With convenience stores at every corner, hundreds of noodle soup or ramen shops, and a population of black-haired, brown-eyed people, Japan resembles Taiwan in many ways. But the similarities should go the other way, for if Taiwan had a seemingly impressive infrastructure of buses, bullet trains, and personal service, Japan’s is the refined version. Everything, from a boat to an apartment building, seems to have a designated place in Japan.
Rather than molding buildings, rubble at street corners, and items often tossed in a confused jumble, the area between Kansai International Airport and Osaka seems a manicured toy town. On a Saturday afternoon each ship is in its place, refuse and recycling material are piled neatly, and the streets are clean despite the rain. Buildings stand in neat rows, rather than at random heights and positions. Streets, though small, are fairly straight and aligned. And most impressively, amidst the cars, taxis, buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians, no one seems to honk or yell. The sidewalks also have designated lanes for those walking in certain directions, although the correct lane is rather hard to identify. Even cyclists garner respect here in Japan, for the parking lot attendant bows to cyclists who ride by. Such respect translates into great attention to detail, especially in technology and interior design.
Although my first take on Japan has been impressing, the only difficulty is the language. With the same black hair, brown eyes, and Asian composure, I have often taken by the Japanese to be one of them. But once they begin to speak, I cannot reply. Nor can I make any requests aside from pointing.
Dinner, a bowl of rice topped with shredded seaweed, salmon, mayonaise, and some other unknown condiments, was delicious. And it cost less than $4 US.