Almost two week ago now I returned from my trip to Japan with the Pembroke Players theatre tour of Romeo and Juliet. When I get around to it I’ll actually write a little bit about my theatre activities and post some pictures on my specific PPJT page but I thought I’d also write a blog post specifically devoted to my experience of Japanese life and culture.
One of the first things I noticed from arrival in Japan was their distinct lack of rubbish bins. Personally I think this lack of bins is down to the fact that nobody in Japan seems to eat whilst they are on the move. If they want a meal they go to a restaurant, cafe, bar or what have you – they NEVER eat whilst walking down the street. I just don’t think it’s in their culture. Sure nobody stopped us from eating whilst we were on the metro but certainly the locals don’t do it. So I suppose this is the reason why they neither have nor want bins in public areas. If you consider how obsessed they are with customer satisfaction and service, perhaps more so than even the Americans, then perhaps this lack of bins is an inevitable consequence? Just as an example, if you go clothes shopping then once you’ve found something you like you give it to a shop assistant who will look after it for you so that you can continue browsing around the shop.
Like several countries in Europe, the Japanese are permitted by their traffic laws to turn left on a red light if they can see that the way if clear (full disclosure: they drive on the left like the UK). They’re also allowed to cycle on pavement and from what I can tell, possibly even ride mopeds and scooters on the pavement too. I’ve never really been quite sure what the justification for this is as turning left into potential traffic and pedestrians just seems stupidly dangerous to me and I saw a few near misses whilst we were on tour. Perhaps this is just because the rest of the Pembroke Players and I were’t used to the system but considering the risk and the consequences this aspect of Japanese life seems silly to me, likewise for some of the European countries that do this too. I think maybe The Netherlands perhaps?
All this said, Japan is a fascinating and truly beautiful country with people who outshine all others in terms of friendliness and hospitality. I’d like to thank everyone that made my trip there possible: The University of Cambridge, Pembroke College, The Pembroke Players (Japan Tour), Seikei University, Meji University, British School in Tokyo, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, my Okinawa host family, and the numerous other institutions and people that I’ve inevitably missed!