Japan: a culture I hadn’t expected

Posted on October 14, 2016


Neither my husband nor I had ever been to Japan and with it’s hyper tech and wise zen reputation, it seemed the perfect pick for a honeymoon. During those two weeks we only scratched the surface with Tokyo, a remote ryokan, Kyoto and Nara but I feel that I learnt so much about Japanese culture. Here are a few of the things that I hadn’t expected.

The Japanese have a quest for perfection. Every person that we met strived to do the best they could in their given profession. This is embodied in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, where there are stories of chefs spending 60+ years perfecting the art of rice. You also see this in the real masters of the tea ceremonies, and it may be why the Japanese make such great French food.

All of this comes from sheer hard work, which is endemic of Japanese culture. Everything runs on time: Japanese trains put Swiss timetables to shame. There are even markings for where people should queue on the platform, which of course everyone sticks to (the London Tube and New York Subway could learn some lessons here!).

Within all this there is the utmost respect for other people. Friendly yet polite, I was asked numerous times ‘may I talk to you’. In fact so many questions started ‘may I’ (clear your plate, pour you some tea, get your coat, fetch you an umbrella….). This comes with a discreetness. The Japanese don’t touch – no handshakes, no hugs, just bows.

This shouldn’t be mistaken for a coldness, I was overwhelmed with how friendly everyone was and how often people offered to help. And Japan is soooooo safe. So safe that on the lost and found board as Tsukiji market some one was looking for the owner of a wad of cash they’d found (I kid you not).

I’d love to spend more time in Japan, there is so much more to learn.

Posted in: Asia, Destinations, Japan