After hours of reading articles of “What You Should Not Do in Japan” and watching YouTube videos of study-abroad students sharing similar advice, there were so many observations that weren’t even mentioned from my research!
As a New Yorker, I am accustomed to the crowded places, but I have never expected that you have to walk on the left side in the subways! If you are walking on the right side in Japan, you are preventing people from running to catch their trains on time. In Japan, if you arrive on time, you are considered late! Also, there is no other country like Japan where the train conductors would apologize over the PA announcement if the train is running just two minutes late.
Oh! You probably have heard about how clean the subways, or the Japanese environments in general. In fact, there are hardly any trash cans! Many Japanese people keep their trash in their bags. A plastic bottle of Coke? A box of Pocky? Or even just a napkin? No problem. Trash cans aren’t just trash cans, they are divided into groups: Cans and Bottles” for Coke bottle and the “Combustible,” for paper and boxes. Aside from the trash cans, there are Japanese workers whose job is to pick up the trash from anywhere in the subways, even if it means of picking off the old sticky gum off the ground. Ugh! I wish the New York subways were just like this…
During the rush hours in the Japanese Subways, The trains are so crowded during the rush hour, that it is considered unsafe for women and children so there are pink-colored trains intended for them. I’ve also noticed how people do not use strollers, and instead, many use baby front carry bag! It absolutely warms my heart every time I see cute little arms and feet hanging out of the baby bag and catching a quick glimpse of their sleepy faces!
Lastly but not at least, many Japanese people will whisper “Sumimasen” and gently chopping their arm in the air as they pass by you. Sumimasen is a much-more formal than gomenasai! Also, it can be used to say “Excuse me.” Being apologetic is a sign of humility and it is highly valued in Japanese society. Also, please, please do not talk loud in the subway trains. Some workers can catch their sweet sleep in the train, but surely, the Japanese wish for their peace!
Once you hit the hotspots of the train stations in Tokyo or Sapporo, you will be greeted by dozens of convenience stores, like 7-Eleven (not the same 7-Eleven stores back in the States with few sausages rolling under the heat for ages), Lawson Station, or Family Mart. Don’t be afraid of trying the authentic Japanese food! Even the convenience stores have those kinds of foods: Onigiri, sushi, natto beans and so much more! They’re just as authentic as the food you eat in the Japanese restaurants! Also, there are no old-fashioned cash registers in those stores! Give the cashiers any of the bills and they will insert the money into the new cash registers and they will spit out the exact change! Truly unbelievable! They even have the mini spongy-bins for you to put the coins in before the cashier takes them to the machines!
Subways are truly fascinating and I hope that the New York subways catch up soon with the cleanliness and the state-of-the-art technology that I would never expect to see in the US!