Travel and Impressions of Japan from time away

I haven’t travelled much outside of Japan since arriving until November this year, I’d only had one trip to Korea and that was in late April so have been fully immersed in Japan. That all changed this month – in November I’ve been to the UK, Korea and China! This has given me an opportunity to see both the UK and Japan from a different perspective.

It was strange for me to say to people that I live in Japan, for example when I left the hotel in Korea, the person who checked me out asked if I was going back to my home country and without thinking I said “yes, I’m going back to Japan where I live” – it still feels slightly strange to me that I live in Japan and really exciting! Also on the flight the attendant tried to give me a foreigner card to fill in and I said I didn’t need it as I was a Japanese resident – more slightly odd feelings!

Travelling outside and returning has made me appreciate even more how well organised Japan is, how compliant and polite the people are – most noticeable on road crossing – I found it seriously challenging to cross the road in China, it being somewhat chaotic but also having lost a lot of road sense from my months in Japan!

In the week I was there never got to understand the ‘rules’ for crossing the road in China, certainly a green light on a pedestrian crossing did not give me the right to cross, as I found out from various irate drivers and cyclists! I think the bigger and faster you are the more priority you have and slower and smaller vehicles/people should proceed slowly and yield! Not very intuitive when you’re out for your morning run in the dark! Also surprisingly the bikes and scooters do not use lights on the road even when pitch dark. I learnt this is to save batteries as most of the scooters are electric but quite terrifying when one suddenly appears from the dark!

I enjoyed reading Chinese symbols in China thanks to studying Japanese and Kanji I found I recognised a lot! I couldn’t say them but I knew what they meant which was good. Even though I knew Kanji was Chinese characters it was somehow reassuring to see that it meant I could recognise a bit of Chinese!

In China I visited 2 places, for most of the time I was in Shashi, a 3rd tier city next to Wuhan right in the centre of China, for the last 2 days I was in Beijing which (at least the parts I was in) was really developed and incredibly affluent. The company office in Beijing is in a shopping centre in the financial district with lots of designer and international shops and plenty of original art sculptures by people like Dali. In contrast Shashi is less developed although had changed considerably since I visited nearly 2 years ago with more international places, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and the like and now a fancy international hotel.

South Korea from my experience generally is more like Japan than China, more modern, more developed and more similar food. However there are still many differences and having come to love Japan it did feel good to be home!

My other observations on returning to Japan are:

– mask wearing (lots of people wear masks to prevent spreading colds and some to avoid allergies but this is more in the Spring)
– very clean (trains, airport etc)
– space – not a lot but people actually give you space as opposed to pushing past
– warm, at least compared to Beijing – it was 13 C when I arrived compared to 0 C in Beijing.

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