Tokyo: The People
Whenever someone asks what the best thing about the Tokyo visit was, my response is ‘the people’. This was my conclusion two days into the trip and it remains the same today.
It can be said of many places – indeed I’ve said it about Birmingham the first two times I lived there - but the city I’ve been wanting to explore since hearing Japan’s ‘Life in Tokyo’ way back in the 1980s is on another level. It’s even more courteous than Hong Kong, whose people overwhelmed me with kindness last year.
It’s not just that everyone bows – from the people on the amazing ANA flight to every shop – it’s the genuine pleasure in greeting, serving and pleasing you.
Two politeness incidents stand out: it was unclear, with my language barrier whether the young girl in the public bathroom was waiting to use the loo or for her mum to come out. A few seconds of absurd signage later, with the sweetest, delicate bow and an elegant, outstretched swoop of an arm, she beckons me to go in. I’m completely bowled over.
The second, made more poignant as it was our last evening in the world’s busiest city when we walked past some road works. The maintenance staff, who rather delightfully carry lit up batons - like modern day samurai - to keep us safe while they quickly undertake their repairs. As we strode past, one of them bowed deeply. All I did, was walk along the path that had been suggested; no thanks were necessary. But apparently that was appreciated. It summed up the amazing respect we’d received throughout, just for being a fellow human being.
Talking of which, remember that sinkhole that was repaired within a week a couple of years ago?
There are shrines everywhere we go and I loved that people of all ages have their faith and will openly pray. It also made me smile each time I saw young people in stunning kimonos, dressed for special occasions. They looked so much cooler in the hot sun than we did.
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