Japan: End notes

At home in Maine, every third person drives a Subaru Outback or Forester, noted for their all-wheel drive, good clearance, slow rusting, and of course – this being Maine – their frugality with petrol.  In my whole time in Japan, I saw one Subaru.  More Toyotae and Lexi than you can shake a stick at, including many models not on offer in the States, but what it is with Subaru – just an exporter?

And what’s with all the BMW’s and Mercedes?  Even a few Audis and VW’s.  Guess a German car is status, but surprising when the quo is so good.

The Japanese hotels have an interesting innovation I have not seen anywhere else: no matter how long and steamy your shower, a square area of the mirror over the sink stays clear of fog.

Quan asks me why I am so enthusiastic about Japan, and do I want to live there?  No, at my age, I don’t want to move there, but we could certainly take a couple of pages from their book to live a better life here.  Two examples:

On the last evening, I raced to a department store after the class to do some shopping.  The store announced itself to be closing, and then closed.  Nevertheless, a small army of four women stayed after to wrap the presents I had dithered over and finally selected.  Not a word about staying late, not the slightest feeling of imposition, every box done impeccably, and then we were bowed out the security elevator, no tip accepted, no trace of resentment.

The next morning I checked out with an hour to kill, but could reliably leave the hotel staff my bag, jacket, and backpack, containing easily accessible money, passport, ticket, and computer, secure in the knowledge that all of it would show up at the appointed time at the other end of the hotel complex where the airport bus left, everything intact.  In fact the jacket had been carefully folded and put in a plastic bag. Try that in Johannesburg, St Petersburg, London, New York, or LA.

Of course, the expectations on me for service are high as well, and the reason I was late for the store was the number of book signings and questions to answer and photos to be taken after the class.  Though I was tired and eager to be done, I likewise stayed without resentment to serve the students.  These are long days though – I did get sick when I got home, readjusting to the cold salt air, the half-a-globe time shift, and the in-your-face rough-and-tumble that is North American culture.  Goodbye, Japan, and thanks for the memories, and the vision of a culture that actually considers life from the point of view of the other person.

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