Challenge: Choose Only 2 Things That Represent Japan

Yesterday a Japanese person asked me what 2 things I would pick that best represent [my impression of] Japan.

I found this to be a difficult question because so far I love everything about it.

Choosing just 2 aspects of life in Japan was very challenging, but after some thought I was able to pick 2 that best represent my experience here:

1. The Train System

I think that Japan’s train system is a metaphor for modern Japan culture.

I’ll often see women in kimono as they go to and from work, which is a reminder of how rich Japan’s culture is and how seamlessly the past blends with the present here. On the same city block you will see a mixture of old wooden homes alongside modern structures, so the blending of past and present is something you will instantly be aware of.

The trains are efficient, on time, and reliable. The signs are in English, which shows how willing the Japanese people are to accommodate travelers who speak other languages. The station is packed with delicious smells and foods, gifts, convenience store items, grocery stores, and sometimes even department stores, so you’re never at a loss for something to buy that you need or want.

The passengers are quiet, respectful, and keep to themselves. I find that the majority of people follow the established rules of the train system:stand on the left of the escalator and walk on the right, no talking on your phone in the train, move quickly, and don’t stop the flow of traffic. To me, this behavior shows how disciplined, respectful, and orderly the Japanese are- and I love it.

Then you have those passengers who sleep on the train. Many Americans I know think this is very funny (for some strange reason), but I think that these sleeping people represent the long work day and diligent work ethic that Japan culture celebrates.

2. Gadgets That Make Your Life Easier

Japanese gadgets never cease to amaze me. Every time I see a new one it makes perfect sense and I wonder why I haven’t seen it before now. I think that Japanese gadgets (for the kitchen, organization, storage, bathroom, and the like) are a perfect example of the efficiency and ingenuity of the Japanese culture. These products exist because there was a need that wasn’t being filled. Sure, there are some products out there that are probably useless, but there hasn’t been a single product I’ve bought that hasn’t helped make my daily life easier.

If you had to choose 2 things that best represent your impression of Japan, what would they be?

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