Traveling the world with Daniel is great, he speaks 4 languages almost fluently (with the exception of Spanish and English, keep working on those plurals pal 😉 and pretty much can BS his way through most other languages. Which leaves me kind of in the dust. But frankly being an introverted, shy person by nature it’s actually kind of relaxing, to sit back and relax for the more complicated parts of the journey.
Touring through the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian speaking countries I could follow along with what was being said and participate some of the time. But coming to Japan, it’s a completely different story. When Daniel talks I literally have NO idea what he is talking about, nor can I follow any part of the conversation. So I just sit there wondering when he’ll remember to translate to me, so I can start laughing at the joke that was told 5 minutes earlier. Let’s talk about awkward.
Fast forward in time and we arrive in Daniel’s hometown, Shiraichi in the countryside of Hiroshima. We start with introductions, which start off great because I’ve met his mom before, who is a very outgoing Japanese woman who speaks her mind and doesn’t hold back. I gave her and her husband a HUGE hug when I saw them…not really thinking twice about it. Then, when I met the nurses who work for her, I gave them a HUGE hug as well because I was just so excited… but in Japan, they actually don’t hug, they bow, at least when they first meet you (thanks for the heads up D).
So here I am torn between the Brazilian side of Daniel’s family who is offended if you don’t hug and kiss immediately every time you leave the house, with the Japanese side where I’m not sure if I should hug, shake hands, or bow… (Bow…always bow).
But although my start here in Japan was a little rocky and awkward, it doesn’t really matter because the people here are the nicest, most polite people in the world. And the rest of the culture and scenery is quite simply breathtaking.
So let’s just continue with the people of Japan. The people here are so polite and considerate. Everyone is friendly and complimentary (unless Daniel’s translating was far more generous than in actuality). I love all the people and the traditions. Even the facemasks that are seen everywhere are worn so that the people who are feeling ill don’t pass their sickness along to you. Can we start that policy in our classrooms please?
Another reason to love Japan is that it is a traditionally a giving culture. When we were in Daniel’s hometown there were at least 3 instances where we went to some local shops and because we shopped with them, they gave us something for free just for our loyalty. We went to a small market up the street and the lady was so sweet, she just wanted to give me something “Japanese” and ended up giving us 2 melons and 2 bags of Japanese style chips (shrimp flavored Cheeto looking replicas, which I have yet to try… for obvious reasons).
Even the toilets here are polite, the seats automatically heat the seat for you before you sit on them, the seats are self lifting so that when you walk in, you don’t have to lift a finger, and the seats even play a nice little song while you do your business, so people in other stalls can’t hear you (or at least I think that’s why). And don’t even me starting with the whole Bidet thing… Japan, you’ve got going to the bathroom figured out. Bravo. Let’s start this whole “luxury bathroom treatment” in the US as soon as possible.
Other conveniences that are just lovely are things such as the train system. People actually line up and let people out before they head in. Then, there are the security guards and janitors who bow to you and say goodbye when you leave. The strangers on the street who say good morning and the smiling faces most everywhere you go. The customer service in Japan is spectacular because it seems like everyone enjoys their job or at least gets respect for doing it.
To prove my point even more… take a look at these AMAZING sewer covers.
The culture of Japan is wonderful as well, the polite nature in the way everyone bows, and speaks to one other, the temples and gardens with their elegant and understated fashion. Emperors and shoguns who sat on the floor throughout the tea ceremonies to be at the same rank as the other men in the room. The rice paddies that span the countryside and even the chaos of the cities has an organization that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Japan you have my heart, not only because some of my favorite people are from here but because you are quite simply exceptional. Thank you for a wonderful first impression and can’t wait to share the beauty of Japan with my family these next two weeks.
To see more pictures of our first 2 weeks in Japan, check out our highlight reel.
To hear more about our last 2 weeks in Japan and abroad, wait for our upcoming “Guest blog” from one of my family members (there will be a hunger games type scenario to see who gets to write it, and when I say Hunger Games…whoever isn’t lazy and sends me it first).
**But DON’T WORRY there will be plenty of “RECAP” blogs for all of you who just can’t get through the week without a SoySauceonRice blog post 😉