Walking to church this morning, ironically, through Rappongi, the red light district of Tokyo, was the only time I saw litter on the sidewalk, heard loud music, and saw a person smoking on the street. Tokyo is incredible for a city of 40 million. Quiet, clean and orderly; the people are polite and dress beautifully; the trains run to the minute. Anyone speaking on their mobile in public, especially with the speaker on, is a tourist.
What about the litter and noise in Rappongi? My son explained that it is very Japanese to keep things in their proper, very limited place. Therefore, two blocks of litter. Then clean again. In two weeks there I saw perhaps four people smoking on the street. Restaurants have smoking areas. They are full. I saw one person sleeping on the street. Again, in Rappongi. The few homeless people, official policy is that there are none, sleep in one area of the park. Jackhammers are muffled. Soundproof walls are built around construction sites and the noise level is monitored. The Metro displays posters to remind riders of their manners. Everyone bows and smiles. I felt like I was doing altar guild.
The Japanese are very patriotic. They are proud of their beautiful country and their history. Their family values are extremely strong. There is little divorce, couples do not live together before marriage. I realize their society has problems. Pressure to achieve can lead to suicide. Following the rules can lead to lack of creativity. Lack of freedom can lead to economic stagnation. But I do ache to see more of such beauty and respect in our western cities.
I was also surprised at how quickly I felt at home in this very foreign culture. The signs are all written in 3 languages, 2 Japanese alphabets and English. The Metro felt just like riding the Tube in London. Again, our son explained. When the Japanese rebuilt after the war they sent out scouts to bring in the best in the world. That meant French restaurants, German brewers, Belgian chocolate, and English transportation. And, yes, they drive on the left side of the road.
And the language. Well, besides a ready smile and frequent bowing, which can get one through about anything there, I managed to conquer 2 words. First was Hai, which means yes, but is used a great deal more than we would say yes. Besides expressing agreement, it is also used as a vocable to mean I hear you or I understand.
My other word was ari ga tou, thank you. It was fun to use because when I would say ari ga tou to a Japanese person they would invariably respond, thank you.
Our Church service was conducted in English, ironically, the next Sunday in San Francisco, we mistakenly attended a Chinese service. Afterwards we had lunch on the 45th floor of the Ritz Carlton in the Midtown Tower.
As expected, the view was amazing. Yes, that is the Tokyo Tower, slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower.
And my Quinoa scampi salad was delicious.
Then we went to Kitchenware Town for Kelly to get some items for her Cordon Bleu class.
Again, an example of keeping everything in one area. Many blocks up and down Kappabashi street. Each shop crammed with a particular item for kitchen use,
including the replica food most restaurants display in their windows to attract hungry customers.
Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.