I'll start off with our first experience as we arrived back in San Francisco after two weeks in Japan. We get off the airplane and head over to the Bart trains to catch a ride home. When we get to the platform we find out there is a 30 minute delay until the next train arrives. When the train does finally arrive we find empty bottles on the seats, a guy laying across two seats, and a girl blasting her radio for everyone in the train to "enjoy". I said to my wife "I wish we were still in Japan, this would never happen there."
I've been all over the world and have interacted with many cultures. Each culture has wonderful qualities worth imitating. What Japan excels in more than any place I've been is, they are the most polite, honest, and thoughtful people. Not to say the Japanese do not possess many other good qualities like generosity and cleanliness, but the first qualities I mention are above and beyond.
Just to give examples, when taking the subways since I mentioned Bart at the start of my blog. The punctuality of the trains is ridiculous. I never waited for a train more than a couple minutes and the time that is listed on the schedule is the time the train arrives. No litter is left in the trains, no music playing or loud talking. In fact when we got on the train, if my wife sat down next to someone that notices I'm with her, they automatically slide over or move so that I can sit next to my wife! Where else are people so polite and thoughtful?!
Being the coffee-addicted wifi-dependent American that I am, my wife and I headed to one of the many Starbucks in Japan. I noticed all around me that the Japanese would leave their iPads or laptop computers and go to the restroom or grab a drink. They never thought twice about their property being stolen. Just for the sake of comparison, leave an iPad laying around at the Starbucks near my condo in Oakland, if a person were to do that they would walk out of Starbucks iPad-less. When we got up to leave Starbucks I was so pre-occupied searching the maps on my iPhone for the next place we were going to visit I left my wallet at the table I was sitting at. When we were about a block away I realized I left my wallet so I rushed back to find that it was sitting exactly were I left it. Along with that we never felt unsafe or worried about crime which is testament to the people of Japan's integrity and honor.
Also during our trip there was a holiday which was called "Respect for the Aged Day" which is a national holiday to honor elderly citizens. Respect not only for the elderly is stressed in the Japanese culture but respect and honor are taught and emphasized from infancy on in Japan. When I talk to my Japanese friend who lives in the Tokyo area how impressed I was by the conduct of the people, he said "all these millions of people on this little island have to learn this because there's so many in such a small area". But it's more than that, it's truly remarkable to me that everybody in the country is on the "same page", they understand, they "get it". The whole "do unto others as you would have them do to you", they actually follow that! It works!
There's of course many superficial things that I enjoyed as well in Japan like the food. The food is the best in the world and the Japanese definitely take pride in their cuisine. How modern everything is in Tokyo, yet they keep the traditions of their culture alive despite that. Everyone I met was so friendly, I received so many gifts, my wife and I were overwhelmed by the generosity shown to us.
Japan was a special experience, I was touched by the new friends we made, the friends I was able to reconnect with after so many years, and being in a culture that does so many things "right". I look forward to the opportunity to visit again, to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, the Land of the most respectful people.