bizarre Japan

The Japan travelogues – II

Here comes the 2nd post for The Japan travelogues! This is about the kind of ppl in Japan, their attitude and what a typical desi gets to come across.
Living (on the edge) in Japan
My impression about Japanese ppl on the whole is that they are very helpful.. they would go out of their way to help a foreigner.. much more anyway than what an Indian would. When I set out for office the next day, I was to get to a particular platform on the station. The moment I got to the station, the whole place was *swarming* with ppl who all looked alike! I was very overwhelmed and felt lost like a small minnow in a torrent of ‘n’ clones of a “slit – eyed” minnow!! One of my colleagues termed it as the “Matrix effect” later. The reason why most of them looked same was firstly because of their features, and secondly because their body shape was more or less the same, which was quite surprising. No one was fat, plump, obese, skinny, thin! They were all roughly the same height and their slim bodies would give any supermodel a run for his/her money! They were all dressed up in the same attire more or less – business suits in browns & blacks. They all had the same serious expression on their faces. In other words, they all looked like products of some assembly line! If anyone has read “Abduction” by Robin cook, they would remember the feeling where those folks come into another world at the bottom of the ocean where a similar thing happens 🙂
Japan is a VERY clean place, there’s no sign of dust or pollution anywhere! I wonder how they manage it…The system is very well organised. The place is absolutely safe esp in comparison with our metros! Coming back to the ppl, they are courteous and helpful. I had thought I would be stared at or at least given a second glance for not being “slit eyed” but nothing like this happened. In fact ppl would look through me. When i wore a typical indian attire for the first time there, I was pretty apprehensive again about the looks I would get, but I should have known… I felt as if I was practically non-existant for them. Had it been the case of a foreigner in India, I can imagine the “tamasha” that would have been there if anyone wore something out of the ordinary.
Language is a major hassle but it has its own little advantages too ;-). Of course for anything that you need to communicate, you are practically handicapped if you don’t know some basic utility terms in Japanese. Or else you rely on your skills of playing “dumb charades” but I must say the opposing team here, is very bad at guessing :-P. One advantage that language offers is the language that *We* know and they don’t. We can say *anything* that we desire to, right at their faces and get away with it. Of course it’s upto every individual to stay within his/her own moral limits. And of course again, *they* also have the freedom to do the same. But this kinda freedom is *very* addictive. I had to consciously stop myself from blurting out whatever came to my mind or thinking aloud when I got back to India.
There’s a reason why the Japanese ignore anything out of the ordinary. They hate to get embarassed or land up in any situ which would result in “loss of face”. (Ok, this isn’t my own theory!). So as a result they would behave as if everything is perfectly fine and normal. They would look through you if the need be. There are other repercussions to it too. They are generally educated AFA English is concerned, esp the younger generation, but they wouldn’t really speak it coz that mite land them in an embarassing situ. Talking of the younger generation, they are more american than the americans themselves! They try to imitate that culture to the *core*! The teens there would be having spiky hair, in various garish shades, torn clothes, pierced ears, noses or whatever (believe me, it can be wherever, whatever) and a cellphone in their hands would be a necessary appendage. Would be appending more on another important part.. Surviving Japanese food, later..

The Japan travelogues – I

Ok.. so this is the first article of the travelogue series.. What do i write about? Not that I am very well travelled. Guess, it would make more sense in enlightening others about a very less frequented place .. like Japan! Had been there for 2 months last November.. and got a taste of the (brrrr) japanese winters…In fact I even spent my new years there, which was quite an experience in itself :-).
First Impressions
To start with I reached Narita Airport (Tokyo) on 19th November. It was freezing cold, much more than what Delhi had me accustomed to. Oh, before this I must give some background. I had gone via Singapore, through Singapore Airlines and these folks had delayed the flight at Delhi itself, by more than 4hrs on that chilly Novemeber night. The reason being some patient, (in the previous incoming flight) who was suddenly taken ill and he and his whole family had to be offloaded along with their luggage. As a result all subsequent SIA flights (via singapore sector) got delayed. That made the starting time of my flight as 3am from Delhi itself which meant that I would have reached Tokyo at a time when the only option for me to get to my final destination would be to go by train, which involved changing 3 trains from various platforms with all that luggage with me (help!). Cabs are of course available but they are as costly as 140$ for that distance and we guys had already been prohibited their use (After all I was being sent on official purposes). I decided to try my luck and went to have a chat with the SIA ground staff. After explaining my situ and also touching upon the fact that had it not been for the delay I would have conveniently taken a “Limousine bus” from the airport, I was finally granted a taxi till my destination! That was a great load off my chest, back and every other place, literally!
So to get back to the starting, (I’ll skip the plane journey bit, though it was my first time) I arrived at Narita airport and there was this English speaking (This is a VERY important point) lady attendent waiting for me to guide me through immigration etc. With her, the whole process was like a waltz, smooth and perfect. It was already night (BTW it gets pitch dark in Japan by 5pm in winters) and I could barely see anything on my 1 hr long drive to my hotel. I was in an absorbing mode, taking in everything I saw. The fact that I *was* in Japan had still not sunk in. But from whatever little I could see, I could make out that the roads (and even the houses) were *very* small, and the traffic very well organised. (They drive the same way, or should I say we drive the same way as them :-P) There were no animals or crowds on the streets ( I felt so outta place!) and I didnt see those typical monument kinda structures that one associates Japan with. Their houses were like an array of small matchboxes, lined in perfect coordination with the neighbouring matchboxes. All the cars I saw were so familiar, what with most of the leading car manufacturers in India being Japanese companies. I saw all Maruti models courtesy Suzuki, also saw various models in Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Kawasaki.. name it and you have it! Even their bikes were like the bike in that TV serial we used to watch loooong time back – Night rider or something.
Anyway, I was soon at my hotel “Kashiwa Plaza” and had a tough time thanking the driver…was just practising my newly acquired limited Japanese you see :-).. Thank You is “Arigato Gozaimashita” in Japanese. The hotel room was again *Very* small. It was just about as much space as a bed would need. There was a small attached bathroom with the same “speciality”. Keeping my luggage in the room took up all the breathing space that was left. There was one small window which opened into the backside of another building, literally coz the backside wall was all I could see…it was *so* closely built. Finally I called up folks back home and informed them about my safe arrival. Had called up Sumit from the airport. He was waiting downstairs to show me a couple of convenience stores and the way to the station for getting to office the next day. After seeing all that I just conked off in the “just fitting” bed still trying to make myself realise that I was in Japan after all.