Instead of writing a million more posts about Japan, I'm going to finish it off here so that I can start writing other things. When you boil all of my experiences in Japan down, you're left with one common theme - Japan is way better than the US.
In America we're all so proud that we're such a tolerant society. We tolerate each other's differences because that tolerance is passed on to us and we get to do whatever we want.
Japan is different. More than tolerance, they have an overwhelming underlying respect for everyone and everything. It's almost crazy. The best example is the subways. In the subways there are advertisements hanging from the ceiling of every subway car. They aren't plastic, tyvek, or even laminated paper. They're just paper like a poster.
Any one of the thousands of train riders each day could easily rip the ad, crinkle the paper, or pull it down. It would take a trivial amount of effort, and there are no authorities in the subway. Yet no one does. Ever. It's the craziest thing I'd ever seen. In New York these ads would last for about 4 seconds before they were torn down.
In Japan there is no tipping anywhere, and tax is always included. Did you order something that cost 1000 yen? Then you pay 1000 yen and leave. It's that easy. We went to only one restaurant that had tipping and it was 10% that was added automatically. That might have been an outrage if we didn't have a chef cooking at our table for the entire meal.
Think the service suffered? Nope! The service is WAY better than any service I've had in the US because they're helpful and genuinely care if you're having a good dining experience or not. They're not putting a fake smile on their faces while they tolerate you like our waiters. Even better, there are little buttons at the tables sometimes which summon a waiter. Once we pressed it and we had a waiter at our table in 10 seconds, with another coming 10 seconds later to see if he could help. Amazing.
Even the police in Japan are better. Since there is basically NO CRIME, they don't have a lot of crimefighting to do. Japan is so safe that people leave their bikes everywhere unlocked with their belongings in the baskets. People don't even litter - who is going to take a bike? I would feel totally safe leaving my laptop on the sidewalk for an hour while I walked somewhere. It would be there when I got back.
The last day we were there, Todd and I wanted to make sure that we knew where the Narita Express train was to the airport so that we could go check out the Imperial Palace and then go straight to the train. We asked the police where the train was and they showed us. We then left the station to check out the palace.
A block later a policeman stopped us. He had been following us and trying to catch up. What was the offense? None - he just wanted to make sure that we knew where the train was. That would NEVER happen in the US. Even though we were ugly Americans he still had the respect to come help us when he thought we needed it.
Remember my post about cell phone etiquette? Everyone in Japan already does all that. Other than our when our guide, a beautiful girl dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono who walked around with us all day for free, was trying to find out from her friends which restaurant was best, I don't think we ever saw anyone talking on their phones in public. It just doesn't happen.
Everyone in Japan is skinny and healthy looking. Their food isn't particularly healthy, but the portions are small and everyone walks miles each day to and from train stations. As soon as we got back to the US we were amazed at how fat and obnoxious everyone was. Now I finally understand why people don't like Americans.
The subway system, by the way, is totally amazing. It's a hodgepodge of several privately owned rail lines that criss cross to cover the entire country. I'm pretty sure that you can get within walking distance of anything in a remotely metropolitan area for a few dollars from anywhere by train. Even though they're owned by different companies, it's seamless. Each station has the same features and lets you transfer painlessly. It's not fair to compare this to the US since we're a lot bigger, but it's still amazing.
Oh, and for one last reason why Japan is amazing, check out this video: