When you see a glass, do you see it half empty or half full?
Do you live for today or dwell on the past?
Do you thrive on positive contact or wallow about what people may have meant?
Whether you are predisposed to your personality traits by birth, or you believe that you are who you are by virtue of nurture and how you interacted with those around you as you grew up, there are indeed other factors that determine your outlook on life.
One of the main factors that determine your attitude towards others is in fact your country of birth, or to put it in more specific terms, your culture. A country that is a prime example of this is Japan.
Japan is a country known for many things – sushi, sumo, anime and technology – but running through the core of the country is an admirable balance of respect and regime, with the structure of these coming together to make a country who is revered for its values. So imagine a society that puts elders first, instils in children a sense that if you behave correctly towards others, this will be repaid in reciprocal respect kindness – sound idyllic?
Whilst there is no suggestion that living in Japan adds up to a perfect existence, or that people from other countries and cultures are distinctly lacking in similar moral values, the overall ‘vibe’ of the country does ooze an enviable feeling of satisfaction. Indeed, the rate of serious crimes such as murder is statistically one of the lowest in the world, suggesting that respecting your fellow humans runs deep into the Japanese psyche.
One of the reasons for this may be that there are subtle reminders about how to behave towards each other wherever you go. Public parking areas not only make allowances for the disabled and parents with young children, but also the elderly and pregnant ladies. The tradition of taking your shoes off as you enter a home is not just an age-old tradition, but a way of life that signifies how you should treat the belongings of another. And one that is hard to get used to, is that in Japan there is no tipping – a job should be done correctly without any added incentive and a clear price makes financial exchanges seamlessly cordial.
This all adds up to a place where if you put down your phone and walk away from it in error, return and it is likely to still be there, or put your bag on a chair that’s meant for sitting on, and it is likely to be frowned upon.
In other words, Japan is a country that values values.
“I can’t walk down the streets of Japan without finding something unusual or peculiar. It’s just so stimulating.” – Michael Booth
If you’re from Dubai and plan on going to Tokyo, or the other way around, here are some things to keep in mind.
It’s VERY clean!
If you are from Dubai then you probably know all too well how clean the streets are, after all we are known for it (cleanest city in the region). Just when you thought you couldn’t find a city to match Dubai’s level, think again. Tokyo really goes above and beyond to keep their malls, streets and even public toilets at an A grade of cleanliness!
When travelling to different countries in the world, you may sometimes get the feeling that you don’t quite fit in. That you stand out because of how you dress or the color of your skin which can make for an uncomfortable vacation. This is not so in Japan. The country is highly diverse and welcoming to visitors from around the globe, so there is no need to worry about feeling like a stranger in this already wonderfully strange land!
It seems no matter where you go in Japan, the service is outstanding. Whether you are in your hotel, eating out at a restaurant or relaxing in a spa for the day, the staff go above and beyond!
Great food options
If you have a craving for it, there is a high chance that Japan can supply! It’s amazing how varied their food options are, which ties in with how diverse the country is as a whole. A word of warning though; with less than 1% of the Japanese population being Muslim, they haven’t quite mastered vegetarian or Halal dishes just yet!
Like UAE, the crime rate is low in Japan which makes for a very relaxing trip however, this doesn’t mean you can disregard all common sense and think that nothing bad could ever happen! Be cautious but relax and enjoy your holiday knowing that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world!
If you are planning a getaway with the family to Japan then you are in luck as just like Dubai the country is geared towards families offering attractions and services to meet the needs of all ages. On a side note, there is no need to worry about clothing as the Japanese are really quite modest themselves!
We have all heard about the mayhem which is the Tokyo underground. With their map offering little to no reassurance, you really should add on an extra half an hour to your journey as the “helpful” map is a language of its own! It may be a little hectic at first, but unlike Dubai, public transport in Japan can get you anywhere you need to go for much less than a cab charge. Just remember that all services stop running at midnight, which isn’t too much of a problem when all the shops close by 10pm anyway!
Pay before you eat anything!
