Its the Japanese way?


Some people are going to hate me for this post, and they may be right. Who am I to comment on Japanese culture? I don’t even speak the language and only been here a week. But these are personal experiences which I am talking about, aka don’t send abuse you’re experience may be very different.

Its the 4th day of my trip to Tokyo (Japan) and I’m on a speeding bullet train going to Nagoya to ride rollercoasters and hopefully spend sometime in the Spaland. When the bullet train (Shinkansen) first started I thought this isn’t bad but then then it gets to lines outside of residential areas and you can feel a difference of G’s on the body. The train is super clean and theres plenty of leg room and room for the laptop (as I’m writing this now). There is power (although I didn’t bring my power and theres wifi but I can’t work out which SSID and there all secured (using my myfi instead)

Anyway talking about the speed of a bullet, I had the joy of going on the Tokyo dome city’s Thunder Dolphin. First up I would say every major city should have a major roller coaster! Imagine if London had one on the site of the Olympic park or the 02 Dome? I could imagine one in Manchester at Sports City (near Manchester City, but then Manchester Utd would want one at Old Trafford). Anyway this isn’t just a crappy rollercoaster, oh no its in the top 20 highest rollercoasters in the world and the view of Tokyo is fantastic, shame you can’t take a camera.

And this is the rub…

Japanese culture is fascinating but also  frustrating from an outsiders perspective. The line for Thunder dolphin wasn’t long, but I passed a point where it suggested it would be a 40min wait! There were about 100 people in front of me and bear in mind the roller coaster has 12 carts of 2 each, so 24 people each time (leaving out single riders, which is another problem, I won’t go into here). The ride takes 90-100 secs. Basically I should have been on the ride in under 15mins even with change over time. However, the ride guards were very insistent on everything being locked away in the ride lockers. They even made me put my tissue in my pocket in the locker! Watches, rings, loose change, etc also had to be put away.

The lockers were not like you get in theme parks in the UK, it was locked things with keys you would wear on your arm during the ride. Making the idea of your watch falling off a bit of joke to be honest. Of course I was never going to point that out. The procedure to make sure everything was done, was done to the letter.

View image on Twitter

I read the sign and laughed when reading don’t scream as it may be uncomfortable to other passengers. Think I’m being a bit alarmist? I’m not the only one…  I want to go to Fuji Q highland which is close to Tokyo (no bullet train unfortunately) and sits in the base of Mount Fuji. But this worries me…

Robin Franzi wrote

This park has a great potential, but it is so badly managed. The lines are really long (1 to 2+ hours per ride) because the personnel takes so much time to get people seated. Seriously, the lines could be divided by at least 2 if they were more efficient. The frequency of the cars is extremely low. With a little bit of rain or wind, they stop running them. Don’t buy a daily pass unless you have the whole day. This park can be very frustrating. Be warned.

I think sums up Japanese culture better than I can explain. Everything seems so efficient but actually is quite annoyingly convoluted unless you question. Maybe this is why the extremes of the youth of Harajuku? Breaking out of a very  traditional culture?

Our Airbnb host (i’ll call her catfish ninja because she looks noting like her photo and myself & Rebecca thought she was the mum of the women in the picture actually. She also lives in a area where ninjas use to live and I can see why) is lovely but when asking about a spare key, she answered saying we don’t need one, just leave the door closed.  Now this made us feel very uncomfortable as we do want to go different places at different times and we don’t really like the idea of leaving our passport, money, clothes, etc in a unlocked apartment in a city we don’t know. I understand Tokyo has very low crime but I don’t want to take the risk.

Tokyo is very safe and except the few people shout something at me in Japanese, being called a Gaijin a few times (quietly of course, under their breath) and being asked if I want champagne and a girl in Shibuya late a few days ago. Its all been ok.

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Think of this as part 2

While I was on the wrong bullet train back to Tokyo after failing to get to  the Nagashima spa-land (I got on a commuters train on the same platform going to the same location 5mins too early). I was standing all the way to Yohohoma because of the wrong train thing, and because all the non-reserved seats were taken. I saw a man with a laptop case on a chair next to him (I was about to nab the seat) but a woman got in there ahead of me. She tried to gesture but the man looking at his phone with earphones ignored her. She tried multiple ways without actually touching or speaking to him. In the end she picked up his bag and positioned it between her feet. The idea of inconveniencing him by sitting on a seat she paid for, frankly ignores and worries me.

Before the wrong bullet train back from my failed attempt to get to Nagashima spaland, I was stuck at some unknown station near Nagoya, wondering what had gone wrong and how I was going to sort stuff out, when some lovely woman/girl came up to me and asked if I needed help. She was so wonderful, not only asking where I needed to get to but also helping me get some solid food, pointing out better ways to get to Nagashima spa-land from Nagoya and even Tokyo.  A real breath of fresh air.

Her spoken English wasn’t great but neither is my Japanese full stop. But she could write english well. So in the burger bar near the station, we sat and talked via paper and google translate on my tablet. She was great and I can’t believe the amount of time she took out of her schedule to help me out. It was truly amazing and she was so wonderful. A hour had gone by the time we got back to the station and got two different trains.

Talking Japanese via paper

I have experienced a tiny slice of the negative and positive sides of modern Japanese culture in a short matter of  time. It really makes you think how different things are in our own western culture. Fascinating to think what will come over the next week.

Don’t forget to check out my Flickr group full of interesting bits I’ve captured and shared. Right now I have taken upwards of 350 pictures, the .

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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