Despite being here for just over five years, I’ve discovered and embraced numerous aspects that I particularly admire about life in this country. I have a lot more up my sleeves to share.
Efficient Means of Transportation
While my personal travels have been somewhat limited, a wealth of experiences while living here and testimonials from those who have lived and visited Japan leaves me convinced that this country boasts one of the world’s best transportation systems. Japan’s railway network spreads like a web across the nation, while major cities are intertwined with extensive train lines and subways. Then there’s the legendary Shinkansen, known as the bullet train, designed to whisk you across long distances beyond the bustling cities.
The bullet train experience is a true marvel, ensuring swift, comfortable, and hassle-free travel, particularly cherished by land travel enthusiasts. Connecting the North to the South, East to West, with just a couple of transfers, it may take slightly longer than a plane, but the breathtaking scenic views, reclining seats, and the convenience of charging stations right at your seat are nothing short of a stroke of brilliance.
Ubiquitous Convenience Stores
In Japan, convenience stores are a ubiquitous presence, offering unparalleled accessibility and a myriad of services. Operating 24/7, these stores provide a haven for those in need of a quick snack or beverage, even in the quiet hours of the night or early dawn. Beyond being mere purveyors of snacks and bento boxes, convenience stores serve as versatile hubs. Need to withdraw cash? Pay your bills? Purchase tickets for concerts or events? Or perhaps, claim a package? A visit to a Japanese convenience store can effortlessly fulfill these needs. The convenience store landscape in Japan goes beyond mere convenience, it’s a testament to the efficiency and adaptability ingrained in daily life.
Unmatched Customer Service
In my home country, I’ve never encountered customer service quite like what Japan offers. It’s a truth that deserves acknowledgment. Hands down! Their commitment to customer service extends even to the smallest details. Take, for instance, a seemingly ordinary item like a packet of mustard and ketchup for your sausage bun. Instead of a potential mess, they ingeniously designed a user-friendly way to pour the condiments. It’s the thoughtful touches that set their service apart. In Japan, you can confidently anticipate a flawless and exceptional service experience, without a doubt.
The unmatched customer service is further explained in the next topic: ‘Omotenashi’.
Omotenashi’ is a Japanese term signifying exceptional hospitality, rooted in a genuine care for customer well-being. It transcends mere customer service by consistently going the extra mile to create warm and memorable experiences. This concept is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, seen in daily life, restaurants, hotels, and interactions with locals, making it a core element of Japanese hospitality.
One of the many ways in which omotenashi is expressed in Japan is through bowing and gift-giving. Bowing is a gesture of respect, gratitude, and humility, and it’s an integral part of Japanese culture. When used in the context of customer service or interactions with others, bowing is a way to make individuals feel respected and welcomed. This practice is particularly noticeable in hotels and shops, where they bow almost every time, especially after a purchase. What’s remarkable is that they continue to bow until you are out of sight.
Another practical example is the common practice of bringing gifts when meeting clients in a business setting. While gift-giving is a tradition found worldwide, what distinguishes Japanese ‘omotenashi’ is it’s not merely a matter of presenting a gift. It’s the genuine desire to ensure that guest feel deeply welcomed.
I’ve experienced these instances firsthand, but the most recent one took me by surprise. As we checked out of our hotel in Kumamoto, we were presented with a parting gift: 2 kilograms of rice. In all the times we’ve stayed in hotels and ryokans, it was the very first time we were given rice. What a delightful surprise it was!
Being Punctual and On—time
One aspect of Japan that I deeply admire is its unwavering commitment to punctuality. Tardiness is a big no-no in this culture, and it’s a norm I’ve come to appreciate. When you expect something to arrive or conclude at a specific time and date in Japan, you can trust that it will happen, sometimes even earlier than expected. You might have heard about the incident when a train arrived earlier than scheduled, and they issued an apology. You might wonder if an apology was really necessary for something seemingly positive. The explanation behind it, however, speaks volumes about Japanese thoughtfulness. The apology was offered because they didn’t want to disrupt people’s plans and schedules. It’s a prime example of their dedication to ensuring a smooth and respectful experience for all.
In this glimpse of Japan, I’ve explored just a few reasons to admire this remarkable country. Japan’s charm knows no bounds, and there’s so much more to discover. While every country has its good and bad sides, Japan’s positives have outweighed the negatives, at least for me so far. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll continue to explore its many admirable aspects.