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Japan viewed through my eyes - part 3

Japan Travel Blog

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A mashine to clean glasses on the street in Tokyo.

 

What I really admire on Japanese is the passion with which they do things they love. No matter if it’s some sport like baseball or swimming, computer programming, dancing, singing or playing an instrument. During my exchange semester on the Tsukuba University I realized how many different “clubs” there were any student could join and find a “hobby” he could enjoy with all his soul. I guess it helped especially the “freshman” to become a member of a group of young people with the same interests and to escape the “danger” to become an individual within different stable groups. But it wasn’t the way that only the newcomers were looking for a corresponding club, the clubs were also looking for the corresponding new members as well.

With Hiroki and his wife in Tokyo.
Especially the first weeks of the semester the club members were putting flyers into the mail boxes of the students, during the evenings going from door to door in the student dormitories and explaining the potentional new members the advantages of their group. Can you imagine the shock in their faces when a door got opened by a foreigner like me asking them in English how he could help them? Hahaha. I should add that my friend Klemens (we were sent from the same University) and me were the only foreigners in our dormitory building. The poor club promoting students usually didn’t know how to react and of course most of them weren’t really able to communicate in English properly as the Japanese language teaching system concentrates much more on grammar then on conversation. After several visits me and Klemens decided to prepare a little joke with the next group (usually there came 2 to 3 of them). We wanted to capture the moment of their shocked faces after the door got opened with a camera. One of the evenings when we heard outside the voices of another club members making promotion we got in position in my room. I was supposed to open the door and Klemens would take then quickly a picture.
A club in Osaka.
We just had to wait for the knocking on my door. Couple of minutes later there it was. Knock-knock, I opened the door, shocked faces of 2 Japanese, Klemens pushing the bottom to shoot the photo…pretty simple you might think. Everything worked perfectly till the microsecond when our visitors noticed the camera in Klemens’ hands. Before the camera did the photo and the flash came out, the hands of the students went up and there it was: fingers marking a V, a typical sign Japanese use often when they’re on pictures. Incredible. I guess it was a reflex, but I would never expect they could react that quickly, hahaha.

 

The “V” sign, I’m still not sure if it means “victory”, “peace” or something else. Meanwhile I guess that in the case of the Japanese it lost any of the previous meanings.

A camp for kids in Kikuchi on Kyushu.
It became such a natural behavior that they don’t even think about. I had the feeling that girls and women made this sign much more often then boys and men. Does that mean something? I don’t know. What’s also very popular in Japan…group photos. They seem to love it. When you meet Japanese tourist groups on a tour you can be pretty sure that sooner or later they’ll make a stop somewhere, call everybody and make a group photo together. It’s seems to be a must, a proof for the particular Japanese travelers that they were part of a group.

 

Japanese travel a lot. They travel around the world (very often in extremely short time), they travel around their country and they travel daily to work, school, whatever. In case of the last option they spent often 2-4 hours daily in trains or subways.

My friend Hiroki's wedding.
And if you travel that long every day you need to spend the time somehow. The big majority of the subway passengers for example can be divided into 3 main groups. The first ones are usually little bit younger and play with their cellphones most of the time. They play games or they send messages, but the main mark is that their eyes stay staring at the cellphone screen all the time. The second group are the manga comic readers, usually boys or men. The age doesn’t seem to be important in this case. I saw even the so called “salary men” reading them.

And the last group of passengers is my favorite one: the sleepers. And you can see many of them in the subways. The incredible thing is that they seem never to miss their station. They wake up just few seconds before they’re supposed to get off. Is it something genetical? If so the right gene had to be created just the last 40 years or something. And I noticed another thing. In the subway the people have not many possibilities to lean their head on.

Nikko.
But the Japanese sleep so peacefully facing down like if they would be praying. One of my travel mates told me that when I have not enough possibilities to lean my head on it jumps up and down all the time. I don’t wake up, but of course the body doesn’t get much rest this way, haha. I would really like to know if there’s some trick.

 

Tokyo is full of people, the masses are just incredible. It’s amazing how good everything works, how good everything is organized considering the incredible number of people moving around every day. There’s a huge crossing in Shibuya in Tokyo, when the green lights go on at least 100 people from 4 different directions start walking towards each other trying to get to the other side.

Japanese friends drinking and having fun.
Not 2 different directions as usual, it’s 4 directions. The white signs on the ground look like a big “X”. I passed this crossing few times as well. It feels like a huuuge tsunami of people coming to you from 3 different directions, somehow scary. The incredible thing is that the masses of people pass each other so smoothly without touching each other, that you had the feeling it was only the wind. Japanese try to avoid physical contact with people they don’t know as much as possible and they are so “trained” that they manage to pass a crossing without touching almost anybody.    

 

 

 

To be continued.

Me in Kyoto.
..

                           

Andynew says:
I love your blogs. Really interesting! I am going to japan on Sept 29th /08 and i wanted to know where are the best places to go on a tight budget. I debating b/w hokkaido and kyushuu. What do you think?
Posted on: Sep 07, 2008
jefrois says:
Haha I don't think the sleeping gene is just for the Japanese... My time on the metro in NY is sleeping time and I never miss my stop, waking up just in time :) Great Blog Martin!
Posted on: May 17, 2008
Andy99 says:
In Japan I was told that the "V" sign is used in photos because it signifies the number "2" or "ni" in Japanese. Saying "ni" causes one to smile. "Say ni" would be the Japanese equivalent of "say cheese" in English to get a smile before a photo. At least, that's how the "V" custom was explained to me!
Posted on: Mar 04, 2008
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A mashine to clean glasses on the …
A mashine to clean glasses on the…
With Hiroki and his wife in Tokyo.
With Hiroki and his wife in Tokyo.
A club in Osaka.
A club in Osaka.
A camp for kids in Kikuchi on Kyus…
A camp for kids in Kikuchi on Kyu…
My friend Hirokis wedding.
My friend Hiroki's wedding.
Nikko.
Nikko.
Japanese friends drinking and havi…
Japanese friends drinking and hav…
Me in Kyoto.
Me in Kyoto.
Friends preparing takoyaki.
Friends preparing "takoyaki".
Kyoto.
Kyoto.
Shinjuku station in Tokyo.
Shinjuku station in Tokyo.
Roppongi hills in Tokyo.
Roppongi hills in Tokyo.
A sakura street in Tsukuba.
A sakura street in Tsukuba.
A highschool excursion.
A highschool excursion.
Kyoto.
Kyoto.
They got even Kebab in Japan.
They got even "Kebab" in Japan.
Travelling cheap to Hokkaido on a …
Travelling cheap to Hokkaido on a…
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
Me with a friend fooling around.
Me with a friend fooling around.
Me in a temple.
Me in a temple.
Fukuoka from a ferry.
Fukuoka from a ferry.
Learning German on TV.
Learning German on TV.