I just read an article online from The Guardian discussing how Japan may install toilets in lifts for those who are trapped during earthquakes, and this reminded me that it’s a month since I returned from Japan. Part of me has been putting off writing about the trip because, short of raving about it, I couldn’t think of what to say! It’s like no country I’ve visited before, and I absolutely loved it. So rather than describe what an amazing time I had (and, let’s face it, who wants to read someone else boast about their holiday), I thought I would focus on the differences between Japan and where I live.
Since I started with the article on toilets in elevators, I’ll begin with their innovation in making things comfortable and easy. The best thing I discovered on my trip was hot chocolate in a can, which was dispensed by vending machines ready-heated. In my mind this is an overwhelmingly obvious invention – vending machines can cool so why not heat? Admittedly it would not have won any awards for taste, but that’s beside the point. From canned chocolate to bullet trains, the Japanese have so many cool and amazing inventions that I can’t understand why these things are not available everywhere! In Brunei, comfort and ease of use are not always at the forefront of people’s minds – public transport is virtually non-existent, and even simple things like shades for car parks (or underground parking) are not in place. There are certainly not vending machines selling drinks on every street corner as there were in Japan, despite the heat.
Secondly, and most importantly for me, was the level of cleanliness in Japan. Having just spent a weekend across the border in Malaysia, where even the toilets in the decent shopping centre are an inch deep in water and the hotel travel cot is covered in mould, a good level of sanitation is something I look forward to on holiday. I didn’t worry once about food poisoning in Japan, and my son could crawl around the hotel rooms without finding a speck of dust to stick his fingers in.
In Brunei nothing ever happens on time, yet in Japan everything was spot on to the nearest second and the service was impeccable. The trains were the most impressive. I come from the UK where delays are common, so seeing a country where the train pulls up on the platform and stops in a specific place at the precise time it’s supposed to made me wonder why no one else has managed to get it this good. And you can travel across the country so quickly; no bumpy, uneven highway where one car breaking down can bring the country’s main road to a standstill.
I could go on and on about Japan’s virtues: the food, climate (yes, we were lucky with the weather), service and all of it’s many sight and attractions. Seeing a place as a tourist is certainly different from living there. But I feel, so as not to do a disservice to my host country, that I should end with some positive comparisons. So I am pleased to say that the Japanese people we met were as friendly as people in Brunei and Malaysia, and although we don’t speak the language we were still able to communicate (through gesturing on their part and nodding and smiling on mine). Japan, like Borneo, has some places of astounding natural beauty. And the people there are just as crazy about babies as they are here – my son got his picture taken so much that we reached a point when we had had enough! But as that’s the only drawback I can think of, I would urge you to go if you get the chance!