The definition of a crowd gets a different meaning, trains top the list of favorite ways to travel and coffee easily replaced with green tea. No trip leaves you the same, but as a traveler in Japan we came home with a whole new set of side effects.
I NOW PATIENTLY QUEUE IN LINES.
The Japanese are masters of queues. They have turned it into an art form. Especially in Tokyo there is no way you can avoid waiting in lines. At the beginning standing patiently and calmly felt completely unnatural, but it grew on me. I was constantly surrounded by the examples that made even the British seem unruly. I became aware of my new attitude back home, when people tried to cut the line and constantly huffed and puffed because they were required to wait a few minutes.
I KEEP MY PHONE ON SILENT MODE.
The Tokyo Metro has an average daily ridership of over 6 million passengers. It is the world’s busiest subway. But what makes it unusual is the silence in the carriages. How was it possible on a crowded train? Because nobody was talking on their phone. Minutes later I spotted a sign advising passengers to keep their mobile phones on silent mode as not to disturb others. The more I thought about it, the more liberating it became – not being available all the time. To everyone’s dismay I still keep using it, because I realized how much all the beeping and ringing bothered me.
I DON’T CRINGE WHEN I AM IN A CROWD ANYMORE.
For someone who would always pick hiking alone in the wilderness over attending a concert with a few thousand of enthusiastic fans, Japan was a shock. You are almost never alone out there. Their homes have thin walls, you have to be quiet not to disturb the neighbors. But since nobody is ever in your face, you still have a feeling of being on your own. Soon you stop noticing the masses around you. Once I got back home and boarded a bus at rush hour, the one that used to give me a panic attack, I wondered, where have all the people gone.
I CAN EAT NOODLES FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK.
Unless I am eating a salad, my main meals are usually comprised of meat accompanied with potatoes. Italian pasta is OK, but I love all the different version of potatoes. The staple food of Japan – noodles and its many varieties helped me forget my obsession with potatoes and I quickly realized I can easily live on noodles: soba, udon, rice, fried…
I’VE STOPPED EXPECTING EVERYONE TO SPEAK ENGLISH.
When I was planning a trip to Japan, I came across the information that in general the Japanese aren’t fluent in English. Especially if you venture out of the big cities and into the country side. Thus I decided to learn a few words in Japanese to make things easier. I never thought it would be so much fun attempting to correctly pronounce the words. It also provided a great insight into the country’s culture and way of life. But the best perk was showing off my newly acquired knowledge and the locals’ smiles. It was an amazing experience; I’ll be repeating it on our next trip as well.
I STARTED PUTTING MAYONNAISE ON EVERYTHING.
My first meal in Tokyo was okonomiyaki – a type of Japanese savory pancake, with the final touch – mayonnaise. I’d never had guessed that something so typical of home is widely popular all the way over in Japan. With a few different ingredients than our mayonnaise, it tastes delicious. The Japanese are obsessed with it. I was really excited to learn that it apparently goes great with just about anything. That’s one obsession I was happy to bring home and let me report our mayonnaise consumption has gone way up since the visit.
I STARTED CHOoSing TRAINS OVER CARS.
It took one ride on the infamous shinkansen – Japanese high speed trains to forget about cars, or even planes and buses. This has to be the best invention ever and it made me want to ride trains for the rest of my life. Why don’t we go on our next vacation by train! Let’s sell the car. I should start going to work by train. Is there one? Until I realized that trains back home suck.
I am OBSESSED WITH TOILETS.
A friend of mine who recently came from a trip to Japan warned me I’d fall for their toilets. I was skeptical, as I couldn’t phantom what could be so special about them. But then I got to Tokyo and from the first moment I sat on the toilet seat in our rented apartment, I never wanted to leave. With a remote control at the side, I felt I was about to launch a rocket ship. I did need time to figure it all out, but when I did, I couldn’t wait to use it again and again. It has ruined me for other toilets.
I SLEEP ON THE FLOOR NOW.
When traveling my biggest concern is how well will I sleep, will there be some kind of noise – trust me I can hear a leaking faucet from another room, how big will the bed be, will the mattress be too hard? So, when I realized that in Japan there will only be a tiny futon separating me from the floor, I was really worried. As it turns out, rarely have I slept as soundly as in Japan. I actually started considering selling our big soft fluffy bed and replacing it with futons. The idea won’t go over well with my husband though.
FORGET COFFEE ALL I WANT IS MORE GREEN TEA.
I hate those people who claim tea is so much better than coffee. I mean it’s sacrilege to even compare the two. But I have to apologize for claiming something that turns out to be wrong. I’ll admit here and now that green tea kicks coffee’s butt and is just about the best drink there is. So bring it on, I want it more, but still not in my waffles and chocolates. I haven’t gotten used to green tea desserts. Baby steps, right.