One of the most pleasureable experiences I had in Japan was riding the public transportation. I have explained in detail about my experiences with this in the page on transportation but one thing that made it a truly unique experience when compared to the United States is how quiet people are when they are on public transport.
On an american subway or train you can barely hear yourself think because people are all talking. Additionally, if an American does not have someone nearby they often tend to hop on the phone to pass the time. The Japanese do not do this.
People are entirely quiet and if they do have to speak they will do so in a very low voice. Additionally, I never saw people TALKING on their phones in public. I did, however, see a lot of people texting. The photo to the left illustrates this. You can see several people texting, however, if you look closely you will see that no one is talking. In fact, on many trains you will see many hard working individuals sleeping on the train! Do you think it would be easy (or safe) to sleep on an American subway?
The experience that best illustrates the generous nature of the Japanese people occured during my first night in Aomori prefecture.
After our Aomori group finished our day's acitivities a small group of us, Allison, Ian, Jesus, Stephanie, Kim and I, decided to go out in search of more Shamisen music, as we were delighted with the small bit we heard on our group site-seeing adventure.
On our way to listen to Shamisen we decided to visit a Shrine. Upon arrival to the shrine we were greeted warmly by the family that runs the shrine. One of the family members, name Kichiro, immediately took us into the shrine where he taught us how to pay our respects to the Gods of the shrine. After we finished we asked him in our broken Japanese to join us for dinner and to recommend a good place.
The most unexpected things occured next...
Kichiro invited the six of us into his van with the Jackson Five playing in the background and drive us to an amazing restaurant. Now please remember we had left with him under the impression that he would join us. Instead... he dropped us off at the restaurant and spoke with the waitress to make sure that we were all okay. Once he felt confident that we were in good hands he left to return to his work at the temple. In a couple of hours he returned, picked us up and drive us to a wonderful spot to listen to more shamisen music.
His generosity and kindness did not end here...
He went and picked up his friend from the temple and came back. We were very excited, because we thought we would finally have the opportunity to repay him for his kindness. Instead, he only returned to buy us a bottle of spirits and then he and his friend said their goodbyes warmly and then off they went to continue their work at the temple.
Kichiro did all of this for us out of the goodness of his heart. He never asked for anything, nor did he get anything out of it other than the happiness of six strangers whome he will likely never meet again. I can assure you that I will never forget him as he gave us an incredible gift - friendship.
The picture in the upper right contains Kichiro and his family. Kichiro is the first man on the left. Standing to his left is his mother and to his right is his friend who joined Kichiro in visiting us at the Shamisen show. Next to him are his sister, cousin and father.
The People of Japan
A Personal Experience...
When we were looking for the Sumo practice house in Tokyo, we got really lost, even though we had a map. We ran into a really nice woman who spoke very little English. We somehow managed to communicate what we were looking for, and using our map she walked us all the way to the sumo practice area. I have a picture of her to the left holding our map.
One might think that the above experience was a one time event, however, this is not the case. When some of us got back from an evening trip to Shibuya we got lost. We were fortunate enough to run into a girl who spoke a little English. Not only did she give us directions, but she walked us all the way back to our hotel!
The Japanese people as a whole are perhaps the most gracious and polite people I have ever met. I had always heard this, but to experience it first hand is an entirely different thing. Below I will describe just a few of the many unique and amazing experiences I had with the people of Japan.
The Japanese People