A family of four blond, blue eyed Americans don’t blend in very easily in Japan. Not blending in can be a good thing at times or not so good at other times. Let us explain…when we’re confused as to which subway to take or can‘t read a menu, it’s good, because a considerate, English speaking local will stop to help. On the other hand, if you do something a little scatter-brained everyone WILL notice you.
Our first attempt to take public transportation is a great example of a time when you wish you could just blend. We decided to take the city-line bus to a near-by shopping mall and back to our hotel. When we boarded the extremely crowded bus there weren’t seats together. We gave the girls seats at the front or the bus, Dad landed somewhere in the middle, Mom" near the back. Our bus conveniently had doors in the front and the back. Truthfully we weren’t 100% sure we were on the correct bus to start with. Luckily it was the right bus. At this point in the story it’s tempting to list all the reasons why things transpired as the did, (it was dark, didn’t have
on glasses, strange new surroundings) but to keep it short and sweet is probably better. The bus stopped in front of the hotel and Mom proceeded to the closest exit at the back of the bus, thinking that the rest of the family was exiting up front. There was one small problem…it wasn’t our hotel. Dad then looked out the window to see Mom’s wide-eyed expression as the bus pulled away. Being the calm and collected sort of guy he is Dad jumped up and began to YELL stop, stop, stop the bus! This completely surprised the driver, who slammed on his brakes. After the driver realized it wasn’t a hijacking taking place he stopped and opened the doors. Whereby an embarrassed blond reentered the bus. We’re sure you have heard about the extreme politeness of the Japanese. We can now report how true this is, nobody (except "a" & "j") laughed at the dazed and confused blond or the screaming panicked blond. Although they weren’t laughing at the time, we are still pretty sure that when they were well out of hearing range the crowded bus exploded in laughter.
We wish we could tell you this was the
Even a Sumo expert would \"wrestle\" with this map!
only time we felt dumb in Japan but due to the language barrier and the complicated transportation system it wasn’t. The good news is, if we stood long enough looking lost and confused someone would have pity on us and attempt to help. Bet this wouldn’t happen as often to a Japanese tourist in New York . One time 2 guys almost got into an argument about which one had the best directions. We have been so amazed at the helpfulness and courtesy we have experienced.
Our first full day in Tokyo we managed to figure out (with help) which train and subway connections would take us to our destinations. Dad arranged for us to meet with a former business associate, Yaku san. On our way to the meeting we purchased tickets for the train and subway. As we approached the gate Dad inserted one ticket instead of both tickets together, jamming the gate. An attendant had to open the machine, backing up traffic to assist the blond. Guess what, there wasn’t any swearing or rude comments made by the backed up crowd or the attendant. Another example of Japanese graciousness, thank goodness.
In spite of our feelings
Blonds on the subway
Looking a little confused!
of inadequacy we still managed to thoroughly enjoy Tokyo. The Electronic Town (Akihabara) area astonished us, with store after store of the latest gadgets and gizmos. In the upscale shopping distract of Ginza we walked around in beautiful department stores. The basement always seemed to have a food section with elaborately packaged foods. Can you believe that a small grapefruit sized watermelon can cost $100 dollars, that’s US not Yen. We understand that this specially packaged elegant food is given as gifts.
In the afternoon we took a stroll through Hibiya park near the Imperial Palace. The spring flowers were blooming and we enjoyed watching people feed the birds, walk their dogs and play tennis. We met Yaku san at the Imperial Hotel. Talking to Yaku san was so helpful in planning the rest of our time here and understanding more about the customs and history of Japan. Yaku san arranged for us the stay in Kyoto at the beautiful Westin Hotel. We are excited about the next part of our trip, the old capital city of Japan, Kyoto.
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