“Reflections: My Adventures in Japan”

神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa oki nami ura ("The Great ...

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“Reflections: My Adventures in Japan

Greetings!

I wanted to send a follow-up email to my “Adventures in Japan” series that I wrote while on my trip.

Earlier this week I browsed through more than 300 photos and selected, what I thought, were the best 211 photos to email via Snapfish.  I hope you have the opportunity to view some of the photos (and read the captions) as it might help bring the words I wrote [in my emails] to life.  If anyone would like me to email individual photos I would be more than happy to do so.

I noticed a cultural difference immediately when I arrived back in the States.  Our customs line was not nearly as efficient as Japan’s.  I cannot begin to emphasize how efficient the Japanese are at nearly everything they do.

I miss the safety of Japan.  I noticed that as soon as I returned home I went back into our typical American “untrusting state of mind towards strangers” mode.  No longer was my purse able to freely graze across my hip, but I noticed that I held it closer to my body for safekeeping.

Many people have asked me about the crime rate in Japan.  Guns are banned in Japan and most (if not nearly all) police officers do not carry guns.  Their culture is very traditional and no one wants to bring shame upon their family by disobeying the law.

I would also like to share some interesting follow-up facts with you that I realized I did not cover in my previous emails.

The DUI limit in Japan is 0.03!  If you are caught drunk driving you get five years in prison.  If you are a passenger in a car where the driver is drunk, you also go to prison.  Ironically, alcoholism in Japan is very common, though I think most Japanese citizens take the train home.  I asked Lisa why alcoholism is abundant in Japan and she explained that it is common for co-workers go to out every night after work and share many drinks together.  The Japanese work insane business hours and they only get one day off each week – Sunday.

The prisons in Japan are nothing like here in America (though I haven’t seen the inside of either to confirm that information!).  In Japan you are given a blanket in your cell and you are expected to sleep on the cold, hard floor.  You are required to work the entire time while you are in jail.  In Japan they do not provide prisoners with the benefits of television, internet, computers, or an education.  You definitely do not want to go to prison in Japan!

Taxi drivers in Japan are considered “professional drivers” so if you get in a wreck with a taxi driver, it is automatically your fault.

Most investigations are conducted at the scene by the police.  I’m still a little confused, but my partial understanding is that the police are also the judge and jury with most criminal matters.

Lisa has seen a total of three car accidents in the two plus years she has been stationed in Japan … and her third accident she saw was while I was there!

There are a lot of odd little hotels in Japan with “themes.”  For example, we saw a hotel that was named “Hotel Golf.”  Lisa explained that many people live with their extended families so for couple’s to gain alone time, in a house that has zero insulation, they usually rent a “theme hotel room” for a few hours.  My understanding is that you go into the hotel and there is a vending machine.  You insert your yen, select which room number you would like, and it dispenses a key.  Instead of advertising the rooms for couple’s to have alone time, they advertise them as “stay or rest.”

The sushi in Japan is amazing.  The tuna literally melts in your mouth and it tastes nothing like our tasteless tuna that we have here in the States.  It is utterly incredible!  I think I ate enough tuna during my stay that I probably shouldn’t eat any for at least a month!  If you are not interested in historical districts, temples, or culture, visiting Japan is worthwhile just to sample their amazing cuisine.  It really is out of this world!  I now understand why people who visit Japan and come back to the States say that they cannot eat American sushi without longing for Japan.  Though, the Japanese do eat sashimi horse, which we were offered, and needless to say Lisa and I passed.  Something about eating an animal that in the States we turn into glue did not sound very appetizing.

If you visit Japan, they will not typically allow Americans to rent cars.  Lisa said that you have to have an international driver’s license to rent a car in Japan, as maneuvering around the streets, getting used to the tiny ally-ways, and driving on the opposite side of the road is really unsafe for someone who does not know how to navigate around Japan.  Lisa had to take a required military driving course to obtain her driver’s license while in Japan.

In Japan they have very strict emissions.  I wondered why most people had newer cars.  Lisa explained it was because after a car is five-years-old, they immediately increase the taxes to the point where someone can’t afford to NOT get a new car.  Fortunately, the Japanese have incredibly low interest rates.

The Japanese cannot drink or smoke until the age of 20-years-old.  The Japanese are not permitted to learn how to drive until they are 18-years-old.

I loved shopping in Japan because everyone is so honest and trusting.  It’s not like in America where store owners have to cast a wary eye in a customer’s direction to ensure no theft occurs.  In Japan, everyone is trusting  … which is what makes the Japanese culture so unique.

I thought some of you might find this humorous.  Lisa told me that comic p0rn (for those of you that might have censored emails) is HUGE in Japan, though the Japanese apparently blur out any dirty images in the drawings.  I’m telling you, the Japanese are OBSESSED with comics and cartoons – obviously in nearly every aspect of their lives.

Since the Japanese cannot pronounce “L’s”, 7/11 is known as “Seven E-ev-en.”

I also have to mention that Japanese grapes are incredible!  If you ever have the opportunity to visit Japan, I implore you to spend the extra yen to try their native grapes.  They are just under the size of a golf ball (traditionally in Japan you peel them, but I did not) and taste like no other grapes on earth!  They taste just like Welch’s Grape Juice – perfectly sweet, but not too sweet, with that delicious grape flavor we craved as children.  I bought some grape honey in Japan.  Japanese honey is not like our honey.  It’s more of a syrup that you can flavor water or tea with, in addition to using it as you would traditional honey.  If any of you would like a small spoonful of heavenly grape flavor, I would be more than happy to accommodate your desires.  Be prepared that the honey is only a substitute for the real thing.

As soon as I got back to the States I went to the doctor and I had bronchitis.  I am beginning to feel much better now so I apologize for missing so many of the details I mentioned above in my earlier emails.

I would love to visit Japan again in late winter or early spring.  I would love to visit Kyoto and further explore Kamakura.  Now that I have such an intense appreciation for Japanese culture, I would like to visit more of the historical areas of Japan.

I hope that I may have inspired some of you to visit other countries, experience other cultures, be adventurous with new foods, and most importantly to appreciate every experience – whether positive or negative – in your life.  Those experiences have helped to shape and mold us into the people we are today.  Please embrace life and live it to its fullest.  In my wildest dreams I never would have thought I would have visited a foreign country, surrounded myself with a foreign language, and attempted to immerse myself in a foreign culture.  A year ago, I would have been too timid to embrace these foreign experiences, but everything I went through this last year gave me the courage to embrace life (a special thank you to my family and friends).  I hope each of you finds something that ignites your passion and makes you embrace your life to the fullest.

Kampai! (Cheers!)

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