Day 8: Kyoto 5thMay 2017

Things we expected to experience in Japan and things that surprised us.

  • We realised that Japanese people are a little obsessed with cleanliness but the extent of this obsession was a little surprising. I suppose it comes from living in very densely populated areas. If hygiene is not maintained at a high standard then disease would run rampant. The list of do’s and dont’s in our studio is quite significant. What items have to go into which disposal bag has my head smashed! Refuse is collected daily.
  • The refuse lorries are sparkling clean. The drivers are immaculately dressed. It makes being a refuse collector much easier.
  • Cars are all spotless. Each apartment building has a car washing hose available in the parking area. People seem to wash cars that are already gleaming. The taxis are a sight to behold with white lace type covers on the seat backs. Again the drivers are wonderfully dressed with white gloves. When one exits a taxi the door closes slowly and automatically behind you.
  • Both in Tokyo and here in Kyoto our bathrooms seem to be made of moulded plastic. This does not leave room for personal design but it sure makes cleaning simple. The whole area is a type of wet room despite having a deep small bath into which you step to use the shower. The wash hand basin is half over this bath and half outside it. This means the hot tap can be controlled from in the shower area. The temperature is pre determined from outside the bathroom. I know some friends and family members who would love this…
  • I talked about the wonderful loo arrangement. The small size of most toilet areas leaves no room for free standing wash hand basins. This problem is solved by using the top of the cistern as a wash hand basin, the refill of the cistern runs through a filler like a sink. You rinse your hands and the water refills the cistern. Loo seats are heated!
  • Shopping for food is a joy. The assistants are so polite and bow formally when you reach the checkout. You place your money on a tray that avoids the assistant having to touch your hands. They then place your change on the tray. Some stores even have different colours for money in and change out. When buying something like butter you get a small ice pack to keep it cool – I love it. Could I ask John Field to introduce this?
  • Japanese people are very petit and very fine. The all have very small sized dogs. We seem to be like giants in comparison. Handrails are at two levels, the lower one for Japanese and the upper ones for us. Likewise hanging straps in the subway are at two heights. Chairs are often low which is difficult for me with my gammy hip. Our wash hand basin is situated below Barry’s waist level. 
  • Many Japanese have very turned in toes. Online explanations say women effect this walk because it is considered sexy!!! I doubt this seriously as many small children also have turned in feet. May be genetic variation, although many younger people don’t have a problem. Another explanation is it is because when they sit on the floor they turn their feet outwards.
  • The cities have certain street areas that are non smoking. These are the older parts of the city with very narrow streets. 
  • As I already said not all streets have Western names. Those that do – have these placed in different areas. Some engraved on metal on the ground, others way up high on plaques. One is constantly searching. 
  • There seems to be a huge French influence here. In our small area in Kyoto there are many French restaurants and boulangeries. Many shops have French names. Japanese often use French expressions when speaking to one another.
  • As a visitor here you buy pocket WiFi. This is a tiny box that can be carried about with you. It costs about 100euro for three weeks. It works a treat – so practical. Gadgets are a big deal here. Some look useful but the robot cleaning machine in our studio keeps talking to us when we try to make him pick up the crumbs. No matter which button we press he refuses to budge. But a tiny gadget for straining your tea that  hangs on the side of the cup would be on my “must have” list.
  • Parking, as you might imagine, is a premium. Everywhere there are little areas where you can pay to park, there are very few carparks, per se,  just lots of spaces for two are three cars. These are rented by the hour, different rates for night or day and contract pricing. You can buy on the spot, or per period, and get access to a site, which opens up the security bars. It is very efficient.
  • Finally and typical of the sort of the militaristic nature of things in this big and busy country. If you come across a stairs to be climbed in the underground, for example, each step has a calculation written on it telling you how many kilocalories you are using by climbing each step!! Says everything….