Bikkuri shita! Part 2
Bikkuri shita! Observations from Tokyo Part 2
By: Meg Humphrey
Now at the end of my trip to Japan (I’m writing this on the plane home – 787 Dreamliners are very nice!), I picked up a few more interesting social differences between our cultures. They may not be new or shocking to you, but it does shed some light on every day living in Tokyo.
1. 10am is the earliest stores open. Even then, that’s a small portion as most trendy shopping joints open between 11 and noon. I’m an early bird and I found it pretty frustrating that even grocery stores were closed as I strolled out of our apartment at, what seems to be as being late, 9:30. The upside is that most shopping stores are open until 8 or 9pm so you can stay out fairly late and still get stuff done.
2. You don’t worry much about crime in Japan. Now, I’m not talking about violent crime which is famously low (I actually wrote a paper on comparing Japanese and American crime rates and causes for such when I was in college), but more like common place property crimes. People don’t have to lock up their bikes. Phones, tablets, and laptops are left unguarded on tables while their owners use the restroom or order another coffee. Taxis are clean and driven by polite and friendly drivers. There are also normal people out and about at all times of the day. I mean, I get stuff stolen from my well secured work desk so this sense of safety is something I wish could be imported.
3. People aren’t as intensely glued to their smart phones and tablets. In tech heavy Seattle, it seems like people can’t go two minutes (or even cross a street) without having their phone out. As famed as Japan is about their tech, I was amazed at home many people in Tokyo didn’t have smart phones or weren’t buried in them during their spare moments. People would just sit quietly on the train without browsing Reddit or Facebook. Only a handful of groups at restaurants would have them out on the table. Now, my phone wasn’t working in Japan so I couldn’t fiddle around with it even if I wanted it. I still found it pleasant not to feel the need to check social media every ten seconds. On the flip side, it made me more sensitive and annoyed when people couldn’t wait to check their phones. I had better not get too used to it; you can’t escape that in Seattle.
4. People do not talk on their phones on public transportation. Not only that, everyone’s phone is on silent (or “manners mode” as they call it). It’s amazing that Japan has been able to successfully implement this system that relies so heavily on trains, subways, and busses for their commuting. I can hardly even go for 30 minutes at the gym without someone’s phone going off! My favorite part is that on the train announcements they say outright that it isn’t allowed because it annoys other passengers. King County Metro could never be so bold.
5. There isn’t a fitness culture. I know I mentioned this briefly in Part 1 with the joggers, but I had a chance to talk about it with an American friend living in Tokyo. He confirmed that people can get really devoted to sports (like martial arts or baseball), but there’s no mind set of working out for the sake of working out. Fitness with the purpose of being healthy isn’t something people think about. Maybe I’m just a bro who doesn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to fit in some bench presses during lunch.