Our Japanese experience Part #2

We had in our first Japan post the beginning of our trip to Japan;  We finished that post as we stepped onto the shinkansen (bullet train).  But reviewing our pictures, there are a few things we left out and we don’t want to forget a detail!  If you had never read part I of our Japanese experience back in February, here is the link.  Japanese Experience Day#1

Standing in que for the shinkansen, you are never quite sure where to stand. There are red lines and green lines on the train platform. When buying a JR pass, you can travel five different days in a two-week time period on any JR rail line. The cost is $220 per person when you are a tourist. We really enjoyed the shinkansen and highly recommend it for a complete Japanese experience.  The ladies in the JR office were wonderful; they spoke pretty good English and also helped me map out a trip to see the snow monkeys. The train schedules are a little intimidating at first and a bit complicated but the office is always there in Tokyo station to help. When you book your travel, you are actually given assigned seats. You present the pass travel booklet and your seat assignment ticket to get to the train platform.  The trains pull into the station and they are very timely.  Each station platform has the usual convenience food kiosks and vending machines. Japan takes vending machines to another level. Selling hot coffee, cold drinks, ramen, cigarettes, and alcohol.  It was fun to see all the options and we tried many. I found I really liked green lemonade. It’s been many years since I saw cigarettes in a vending machine! The Japanese do smoke but they congregate in little enclosed boxes engulfed in smoke. Occasionally you would smell smoking in a restaurant. It is amazing how we get used to fresh air in Wisconsin where there is no public smoking anymore.

I loved watching the shinkansen attendants board the train. We were in steerage, buying just “regular class” tickets. But you could pay more for first class. The pics of the attendants walking outside the train were the first class attendants. Immaculately dressed and beautiful. Even though we were in steerage, our accommodations make the first class accommodations on a CRJ 700 paltry indeed. We had lots of leg room, an attendant girl came thru with a cart every 20″ offering beverages and snacks for sale. Our attendant wasn’t dressed as fancy but they were very tidy and pleasant. The train had its own version of skymall! The inside of the trains were completely immaculate, with no scratches, graffiti or wear & tear noted.

Laurel picked us up at Hachinohe Station  we rode the Shinkansen train for over three hours to northern Japan.  Tokyo is the world’s largest city and you realize that as you pass the city center to the outer edges of Tokyo.  It goes on and on, apartment upon apartment building.  A sea of humanity, every apartment building have its own community.  There are single dwelling homes but you really didn’t see suburban housing like you see in America.  It seemed like every residence had multiple dwellings.  It was quite daunting how many buildings we passed, mile upon mile.  Our train went very fast (over 100 miles per hour) and it was at least an hour before the urban city gave way to a more suburban environment.  The houses generally were darker colors and it was rare to see a house of a brighter color.  It was also rare to see aluminum siding, mostly you saw a wooden or slate/cement board type exterior.  Almost all the roofs were a ceramic/clay tile and generally black or a dark color.  Often you would see the japanese architecture in the roof lines and the fencing/patio/garden areas.  As the train would go from the urban/suburban sprawl of the city to the countryside you would see terraced plots of land. The land was always deliberately in use as it was used for housing or commercial property or well-designed farm land.  Frequently, you would see irrigation ditches cutting thru the farm land.  Often in the urban areas there would be large golf ranges with high nets.  There would be a building with driving ranges and they were up to four to six floors high and open to the nets.  There were also many baseball fields.  Frequently, there would be factories with common trade names on the outside of the plant.  One thing that really struck as odd was the presence of electrical wires everywhere that cluttered the landscape and edged all the side streets.  In America, we get used to seeing them buried in the ground.

