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East Meets West Meets East

My time in Tokyo.

All the small things

Welcome to the new and improved Third Culture Feet site and my ashamedly empty blog. I’ve clocked three-ish jobs, perfected my chopstick usage, gained a few pounds and developed a love for sake so I would say I’ve come far.

There are so many wonderful things I’ve discovered over the past 5 months. Mostly, how peaceful society is. How courteous and well-behaved everyone is. How the food is better than all other food and how hard working people are. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely things that drive me absolutely insane. But, here are some of the small day-to-day things that have made me fall in love with the land of the rising sun.

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1.     I’m sure many of you have heard of the mythical wonder that is the Japanese toilet. Not only can you wash all areas post offload, use the ‘deodorize’ button, but you can also play a loud flushing sound if you don’t want the person in the next booth to hear you. Magic.

2.     Umbrellas. Japanese women love and respect their skin and their bodies. I have nothing but admiration for them. They walk around in 35 degree heat with their umbrellas up, no doubt with their morning layer of sun cream on as well. Also, I’d just like to point out that a 500 yen (about £3) umbrella is 1000% better than any rubbish you buy from Boots for £30. And England is meant to be a country that is frequented by rain. When you enter any building, they also give you the option of slipping your umbrella into a nifty plastic bag dispenser to stop you from wetting the floor. It’s all about the detail.

3.     Women and beauty. How could I not mention the pride that women, and men, take in their appearance in Tokyo? Perfectly pinned back hair that swooshes lustfully in the wind, heels wobbling along, moving through the crowded streets like … a lady. Women in London, you would be mildly ashamed of yourself if you walked out in your Juicy tracksuit bottoms, unwashed hair extensions, boobs wobbling about in a low cut top that doesn’t quite fit, with last nights concealer, fake eyelashes and eyeliner plastered across your face. They are nothing but elegant here.

4.     The wet wipes/towels. There are a few top end restaurants in London where you’re given the welcoming, hot, herbal smelling towel to wipe your hands and face with. In Japan, this is just normal. At every single place you go to eat – including a quick takeaway – you will be supplied with a plastic encased wet wipe or towel. Whether you use it wipe your hands or the sweat off your face, it’s inspired.

5.     The crime rate. It’s virtually non-existent. I'm definitely going to have a problem when I head back to Kenya or London, having gotten so used to walking around with my handbag open, and being able to leave things anywhere and everywhere. Within my first few weeks here I lost my wallet, which had my credit cards, debit card, licenses and a load of cash. Of course, it was delivered straight to the police station with not a yen missing.

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6.     The trains. In the pits of London, we all hate getting on the tube; those cramped pathetic excuses for trains. In Japan, the spacious, air conditioned underground is bliss (outside of rush hour). The trains themselves are empty of leftover McDonalds’, and no one playing loud games, music or shouting down their phones at someone. It’s all about silence. And then there’s the cheerful music when the doors close on the underground I mean, who doesn’t want to have that jingle play out for them when they get one leg and a rucksack stuck in the door? And of course, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the underground 3G connection.

7.     Celebration. I’m fairly sure that the Japanese celebrate everything. We have been to festival after festival and the community spirit is a beautiful thing. In London, you’re lucky if you even know your neighbour.

8.     No tipping. In Japan, you absolutely, under no circumstances tip someone. It’s not done, and you will be chased down the road if you do leave a tip – even if it’s 1 yen.

9.     Nap time. Need I say more.

10. I have begun to embrace the chorus of ‘Irasshaimase!’ that washes over me when I enter any establishment. They are just so happy that you are in their store. It gives me all of the feels. It also makes me buy all of the things. 

All in all? Good show Japan. World? Learn something. For those of you who are interested, Joanna Lumley takes a spectacular trip around Japan. It’s probably still on BBC iPlayer and it’s certainly worth a watch. Although Japan has been locked away from the rest of the world, they look at foreigners with curiosity and not with judgment or discrimination. I can’t say the same for the UK. I’ve never felt so welcome.

Maxine Cheyney