Last night, Ken and I went out to supper with a few of Max’s English teacher friends. One of them, Lilly, asked me what I would like to take home to Canada from Japan – either an object or a concept. What a great question. After thinking over my answer, I chose this: how the Japanese handle the trash they generate while away from home. There are no trash bins on the streets or at bus stops, nor in malls, parks or tourist sites. If you buy a take-away coffee or a packaged snack, you must carry your empty bottle or wrapper with you until you get home or find one of the rare trash bins, usually at a konbini, a neighbourhood convenience store.
Max’s friends had a quick reaction to my pick. Yes! they chimed, isn’t it great. Everyone does it and there’s no trash littering the streets and no overflowing garbage bins in public places.
Later that evening, I visited the lady’s room and came up with a second thing I’d bring home, this time an object. Most women’s toilet cubicles here have a small jump seat, a bit like a high chair, where you can sit a young child while you use the facilities. Why don’t we have this in Canada? Ask any mother who’s tried to use a toilet and keep an eye on her toddler at the same time: don’t sit on the floor, don’t pick that up, don’t crawl under the door! Sound familiar? And the solution is so simple.
Lilly’s question got me thinking about the differences I’ve seen during this trip.
As a former banker, one of the first things I noticed is that business attire still has meaning here. Men wear dark suits, white shirts and ties. Women also dress in dark business suits with skirts and they wear stockings and pumps. Good or bad, who’s to say, it’s just the way it is. I noted that students wear uniforms too, all the way through high school.
You can smoke in restaurants! Pick your seat carefully if you don’t want to be breathing second-hand smoke. However, I didn’t see a lot of smokers, generally.
The cars are impossibly small. We could probably fit two side by side in our Honda minivan. And they seemed to be design to be cute, many remind me of Pokémon characters. I can’t imagine one of these tiny cars driving on North American roads.
No one jaywalks. If you come from Quebec like I do, you know jaywalking is an art form. Here, you can be fined.
Hundreds of people use bikes to get around and electric bikes are common. Some bikes seem to be the only family conveyance. They can carry two children, one in a seat between the specially-designed handlebars, the other over the back wheel. There are bike parking lots that work exactly like the ones for cars, they even have attendants. In Hiroshima, bike parking rules are strictly enforced and you can be ticketed and “towed” if you park in an unauthorized spot.
Finally, dollar stores are amazing! In Japan, they are 100 Yen stores and they offer so much: food, kitchen wares, crafting supplies, household articles, car accessories, basic clothing. I know it all sounds like what we have at home, but the quality is way better. I have it on good authority that the dollar stores here put ours to shame.
I had a great time browsing there and finding fun items to take home.