Laurel picked us up in a city named Hachinohe (hatch in NO aye). It was so wonderful just to see her in Japan.  We jumped into her car right away and she whisked us off to her air base.  It was honestly our first time in a country that drives on the opposite side of the car and on the opposite of the road.  We have to be honest it was very disconcerting being a passenger in the car your child is driving when she is driving on the wrong side.  You want to correct them.  It’s so odd turning into traffic or changing lanes.  It just doesn’t feel right.  Japan also walks opposite of what we are used to.  So, when on a sidewalk, you walk to the left instead of the right.  We were constantly wanting to fall back into our own pattern and had to remind ourselves to get in the “left” lane.  Misawa was actually a nice sized town.  I had pictured in my mind that it would be like Richland Center and have just one main street but it actually had over 20,000 people and felt like the size of Baraboo.  There was a city government area, a train station, an older main shopping street and many shopping centers on the outskirts of town.  But the far edge of town was all Air Force Base.

Misawa Air Force Base tour

Misawa seemed very much like other Air Force bases we had been to before.  The government must get a deal on creamy, light yellow paint because they paint everything that color.  The base has a pretty good-sized population and has many of the typical military base things such as, a PX, commissary, a few restaurants, military offices, security and they had Laurel’s media building for Armed Forces Radio and TV network.  We got there at about 4pm on a friday afternoon so we got to have a tour courtesy of Laurel.  Cool to see the TV news room/stage, the radio studio where she works every day and she showed us how the satellite feed comes in and how they put their own commercials and local news over the satellite feed.  The DJ working the afternoon shift invited Marty and Laurel to be on the air with him for a few minutes.  They did a quick interview talking about our trip and what was going on back home.  We were able to meet a few of her co-workers and see her office.  It is really gratifying as a parent to see your child in their work environment and to see the favor and regard her co-workers seem to have for her.

Our Base hotel accommodations

Laurel then took us to our base hotel accommodations.  There actually was a couple of hotels on the base.  Laurel was able to book our room with the help of her commanding officer.  Luckily, her officer seems to have a little “pull” around Misawa!  We were booked into the Admiral’s suite, a five-room suite including a full kitchen, dining area, living room, office room with computer, bedroom with a very large bed, bathroom with tub and shower and a separate toilet/vanity room.  It truly was quite the swanky place to stay.  It was one of the nicest beds I have ever been in and I have been in many very nice beds in the last two years.  There also was a full massage chair in the bedroom.  I speculate that they put the massage chair in there so the Admiral would have no reason to request a “massage”.  The chair was fully computerized but it unfortunately only spoke in Japanese.  We had a lot of fun playing with the controls.  It massaged all the way from the back of your calves all the way up to the neck.  It was very intense in its massage and could be actually quite painful.  After sitting in it for over 30″ I felt like I had every muscle worked to a pulp and quite tenderized.  The next day, my back was so sensitive, I felt like Marty had beat me with a base-ball bat. But the best thing was the wonderful Japanese toilet with the bidet function and heated seat.  We were so tempted to take the seat and stuff it in our carry on.  Seriously, considering how we can get one for our house.

Ramen noodle supper

After getting settled in to our hotel room.  Laurel took us to one of her favorite restaurants.  We got to sit at a traditional, low Japanese table.  Marty and I are just not that flexible anymore!  They served us a BBQ flavored ramen noodle bowl.  We both have gotten pretty good eating with chopsticks.  It was the best ramen I had ever had with great broth and flavor.  The decor was traditional Japanese decor, lot’s of red and gold accents with the usual shrine artifacts and buddhist knick knacks.

Karaoke fun in Misawa

After eating supper, Laurel took us to a traditional favorite for everyone alike in Japan. Karaoke!  We entered the building and got a room.  I have seen Karaoke in America in many types of locales but never where you get a secluded room that holds about 5 to 10 people.  You pay a flat hourly fee and you get unlimited drinks in that time period.  We had like 50+ drinks to choose from.  Then you get to pick your songs on the computer.  The room is designed with a sound proof door/walls, with a table with booth seating and a TV.  Once you picked your songs, the karaoke video would play and you would get to sing along with the video.  Japanese videos are truly funny to watch.  They were very sappy, kitschy actors in bad 1980’s styles.  It was really great to see Laurel’s friends and how they seemed to be family for her.

