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First Impressions!

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128 posts
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First Impressions!

My first morning in Tokyo. Got to Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku at around 7pm exhausted from long journey. Hotel is FANTASTIC. While not luxurious, it's an amazing value for the money. Smartly designed and comfortable space with all the things a traveler would need (shampoo, body wash, toothbrush, razor, toothpaste, shower cap, etc...). Plus SUPER close to train station and easy to find.

Arriving at Narita was swift and easy. Extremely well organized immigration/customs process. Amazed by how quick it was. Staff super friendly and smiling. I could not get over how quiet it was. The airport was crowded, but it was so orderly and peaceful. I've never experienced anything like that before.

I had gone ahead and pre-ordered pocket wi-fi from Global Advanced Comm, to be delivered to my hotel. When I got here last night, it had not been delivered. I realized that I must've entered the wrong dates into my order form (how did I manage that?), so I emailed them to see if I could adjust the dates and get a wife delivered in a day or two. I was surprises to quickly get an email AND a personal phone call at my hotel!!! They delivered one within a couple of hours. Wow! If their products are anything like their great customer service... again... WOW!

In fact, customer service here in all respects is superb. Exceedingly polite and gracious. I learned quickly that you don't hand people money for payment... you place it on a tray (why is that? I'm curious!), and I'm trying to express my gratitude to people who are kind and patient with a big smile and repeated bowing. I also learned very quickly how useful the word "sumimasen" is! I cannot say enough about the gracious people here. Hopefully I'm conveying my respect without looking too much like a "stupid American"!

Also... Starbucks does not open until 7am! What!?!?! Plus I notice that everyone drinks their Starbucks AT Starbucks.. while I, typical American, grab mine and bolt out the door, drinking as I walk. That's one habit I'm not likely to break any time soon. :-)

Anyway, I need to start my day, but wanted to express my thanks to the TA community. I love landing in a foreign country knowing so many of the basics (where to stay, where to access ATM, how the trains work, other general info). That means I have much more time to explore without wasting time figuring everything out once I'm here.

Domo Arigato! Did I say that right??? ;-)

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Level Contributor
128 posts
93 reviews
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1. Re: First Impressions!

Ha ha... Please excuse fat finger typos in above post. TA is not giving me the option to edit. "Wife" delivered to hotel. LOL. I meant WIFI of course!

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1,667 posts
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2. Re: First Impressions!

First impressions count!

It simply blows your mind how polite people are - I wish we could spread it around the world.

Sumimasen yes, a very handy, all occasion word!

It's etiquette not to hand money directly to someone, it's put in a tray at shops, post office or banks or other situations put in an envelope. Some people say it's because money is considered tainted & dirty so it's a way of being respectful when handing somebody something unclean.

Yep, you noticed: people in Japan do not eat or drink on the streets (normally) unless it's a special festival. It's considered very vulgar or uncouth. It's fine however to stand next to a vending machine & drink your canned coffee, etc. bins are provided for the cans/pet bottles nearby. No eating/drinking applies on local commuter trains ( but eating & drinking is fine on bullet trains) but I did notice some high school kids eating on a regular train after school - that's a recent development.

Many coffee outlets (& kissatens cafes ) don't open until 10am in line with regular business hours. I guess it's because a lot of people drink green tea at home in the morning or coffee or can get canned coffee from convenience stores/vending machines.

You will notice some coffee shops/kissa do open early and have "morningu setto" - a morning set breakfast, usually a good deal, look out for this.

Random Etiquette tips:

Line up on station platforms.

Don't blow your nose in front of people - leave the room or turn away completely if you really have to. It's more acceptable to keep sniffing instead (although this may seem gross.)

Handkerchiefs are for drying your hands as many public restrooms don't have anywhere to dry your hands - although this is improving

When women sit on the floor they don't sit cross legged (unless you are doing zazen training) Women sit seiza (legs underneath) or slightly to the side is ok.

It's also etiquette not to talk on your mobile phone on public transport.

Hope to read more of your impressions soon!

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128 posts
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3. Re: First Impressions!

