We all need to celebrate our individuality. With that acceptance and expression of our own individuality, is the understanding and respect for the individuality of others as well. And hence collectively, and needless to say, we need to respect the culture that every individual are a part of. Along with itinerary planning, I believe that awareness of the culture of the place/country you’ll be visiting on should be foremost in your planning as well. This is not to say that you should put on a new persona whilst travelling. But you’d be surprised that just a little bit of awareness might make your trip a little more pleasant. Here’s the first instalment of the little culture tidbits that might prove to be of some help during your visit. Enjoy your stay!
Tissues Go to the Potty
This one is almost like a heartache for me. Not only because I’m very particular with cleanliness but also because I find it such a waste (pun intended) that a big sanitation/aesthetic problem can actually be solved with just a little bit of public information. I came from a country where it is prohibited to throw toilet paper to the toilet bowl because it would clog the drains. Hence toilet paper bins are provided. Please know that it is not so in Japan. Toilet paper (the ones inside the cubicles) have to be flushed. For us women, you may find bins, some tiny, inside the cubicle. They are not for tissue paper but rather they are for sanitary napkins. It’s almost a heartache sometimes to see used tissue paper scattered around inside the cubicle; either people threw the toilet paper inside the tiny bin or, not finding any bins, people just put the used tissues on the side. Please remember, tissues go to the potty!
A Place and Time for Everything, Including Garbage
It might be commonplace nowadays, anywhere in the world, to see juxtaposed trash cans like these.
If you are staying in a hotel room, you may not need concern yourself with garbage disposals. However, if you are staying in weekly or monthly mansions which are getting popular nowadays for more-than-one-week visitors and tourists, you may need to get yourself oriented with proper garbage disposal. Garbage needs to be segregated and disposed, according to type and size. I know it can be a little too demanding and laborious at times (think having to segregate the cloth/plastic part from the metal part of umbrellas and disposing each part according to the assigned date of disposal), but once you get the hang of it, you would actually feel really guilty once you deviate from the rule. I actually feel grateful for it, especially since there is proper time for disposal of used light bulbs and batteries – growing up in my native country, I used to worry how to properly dispose harmful trash; there just wasn’t any proper information and collection around.
Here’s a sample of the specifics in segregation and disposal of your trash. Remember too that oversized trash cannot be simply thrown away. You have to call the ward office/city center for scheduled disposal or you may call a private disposal company (usually comes with higher charge).
Mind Your Side on the Escalator
When touring around, most of us would just like to while our time away and take the escalators to get to our destination whilst enjoying the view (where there is one). But, if you’ve been in and around Japan for some time now, you might have noticed that there’s sort of an express lane in escalators and moving walks (which some may call walkalators ). In Kanto Region (Tokyo and Yokohama, especially), people can walk up the escalators on the right side if they are in a hurry and stand to the left if they want the escalator to take its due course. It’s the opposite however, in Kansai Region (Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, especially): express lane on the left, stationary lane on the right. With the upcoming Tokyo 2020 however, Osaka is considering shifting the express lane to the right for consistency. My take? Keep the tradition as they are now!
Exact coins? Douzo!
I came from a country where some cashier will frown on you if you take out your heavy coin purse and painstakingly count your money to pay your purchase with exact coins. Not so here in Japan, most often than not, you’d probably find the shop staff smiling as you try to give them your coins. When the consumption tax was increased from 5% to 8% last April 1, 2014, Japan actually had to start minting 1-yen coins again. So don’t be shy, take out your coins and use them, even down to the last 1 yen. You can’t exchange them in the Money changer anyway when you go back to your country; unless of course you want to collect some memorabilia of coins.
Now this one, I love. This one is probably one of the epitome of Japanese customer service. I once got a work assignment in a country that seems to be in a lot of hurry. If you’re nearly done with your plate yet are still dilly-dallying with finishing off your meal, you just might find your plate being whisked off by the cleaning lady with nary a warning nor word. If you’re into “delaying gratification” and is saving your most favourite piece last, you just might find yourself in tears after seeing your favourite part whisked off – I did, a number of times. Hence when I got back to Japan again and finally understood the phrase that the restaurant staff says – Yukkuri douzo – I just can’t help but be amazed. Here I am, about to have my meal (most often a craved-for meal) and the staff simply says (most often with a gracious smile), “take your time in enjoying your meal”. Now who can’t love this country?
Stay tuned for the second part of this series! I will be talking everything about transportation.