Grocery Shopping

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We honestly slept in Saturday morning.  The jet lag was catching up with me.  But eventually we got up and Laurel took us grocery shopping.  She took us to the store called “Universe”; a chain of grocery stores commonly found in shopping centers.  It was so completely interesting to see how normal everyday groceries were so completely different from what we are used to.  They had some of the nicest, freshest produce.  I really don’t know where we get our produce in America but I have noticed in my past travels to Canada and now to Japan, that other countries have the best looking fruits and vegetables.  Their colors so bright, the fruit so large and ripe, the variety of vegetables way more than what we have available.  They take their mushrooms seriously; there had to be 10+ varieties; all fresh and in perfect condition.  Often you would see usual products on the shelves but then they would have items we just don’t have like packaged seaweed.  There was lots of variety of fish as well.  The complete row of sake was a bit overwhelming.  They had more bottles of sake than we have in most wine selections. Laurel bought all the ingredients for the supper she was planning on making to celebrate Mardi Gras.  She invited many of her friends to her apartment.  She often loves to make a special recipe of food and have friends over.  For that evening she made homemade gumbo.  It was absolutely wonderful!  Time with her friends was wonderful and it was so nice to see her have many good people in her life.  Check out the video on this link that shows images from grocery stores in Japan.  A fascinating video.

 

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Another restaurant Laurel took us to was very common in Japan and kinda like their version of McDonald’s.  It was essentially fast food sushi and they had a conveyor belt that actually brought out your sushi to your table.  You actually ordered the sushi and other entrees on the computer screen at your table.  Periodically, there would be samples of sushi floating along on the ‘sushi train’ and you could see them and decide if you wanted to order them.  You would place an order and the conveyor belt would bring your plate of sushi out from the kitchen.  You would grab your plate and then eat it.  Once you were done with your meal, the waitress would come to your table and count up the number of plates you had.  Each color represented a different dollar amount. It was such a fun and unique idea for serving food.  I think it actually would go over quite well here in America.

We will try to finish up the rest of our trip in the next installment.  And try not to make you wait more than a week to read it!

 

Bucket list living…

2015-02-23 14.16.24When we went to Japan this past February, we were planning our itinerary of what we were gonna do and see.  I brought up how I would love to see the Nagano snow monkeys and Marty looked at me like I was crazy.  Sometimes, you need to just go with an idea.  When you are married, it is important to make bucket lists.  They will change over the years but it is great to dream big together.  We have made a few lists in the last 10 years.  Once, on a date night, we took some paper and pen and wrote down places to go and see.  It was fun to hear each other’s ideas.  Many of Marty’s had to do with sport locations he wanted to visit.  Many of mine were places I saw in magazines when I was a child.  Many were locations where our favorite movies were filmed.

I used to get “World” magazine as a child and loved reading about all the interesting places in the world.  I remember getting one particular issue with Nagano snow monkeys on the front cover and a full article on them inside.  I always thought, if I ever go to Japan, I must see them.  It is amazing how many childhood experiences can spark a lifelong dream.  I was a very avid reader and my imagination took me everywhere.  I encourage all parents to foster the adventure spirit in their children.  Expose your children to great publications and websites that show images and stories from around the world. God has placed within us a desire to explore, invent and create.  Encouraging that in your children makes them possibility-thinkers.  We need kids excited to go and to leave the nest.  That is the goal of parenting…children full of passion for life.  I looked to see if I could find the past magazine article but that was back in 1980 and couldn’t find it on the web.  But, World magazine still is in publication and they have World Kids and World Teen; both wonderful online magazines that will foster a love of adventure.