Oh no! I'm guilty of vulgarity!!! I will no longer drink coffee while walking to and fro. I didn't realize it was so rude. Another thing I've noticed... people only cross when a crosswalk sign permits. Even if traffic is clear. VERY orderly.

Destination Expert
for Guernsey
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4. Re: First Impressions!

I know, even on the smallest streets will they wait .... I find it hard to adapt to that!

did you survive this rainy day alright?

tomorrow will be full of sunshine again!

Kanazawa, Japan
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5. Re: First Impressions!

While the money in tray thing is common, it's also quite often breached, especially if you are just handing over a note. Quite often I will end up putting it in the tray at the same time as the person is reaching their hand out for it. In general, the fancier the shop, the more likely the tray is used. This is not really a major worry.

Don't eat/drink and walk. Not done, as noted. This is pretty well universal. I very very rarely see anyone eat or drink walking along the street. But if you find a local park or something that's fine. Not only is eating on *long-distance* trains allowed, it is encouraged, with vendors on the platforms selling packed meals, and ladies going up and down the aisles selling them. Try these meals at least once if you go long-distance.

Crossing streets on a red light... Isn't really universal. Depends on the size and time and busy-ness of the street. Complete jaywalking across major boulevards is rather uncommon however. Though the "Do Not Cross Here" signs on some suggest there is a need for them.

Basically, if you want to do something, and don't see anyone around you doing it, it's probably not acceptable. Good rule of thumb anywhere really.

Destination Expert
for Fukuoka, Kyushu-Okinawa
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6. Re: First Impressions!

Re: Money tray

There would be no confusion/dispute how many coins/bills you pulled out, if the tray is used in transaction..

Tokyo, Japan
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7. Re: First Impressions!

Re: Money tray

Perhaps the shopkeeper wants to avoid direct human contact (dirty hands) of hundreds of people. When I am given a change with coins on top of a receipt I say "no, young lady, my hands aren't covered with germs" (just quietly inside my heart).

Sometimes I miss they more "friendly" "personal" way at cashiers in other countries. In Japan, everything is so manualized and made too impersonal. Saying hello to a young lady at a cashier generates a freaked out smile as if I was stalking on her personally... The industrial society can be horrible.

Edited: 26 November 2012, 15:01
Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Hong Kong, Osaka
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158 reviews
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8. Re: First Impressions!

While most Japanese won't cross even the small streets when there is a red light, a lot of them get around this "problem" by simply crossing 10-15 meters away from the intersection where the light is. This happens only at small side streets though.

Nara, Japan
Destination Expert
for Nara
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9. Re: First Impressions!

Blowing your nose/spitting on the street gets you small-fined, yet farting causes an exorbitant amount to a culprit, so you’d have to sneak around the corner and make sure nobody’s there when you can’t stand it. There was a young lady committing a suicide by biting off her tongue years ago, just because she couldn’t manage it if she became a mockery after an involuntary conduct…

Sorry, if you fell for it, for the hoax/joke above. ;) On a serious note though, cashiers (like you already know) give you back by not counting one thing after another for you but putting the change on the tray all in one. So sometimes you’d want to re-count the bills and coins yourself. That’s not a faux pas on your part; on the contrary they invariably say like to make sure you get the right balance. Be it a restaurant cashier or a cab driver, they never ever try to cheat you.

As for furtive jaywalkers, it’s funny to see one doing it off the zebra and another following suit. ;)

People didn't eat or drink on the street in my day; yet these days I can witness a few high school girls munching away at something like potato chips on the street/train cars on their way home. Am no ol' curmudgeon but I'm sometimes tempted to say 'just watch your manners; good girls would bring it home.' But I can't since in my imagination they'll come back like: fiddle-dee-dee, hey look who's talking, huh? adult guys smoking on the street are far worse you know. go tell'em first. you, kee-mo-ee!

Ah well...better leave the job to their parents/teachers...

Edited: 26 November 2012, 19:38
Toronto, Canada
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10. Re: First Impressions!

One place I saw quite a few Japanese people daring to jaywalk was Fukuoka..not sure if a local thing there.