|By Lakshmi Narasimhan, Bahrain [ Published Date: September 22, 2009 ]|
My family, (i.e. my wife, son, aged 10 years) and I live in Bahrain and every year, we go to Chennai and other distant places in India or abroad during my annual leave. However, this time my son, who had heard many good things about Japan from people who had travelled to that country as well as from what he has read, was insistent that we should visit that land.
Well, I have only one child and how can I say no to him? I wanted to see him happy, rather than seeing him forlorn. My wife feared that visiting Japan would be a costly affair, as costs of goods and services are high in that country. I assured her that we could manage with the help of a very good travel agent and with the money that we had set aside for holidays. She then got enthusiastic and my son was over the moon when I told him that we are going to Japan. His joy knew no bounds.
I sounded my friend, Mr. Nixon, a senior official in the State Bank of India’s Tokyo Branch, about my visit and he was very happy to hear that we were visiting Japan and promised to take us around to interesting tourist spots around the country. Mr. Nixon was also good enough to extend invitations for us to stay at his residence and make ourselves at home, though we preferred to stay in a hotel rather than inconveniencing him and his family.
One morning, we landed in Tokyo’s Narita airport and I was amazed to see a state-of-the-art airport, totally well-lit and spick and span. There were no porters and everyone took trolleys, loaded their luggage and went through the Customs and other formalities and finally exited out of the airport. My friend received us and drove us to the hotel, where we had reserved rooms to stay. From the next day, he was at our disposal and took us around for sightseeing by a luxury coach. Believe me, Tokyo is a fantastic city: there are skyscrapers, well constructed roads, flyovers, subways, trains, Metros and many signs of advancements that we do not see in many cities across the world.
During the course of our stay in Japan, we toured Tokyo, visited Hakone, Nagoya, climbed Mount Fujiyama and went to other places. The photos speak volumes of Japan and its advancement.
Japanese are highly disciplined, hygiene-conscious race. They are workaholics by nature, helpful to foreigners (could be a trait in them or to portray a very good image of their country). However, by their actions one could infer that they are patriotic (however, do not confuse patriotism with fanaticism).
In Japan, there is no culture of tipping waiters in restaurants or tipping anyone and this may be because Japanese feel below their dignity to accept tips (or are well paid). Further, I was told that one does not hear about corruption in Japan. Japanese patiently wait in queues and there is no case of jumping it or gate crashing.
Due to the active lives the Japanese lead, one would rarely come across an obese person. There are many Japanese who are virtually in their late nineties and eighties. Most Japanese are slim and trim, healthy and very few have pot bellies, because of the active lives they lead.
When travelling by train or bus or at public places, Japanese refrain from using mobiles to make or receive calls. They just hold the mobiles in their hands or send SMs or play games to avoid speaking on their equipment and unnecessarily disturbing others. In one of the trains I was travelling by, a Japanese boy was sitting just opposite to me. He ate a fruit and took the seed out of the mouth and put it in a paper napkin and after twenty minutes or so, he got down at a station and threw the seed in the garbage bin on the platform. The cleanliness at the public places and the attitude of the boy that I have described above, speaks highly about the Japanese’s’ hygiene consciousness.
Wherever I went I found Japanese of all walks of life to be helpful and courteous. I went to one place in Japan and stopped a Japanese gentleman and requested him for directions to my friend’s house. This person walked with me for about two to three furlongs and showed me the place. This is highly commendable.
We had a stopover at the Tokyo Towers and at 40th floor I clicked snaps and left the place. It was only after 40 minutes, I realised that I had forgotten the bag containing passports, cash and other important papers in that gigantic building. When I returned to the said floor, I was surprised to see that the bag was in the same place, though many people had passed by and were sitting around and heaved a sigh of relief, much to the surprise of people around. This speaks highly about the honesty and integrity of most Japanese.
The 40 minutes journey by the Bullet train from Odawara to Tokyo was something fantastic, which would go down the memory lane. Everyone in the train was well disciplined and silent. The train is very fast, the compartments are fantastic and clean. After reaching Tokyo, when I requested the tour guide for directions or help, she kindly came with me to the taxi stand and engaged a taxi and requested the driver to take me and my family to the hotel where we had put up.
The major cities of Japan, including Tokyo, were totally devastated during the World War II, but today Japan is one of the most highly developed economies in the world with a fantastic infrastructure. In Tokyo, I did not see any traffic police controlling and directing the traffic and everything was left to the most advanced electronic, signalling system and the discipline of the Japanese drivers and public.
Japan is a marvel and an amazing country and worth a visit in one’s lifetime.
About the author:
The author is an ex-State Bank of India official and since last 16 years working with Bahrain India International Exchange Company WLL as its General Manager.