Shinkansen tourist info desk
Shinkansen tourist info desk

So, we were in the train station in Tokyo getting our tickets for the shinkansen, also known as the bullet train.  Marty was getting the tickets and getting a map to northern Japan from a teller.  I was bored so I ventured over to the other side of the room and asked some other ladies at the info desk how to get to the Nagano snow monkeys.  Yes, I was being sneaky. Marty was always saying, “we’ll see” whenever I brought up the topic but I wanted to make it happen.  In many marriages, “we’ll see” means, “I am hearing you but I don’t want to tell you NO.”  But, I was pretty driven at this point.  The ladies had some pamphlets on the monkeys.  It turns out, they are quite a sensation and a tourist hotspot.  One of them went onto the computer and planned an itinerary from Misawa to Nagano and gave me a handwritten note of station times,   connecting trains and approximate time durations.  It was gonna be a hard sell because it was hours out-of-the-way and essentially a full day trip to the location.  But, I used my feminine powers of persuasion.  After much discussion, Marty realized I had my mind-set on it.  Score.  (oops! not supposed to keep a scoreboard in marriage!)

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handwritten itinerary and pamphlets

After we visited our daughter in northern Japan, it was time to head south again.  We left Misawa on the train listed on the itinerary.  I was nervous about following the hand written itinerary because some of the train departure times listed on the itinerary didn’t match the schedules on the train terminal screen.  I didn’t want to get us lost or stranded.  After all, this was my idea, my plan.  But the ladies made us a perfect itinerary and everything lined up as they said.  We had three different train stations, with tight connections and each ticket a separate leg.  It all flowed together perfectly, thank God!  The Japanese do trains the best I have ever seen, always on time as expected.  Once we got to Nagano we had to take a bus out to where the monkeys live.  Nagano was really interesting to look at as we drove through town.  You could still see arenas and large sport complexes from the Nagano Winter Olympics, back in 1998.  Almost been 20 years already!

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bus to base of mountains

We finally got to the small village in the base of the mountains.  By this point, we had been on three different trains and a bus, traveling over 5 hours already.  This better be good was what I was thinking!  Then we were dropped off and had to hike.  They were like, ‘it’s a short hike’ but it was a bit more than that!  We hiked up a fairly vertical climb, through a pine forest and along a snow & mud trail.  Along with hundreds of others making the pilgrimage.  It’s crazy how many people were going to see the monkeys.  People from all over the world.  When we were in Japan, we barely saw any American/English-speaking people until we got to the snow monkey trail.  So, obviously, snow monkeys were on other’s bucket list too!

 

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climbing stairs to onsen springs
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pretty much vertical all the way
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muddy & slippery trail thru forest
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getting close to the hot springs
READ the rules!
READ the rules!

After our hike, we finally got to the area where the monkeys resided.  There are no fences.  It’s not a zoo.  They live out in the open and can be found walking around you.  There are many rules when going to see the monkeys.  You can see the list here.  Keep in mind, if there is a rule…likely someone tried it before.  I had no desire to bathe with the monkeys but perhaps that was on someone’s bucket list!

As we got closer to the monkeys, it was so exciting.  They are everywhere, there is a colony of over 200 monkeys.  They were playing in the snow, throwing snow balls at each other (better than dung!) and Mama monkeys were carrying around their babies everywhere.  Marty took a picture of me with some monkeys and as he was taking it, a monkey came literally inches away from me!  I had no idea that the monkey was right beside me until after Marty took the picture.  But I was very careful to NOT stare into their eyes.  We were warned many times to NOT stare because they get aggressive.

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my first interaction with the monkeys

The hot spring area was very interesting.  Literally, a small pond with about 10-15 monkeys hanging out in the water or on the rocks.  Grooming each other, nursing their babies and napping.  They didn’t seem fazed by all the people looking at them.  It was crazy, all kinds of tourists with fancy cameras (and I know an expensive camera & lens when I see it!) I can’t believe they traipsed out there thru the mud, snow and moisture with their equipment.  It was obnoxious really.  National Geographic wannabes.

The Monkey park actually started in 1964 to protect the Japanese Macaques.  They put monkey food on the water and that drew the monkeys into the water.  Once they realized how the water felt, they returned.  (I don’t blame them a bit) They have been in the onsen (natural spring hot tub) ever since.  We didn’t get to see snow on top of their heads because it didn’t actually snow that day but I have seen pictures where their heads are snow-capped while in the onsen.

