Here are the things I’ve noticed about Tokyo (and, by extension, Japan), in the day or so I've been here.
Sinks are lower. So are tables. I can’t cross my legs when sitting down to eat.
Tokyo is very slick, very sleek: lots of tall buildings, mostly white or grey or even silver. Lots of greenery.
Everything very clean – even the subway. They could give lessons to other cities. (Except for the spitting. Walking along the street I passed an older, well-dressed man, who made some dreadful noises before launching a spitball in my general direction. I don’t think it was personal.)
Everything is beautifully presented. Food dishes are laid out at precise angles and the food in them looks like it’s been carefully groomed beforehand. Buying books in a bookshop was an experience: each one was wrapped in a brown cover before being tenderly placed inside a bag.
People are very eager to help. Today, as I explored central Tokyo, everytime I so much as paused to look around – let alone look at my map – someone stopped to see if I needed help. (Mostly I did). There’s also been the occasional person looking for something else, like the guy who followed me for a block, despite my best efforts to convince him I didn’t understand English.
This leads to my next observation: there are non-Japanese tourists, but not many. Looking around my metro carriage this evening, I was the only non-Japanese person in it. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that you’re marked out as a stranger even before you open your mouth.
The experience has strengthen my resolve to be kind(er) to strangers. Until you’re somewhere where you not only don’t speak the language, but can’t even work out the alphabet, you forget how helpless you can feel in a strange place.It makes you appreciate all the help you can get – even from friendly passers-by like this one.