, and in addition if it's a popular touristy place there is probably also a human directing people.

4. The Japanese are big on safety and there are cute little cartoony illustrations everywhere telling you not to do this or that, or we apologise for ... etc.

Enough about signs. At times I felt like I was a child and the Japanese people were my parents.

1. In our first hotel whenever we were directed somewhere they didn't just point to it or tell us, they actually took us there personally and if there were stairs they pointed them out to us seconds before we hit the stairs.

2. When a staff member took a photo using my camera they handed it back to me and put the strap back on my wrist for me.

3. When I went into the water at the beach they asked me if my camera and watch were both waterproof. I can't imagine anyone else asking or caring. In fact, I have ruined a perfectly good watch when I forgot to take it off one time whilst boating.

4. When I bought something in a shop and was carrying other stuff, they put the handles of the plastic bag into my hand for me... etc.

People in Australia seem to think that Japan is an expensive place to visit. It's been ingrained into everyone's heads. I don't what started this or how it came about but everyone is like "Ooh Japan is SO expensive" and the majority of those people have never even been!

Well I can say for a fact that many things are cheaper than Australia - food and clothes for example. The food is amazing - healthy, tasty, quick and nutricious. and about the same price we'd pay in Australia for a food court meal.

The clothes, shoes, bags are so beautiful and stylish and made to fit Asian bodies - my ideal of heaven (as nothing in Australia ever fits, the sizes seem to get bigger year by year and even the smallest size of clothes and shoes are too big for me now). The quality as well as the design is superb.

The homewares are similar - beautiful, stylish, small and neat, just perfect.

If you are a craft / DIY lover, it is simply heaven. There are about a billion amazing illustrated craft books covering every topic under the sun and there are many shops which sell all the bits and pieces you need. Some rare/hard to find things too - like a t-shirt screen printing kit, leather work and stamping, resin ornament making, anything your heart desires!

I could go on and on... I am dying to get back there soon! :)

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