It’s funny how pictures can be so deceiving.  I thought the onsen was really large when looking at pictures but it really was only about 20 feet across.  The experience was completely worth the long train ride and arduous hike.  I was so happy and delighted to see something I had dreamed of as a child.  I am glad we did it at this point, the hike was physical and I don’t recommend doing it if you are physically unfit.  I was so glad to do this and really glad I had a husband willing to do this too!  I think he enjoyed the experience as much as me.  Truly a memorable time in our marriage.  Take time on a date night and write up your own marriage bucket list.  Dream big and don’t edit anything.  You never know when God might make your dreams come true!  I am sure I will be going to some more sporting arenas in the future too!  But that is the best part of marriage-enjoying the journey together!

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our ‘shot’ together at onsen edge
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dream fulfilled-happy
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monkeys in onsen
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monkeys sitting on edge on onsen
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camera people, ugh

 

 

 

Our Japanese Experience Day#1

As we return home from our trip to Japan and contemplate all we saw and did, we want to share our experiences. Our trip was truly wonderful! The Japanese people are the most gracious and respectful people anywhere. We took many notes along the way and now are trying to formulate them into blog posts. Marty and I wrote this blog post together on my phone.  We apologize for the lack of good grammar.  The notes written in italics are Marty’s perspective and I am in regular font. Because I am special.
We arrived into Japan; Hanaeda airport at 2215, Thursday February 19. We lost a day as we crossed the timeline in the Pacific ocean. We started our journey in Spokane Wednesday morning, heading to Denver and then onto San Francisco because SFO had the best stand by options. It was a very pleasant flight. June was our flight attendant for the flight. We were blessed to sit in economy plus seating; sitting next to each other and having the row behind us open as well. We watched a movie together and then we each took a row and laid down to sleep for a while. The movie we watched was, “This is where I leave you” and really enjoyed our first meal. I had pasta, salad, bread and a bottle of wine. Marty had a spiced chicken and noodle dish, salad, bread and wine.  I have to say, airline food has come a long way, the first International flight we ever took was to Frankfurt, Germany and that food was a cross between cardboard and a mystery meat of some sort. While no one was going to struggle to finish their meal due to large mass quantities of the food, the taste was much improved. I suggest the airlines could teach some Wisconsin hotel and convention centers a thing or two about making chicken taste good. The meal was included in our seat assignment. I slept for a good four hours and so did Marty. Our flight was in complete darkness, as the sun set happened just prior to boarding the plane; and it remained dark the whole way, 10 hours long.  I woke and watched another movie. It did not feel like ten hours honestly.  They fed us again and did at least three beverage services. The flight attendants were very attentive, Japanese ladies. All announcements were made in English first and Japanese second.

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get thru customs; winding thru long lines. Customs officials seemed very pleasant; better than I experienced in Canada and definitely better than US customs. The airport was nice; not very fancy.  We went to a tourism kiosk and bought our subway passes. We then got to use the bathrooms in Japan for the first time.

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What a joy! We have used Japanese style toilets before in the hibachi restaurant we love in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  So, they weren’t a complete surprise. Heated seats, bidet water rinsing and drying. Lovely! We need one in our house.

A word about Japanese toilets from a male perspective, in Wisconsin we do not have the aforementioned types of toilets for men. We have basic cold as an igloo ceramic white, or we have basic cold as an igloo stainless steel. So when I encountered these for the first time, there is an uneasyness with pushing buttons and turning up controls when you can’t read the directions and every push of a button contains a new surprise! You seriously need a degree in astrophysics to operate one of those things properly in the first try. Also a word of warning, do not stand in front of a new toilet location and push any buttons just to see what happens. You will end up with pants that look suspiciously like you have peed your pants if you push the wrong button, or so I have heard.

