The timing of “The Big Trip (TM)” wasn’t planned and was determined by factors outside our direct control that presented the opportunity to undertake this remarkable adventure. Consequently the fact that the weather and seasons we have experienced along the way have been almost perfect is something that we are grateful for.
Almost perfect. If we were being picky then we would have made it to Japan in time for the Cherry Blossom season, when parks and open spaces become a wall of pink and white for three weeks a year. Sadly we missed this by a week or so, though we did get to see some of it in China and Seoul, but barring the odd tree the colour has gone for another year. That said strolling though Osaka Castle park in beautiful warm spring weather in sunglasses, shorts and t-shirts it would seem churlish to complain.
For the last time we start the process of acclimatising to a new country and new culture.
The hectic craziness that S.America and S.E.Asia have brought us for the past 5 1/2 months has vanished. The world of health and safety hazards and total personal responsibility has gone. The feeling that crossing the road should be an extreme sport is no more.
Japan is as structured and ordered society as any we have seen anywhere across the globe. They drive on the correct side of the road, people stop for you to cross at zebra crossings, there are warning signs and notices up about anything and everything and the toilets are something out of StarTrek.
On top of the usual mental arithmetic of a new currency (this time it’s your 175 times table) and another language for Niki to learn with impressive speed, Japan brings with it a whole host of cultural practices, more than anywhere else we have visited.
Some of the ones we are now aware of (though not before probably offending a few people along the way):
- No tipping (hurrah!)
- Handing money over with two hands (but on to a plate not directly to the other person)
- Blowing your nose should be done in private (sniffing constantly until you can get somewhere private is OK)
- Don’t eat whilst walking through public places
- Bow. A lot. Apparently the average Japanese person bows more than 1,000 times a day!
- Take your shoes on entering many buildings
- Cross the road only when the green man is showing (we got whistled at)
- Eat everything your are given on your plate.
- Don’t leave chopsticks pointing down in your bowl.
I am sure by the end of the next 3 weeks will will have offended more people and added to this list.