Travel Tales

Japan, Strong Work Ethic

Alinka

It was several years before I decided to travel to Asia ; once I had traveled to India , and recuperated from cultural shock, I wanted to see more diverse cultures, so I thought it best to continue my traveling by going to Japan .

I flew in to Tokyo and stayed at the Hilton, enjoying its elegance and western cuisine, together with the ability to Speak English for a while. Rapidly I had to get used to everything being so small. Their housing is microscopic, but considering the island is smaller than California , they do very well. I was amazed to see the taxi doors open by themselves and white gloved attendants bowing to me at the department stores. I found everything to be terribly expensive by Florida standards.

From there I took the bullet train to the ancient city of Kyoto . I was not used to the pushing and shoving. Coming from the wide open spaces of America , it was a little difficult getting used to their indigenous culture. I was literally pushed into the train, later I realized why. The minute the doors opened on the bullet train, they closed in a matter of seconds. The train was immaculate and very quiet as nobody spoke to one another; people were immersed in their newspapers with headphones on.

In Kyoto I took a bus tour as this was one country I was completely at a loss with the language. The tour guide told us in English, after translating in several other languages, including French and German, that Kyoto had been Japan’s capital for 1000 years.

I don’t know what happened to my photos of the Imperial Palace and the Sanjusangendo Temple ; but both are magnificent places, and a must see on your list.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Zen atmosphere of peace and quiet and the tea ceremony at the Kyoto Handicraft Center , where I watched Geishas dance in 17th century costumes, and colorful kimonos. I bought all kinds of different smelling incense and some silk souvenirs. Kyoto is very beautiful with its pond and rock gardens which are beautiful places full of colorful trees.

Kabuki theatre is also an amazing experience, and although I did not understand the story or the strange yelling and sounds the actors made, I was quite entertained by their white faces, fierce-looking masks, and clever maneuvering of swords while dancing. I was also amused to see that the men played the parts of the females. The toilets were just holes in the ground as the Japanese women prefer them over the more western type accommodation.

However, I was at a total loss when I had to use a public telephone with only Japanese characters, at the railway station. Miraculously I was able to actually connect with my party by following international drawings. One thing that traveling does is that it teaches you to be very creative when you need to get something accomplished: you have to live by your wits, which keeps you mentally sharp.

I sampled their cuisine at one of the best restaurants, but I must admit birds nest soup, sake, and food cooked with monosodium glutamate is not my favorite. By the time I finished drinking the strong sake, I was no longer sitting cross-legged on the tatami mats; sprawled out on the floor, would be a better description, as I left the restaurant with a three hundred dollar bill. Now I know why somebody invented Chinese take-out food!

After the treaty of Kanagawa with the United States in 1854, Japan intensely modernized its industry. In 1941 Japan attacked US Forces, making America enter WWII. Following its defeat, it recovered to become a staunch ally of the US . While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, the actual power of the country rests with the politicians, business executives and bureaucrats; so they enjoy a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. Today, Japan still remains globally a major economic power.

In 2005, Japan began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

I was surprised to learn that there are nearly 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin who migrated to Japan to work in their industries. They also have 244,241 Chinese, 511,262 Koreans, and 89,851 Filipinos, and about 237,914 “other” nationalities living in their small country, a size smaller than California . They are about 84% Buddhists and Shintos, with 16% “other religions.” They produce automobiles, electronic equipment, machine tools, ships, chemicals, textiles, and processed foods, to name a few industries.

While traveling to Japan it is best to take package tours.


Alinka

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