We finally headed towards the subway and unfortunately found out that the train was no longer running for the day; it was midnight. We are used to trains running later than midnight; (in Seattle they run until at least two) some places, they run 24 hours a day (like Chicago and Washington dc). So, that led to an issue with getting to our capsule hotel. We went back to the tourism office because that was where English speaking help was. They told us that subway was done for the night and we would have to take a taxi. We inquired about buses but nothing could get us to our hotel easily. Taxi ride was quoted to be $80US and our actual cost $74US. A word of encouragement here, the Japanese people, to an individual, are the nicest people I have ever met. They want to help so badly, they try so hard, and they never lose patience with the fact that the only Japanese I know is courtesy of the band Styx from 1983.

Our first night was spent in a capsule hotel. It was nothing fancy but it was clean and very reasonably priced.  $42US total with taxes. Hotel rooms are very expensive in Japan and I had heard about capsule hotels on a national geographic program and really wanted to try one. We found one in the Kiba area that allowed mixed couples. Most only take single men.  It was kinda like tent camping and dorm life.  We had to store our luggage in a room by the lobby.  We had a locker to put our valuables and purses/back pack in for safe keeping.

We were hungry at this point (0115 Japanese time) and walked next door to a Lawsons’.  A Lawsons’ is a local convenience store.  We saw they also have 7/11 stores.  There was all kinds of convenient, crappy choices. We bought some simple, ramen noodle cups, ice cream sandwich and drinks. The ice cream sandwich was delish.

Food does seem to be very reasonably priced. Bottle water is usually $1 to $2US. We went back to hotel and got dressed in our robes and slippers provided by the front desk. Everyone walked around the hotel lobby, capsule room and bathrooms in the same “one size fits all (Japanese)” PJ/robe outfits. They were very comfortable actually.

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We climbed into our capsule; luckily it was on the ground level. They had ones with ladders to climb up into.  The mattress was quite firm and the pillows felt like they were made of a bead type substance, (felt like the size of barley) and not very soft. I have gotten so spoiled with good beds, pillows and linen! We had a duvet type cover as a blanket. The tv was available but cost a fee and by this point, we were tired.  We slept until 0600, waking up kinda sweaty. We couldn’t figure out the air venting system. They weren’t the most comfortable but I was really glad to have the experience! Just a word of warning here, it is apparent to me that “capsule hotel” may also mean, “resting place Japanese wife sends snoring husband for the night”. This is not an exaggeration, no fewer than 5 of our neighboring capsule dwellers had serious sleep apnea/snoring issues. It was loud outside the capsule, the good news, once inside your fiberglass pod you couldn’t really hear it but you felt it, seriously. I just thought of it as the old “Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed” without having to pay the quarter.

The bathing rooms for men and women were on third floor. I came into a room with a large mirror and counter with sinks. Luckily, only one other woman there. The shower/bathing room was a separate room with a sliding glass door.  I showered off and then climbed into hot tub for a few minutes. I had the shower room to myself. There appeared that there only a few women present at hotel.

