The first time I came to Japan, I was coached to be worried about offending. Do things exactly right, or you’ll offend. Hold the business card the right way. Don’t show the bottom of your feet. Bow exactly so at exactly the right time. Otherwise you’ll offend and ruin everything.
It’s important to learn about a culture you’re going to visit. You don’t want to offend. You don’t want to make an obscene hand gesture by mistake. You don’t want to say something that means something different than you thought.
But my experiences in Japan have been very different from what I was led to expect. The people are so kind, so patient, so polite. People give gentle advice on the train when they see you sitting in the wrong seat, or when you’re likely on the wrong train. People help one another with luggage. And nobody seems itching to get offended when I forget and cross my legs or write a note on their business card.
Traveling around the world is awesome because people are so different in different parts of the world, but it’s also awesome because we’re all so much the same.
My flight out of Lexington was delayed an hour and a half, resulting in a very tight connection in Chicago. I ran from gate to gate, and arrived as they were sounding the gate closing alarm. And a gate agent said that she thought I shouldn’t go, because my passport expires in September, and they’re not going to let me through immigration. (Turned out to not be a problem at all.)
But I made it on board – last one through the gate door – and had a pleasant flight to Narita. I arrived at Narita at about 5pm, and went to buy train tickets.
First challenge was getting cash. My debit card doesn’t have a chip in it, which is how cards work everywhere in the world other than the US, so the ATM said it wasn’t a valid card. Fortunately, the other ATM accepted it, and I was able to buy train tickets.
I took the train to Nipponi, and then changed trains there to go to Mejiro, without incident. People were very helpful in telling me how to get where I needed to go, and my worry was for nothing. The train was cheap ($12 and $1.50 for the two trips) and the taxi from the train station to the hotel was cheap ($15) and fast, too. I expected the trains to be packed, but they were spacious and incredibly quiet. Apparently it’s rude to speak on the train – or at least to speak loudly.
The airport was really quiet, too. The noise level in public spaces is really surprising – soooo quiet.
I arrived at the hotel around 7:30pm, and it is beautiful. It’s easily the most beautiful conference venue I’ve ever been at, and probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Check out the photos at http://www.hotel-chinzanso-tokyo.com/
My photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/sets/72157644738464202/
Conference website: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/linuxcon-japan/
Hotel website: http://www.hotel-chinzanso-tokyo.com/