Lessons from Japan

Stellar Public Transportation

Japan’s subways have to be the best in the world.  Clean, quiet, frequent, internet connectivity, and meticulously on time. And we mean on time.  The Shinkansen is supremely fast.  FUN FACT: it has an annual average delay of 54 seconds / operational train (this includes delays due to uncontrollable causes such as natural disasters).


Good lord, it is safe here.  Japan has one of the lowest crimes rates in the world.  You can feel it. 

Everything is smaller

Space is limited… it’s an island! (below is only a slight exaggeration)

Cabs are crazy expensive

We never took them.  A taxi from the airport to downtown Tokyo costs $250.

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Cash is king (or queen)

We learned from our friends that ATMs charge serious fees for locals (even if you go to an ATM where you have a Japanese account).  What’s more is that ATMs charge different fees depending on the time of day – so if it’s “rush hour,” you’ll get stuck with peak fees(Collin said he once went to an ATM and had to pay $14 in fees).

Medical masks are everywhere

It is super clean here, but we see people wearing medical masks all over the place.  In fact, it worried me at first, but then I googled it and the most common reason for Japanese people to wear medical masks is to keep their germs to themselves when they are sick (which didn’t even cross my mind as a potential reason because it was so courteous).  It truly reflects a culture of respect and honesty that they have here. 

Sumo is fascinating

These are not fat men in loin cloths.  These are athletes.  Their lives are tough and highly disciplined. 

Spirituality and religion are blended

We’ve done a little bit of reading on Shintoism vs. Buddhism to learn about both since a) we knew nothing about the former and b) they’re highly intertwined here. 

Shrines are everywhere

Some estimate that there are over 100,000 Shinto shrines in Japan.

Limited physical touching between people

This has been interesting to observe.  We spoke about this with a woman that we met at dinner last night and she said that even touching (like hugs and kisses or pats on the back) are minimal and/or non-existent among friends/family.  She said that mothers limit touch to their children once they reach pre-school or around age 3. 

Italian Food was necessary

Yes, we went to some Italian food places… because Annie’s taste buds are lame-o (this is Annie writing).   They also make delicious pizza here!

Oftentimes, strangers address Adam (not Annie)

This may be something that we find in other places as well, but we have noticed that when being addressed or asked common questions, Adam is more likely to be spoken to and looked at than Annie

The close elevator button actually works!

Are these fake in America?

Heated toilet seats are bomb

But there’s a major discrepancy between the best and the worst toilets… from squatting holes to fancy loos with all kinds of buttons.