My first time bathing with dudes

  1. Men’s bathing in a Japanese capsule hotel is kind of like two Baptists going into a liquor store. You both know you are each there but you don’t ever look at each other and you sure as heck don’t talk to, or acknowledge each other. 
  2. The first room was a mirrored counter, multiple sink, vanity area, with chairs, in a horseshoe shape. No words were spoken, none, no acknowledging looks are given, just 10 to 12 guys, in various stages of dress, underwear, pajamas, to full suits, getting ready for the business work day. But I need to shower first, so I follow the short hallway to some lockers and a door to an obvious  sauna, whirlpool, shower area. Fortunately there are instructions, in Japanese, on the door. Even more fortuitously there are cartoon pictures that, from my interpretation, are telling me, in summation, take all your clothes off, sit in a bowl, put bubbles on yourself, THEN go in the spa/whirlpool. It wasnt clear after that what is reasonable and accepted.practice but it appeared it was kind of lather, rinse, repeat thing. What the cartoon instructions were not clear about was that there would be 5-6 other guys doing the same thing, at the same time in nothing but the suit God gave them when they came into this world.
  3. Probably the strangest part of this process is thee stool you sit on, while showering, while there are 5-6 other dudes squatting on their stools, showering. First issue, just how many guys before me have planted their buttcracks on this same plastic stool and secondly, the stool is about 6″ off the floor and I am as flexible as a steel beam in the Chrysler Building in Chicago. Somehow I am able to get down, and more importantly, back up off the stool after the shower. The process works fine, although uncomfortably for several reasons, but I get it done. along with a trip with my same 5 bathing partners, into the bathtub of tepid filth, which some affectionately refer to as a hot tub, for several minutes, in our birthday suits.
  4. It all works well, although it wasnt as fun as the cartoon instructions indicated it would be, (those characters were having a blast,.apparently my buddies and I were not doing it quite right?) perhaps it was because not once did I hear a word spoken, or even a visual acknowledgement that one another were occupying almost the same space clothed or not.
We checked out of the hotel and walked a few blocks to local subway station. Everyone was commuting to work in their suits. Coming and going, some on bicycles, some walking, cars speeding by. When the Japanese commute, there is no talking, no smiles; just focused and driven expressions.  We were trying to walk with our bags and our vending machine coffee cups with no lids.  Funny, the Japanese do not appear to carry coffee cups around like we do in America.  There are proper lanes to walk in, opposite of our “walk right” but they also drive on the opposite side of the car.  Everyone knew where they were going except us.

We got into the subway, headed down a few escalators and a subway security/guide lady came up to us and asked us if we needed help. Her English was minimal but she could see on Marty’s phone our direction list. Every time, we try to pronounce locations, most look at us with complete bewilderment on their faces but we show them our train stops/destinations on our smart phone and they’d give us directions. Probably, because our Japanese is horrible. She helped to literally push us onto the subway car because it was standing room only and rush hour.

We got off at Tokyo station (main train/subway station) and then found ticketing station for the Shinkansen train (bullet train).

The Shinkansen was very pleasant to ride. We were given assigned seats. When the train pulled up; a cleaning crew got on board the train and quickly cleaned the train cars. We watched them; it looked like a well-coordinated dance, flitting from one set of seats to the next set. All surfaces were cleaned. They were all dressed in red uniforms, with rags, buckets and other cleaning items attached to they belts. When they were done, they came out of the train, lined up on the platform and stood in front of us passengers standing in que to board the train. The head supervisor swept his hand out and presented the cleaners to us and then all ten cleaners took a bow in front of us. It happened so quickly; I wished we could have taken a video of it, it was so amazing to see their pride. This moment still has impacted my thoughts to this day. I long for a society that has such reverence for hard work and service. The pride in their jobs; the cleanliness of the Shinkansen trains was a sight to behold.

I feel, after watching the people of Japan, that Americans are Neanderthals, we are pushy, loud, obnoxious, we do not have half the pride of accomplishment, or the fear of shame if a job is not well done. I am so impressed by their pride in standing in front of us, after cleaning the train we are about to ride on, and bowing to us, indicating “Good Afternoon Sir, we just cleaned this train for you. We have put much energy and pride into the effort and we pray that you will find it comfortable and to your liking.” There was no mumbling under their breath about not making enough money, a menial job that they didn’t enjoy, a boss that they hated. They were full of pride that they had just completed their task to the best of their ability and they put their name on it and handed it off to us to enjoy with smiles on their faces. The people of the United States, as a group, are very much at least in second place when it comes to providing excellent customer service and showing pride in accomplishment of a job extremely well done.

Seriously, can you think of the last time you saw a cleaning crew in an airport, train station, hotel, etc… smile all the time while cleaning, then look you in the eyes when they were done and say to you, “I have done my best to clean  your room and hope it is to your liking” and that room was immaculate.

Coming Next….Marty informs the Pacific Fleet how wonderful the Badgers and Packers are via Armed Forces Radio Network and Laurel shows us all that is Misawa, of course including Karaoke.