Have you ever walked through supermarket and started sipping on a bottle of water you just selected from the fridge before you have reached the register? Well if you do as Maysm did and tried this stunt in Japan then you would be in for quite a shock as our attendant freaked out when we passed her the bottle of water we were drinking!
Being adventurous with food – Maybe not
Now, when we are travelling to exotic and foreign lands, we always strive to try new and weird delicacies with the motto “Well if I don’t like it, I’ll just throw it away!”. Not in Japan. There is a distinct lack of garbage cans ANYWHERE which means if you don’t like what you have just purchased, you are stuck with it till you get back to your hotel!
Why’s that? – ‘You can’t find a rubbish bin in Japan because of a religious cult that killed 13 and injured 5,500 while trying to install a messianic yoga instructor as the new Emperor of Japan.‘ Full story here.
The Japanese people are extremely polite, but they are also VERY quiet. To the point where speaking loudly on the metro or trains is not allowed and even your phone in these areas MUST remain on silent.
With the era of the selfie stick in full bloom, you may be tempted to slip in a shameless selfie with you and your friends whilst at one of Japan’s theme parks. This wouldn’t be a wise move as selfie sticks are completely banned with signs dominating the parks, looks like you will have to do it the old fashioned way and ask someone nicely!
Travel in the right direction
Japan is one busy place, we all know that. So when moving with a large crowd or up an escalator, make sure you keep to the left to allow enough space for people to overtake you!
Just like in England you will queue for everything, there seems to be a line for just about anything you can imagine having to wait for. So if in doubt, join the back or make your own line, just to be polite!
Be on time
Things in Japan run like clockwork. Literally. A lot of Asian countries might be known for being laid back and “late for everything” but Japan is different. It could be said that they are ahead of time and if you walk into a restaurant with a 7pm reservation, they will not greet you or seat you a minute before!
We’ve all watched this video, right?
Unless you are fluent in Japanese then you are bound to encounter a huge language barrier as not many people speak English. It’s best to be prepared with a few common phrases, a translator app like Google Translate and also, keep the name and address of your hotel written in Japanese on a piece of paper. Picking up a business card from the front desk to show taxi drivers and locals is another great tip!
For a country so forward thinking and highly developed in all areas of technology, there is a distinct lack of ATM machines that will accept foreign cards. So, to avoid a sticky situation, always keep some extra cash on you until you can find an ATM which will accept your card!
Japan’s tap water is 100% safe to drink, really!
If you are coming from a country where tipping is mandatory or just seen as polite; then leave your guilty conscious at home because contrary to Japan being an extremely polite country, tipping is considered VERY rude! Servers are paid a good living wage unlike those working in places like the US so if they owe you a single yen in change, wait and receive it.
Japanese people are so wonderfully friendly and polite, even though you could probably get away with a certain level of “mistakes” because you are a tourist, it is always much nicer if you follow the simple tips above to begin with.
Before departing on our trip to Japan where Maysm was attending a conference in Yokohama, we had very few expectations of the country we would be visiting. All we expected was to witness first hand the Japanese’s love for technology, their innovative inventions and their overly polite nature. Our only real concern was regarding food. Being Muslims, we were curious as to how we would find the food options available to us, but we thought, it’s only for ten days, if we have to give up meat and go vegetarian, it’s not the end of the world! We soon came to realize that it wouldn’t be that easy. We happen to dislike seafood and with sushi bars dominating the streets of Japan and their need to include some sort of seafood in every vegetarian dish, we were hitting some unexpected obstacles. An even bigger problem revealed itself when we couldn’t even grab a bowl of chips because they would have been fried in pork fat.
The language barrier only exasperated the issue. There was so much variation on the words alcohol and pork that even if we were told a dish was free from both, it probably wasn’t. This problem persisted until we discovered an app that would make things a whole lot easier; HalalNavi. The app contained a whole bunch of restaurants and would show which dishes were free from pork products and also present alternative options.
The app managed to magic up other wonders like directing us to a Turkish Halal restaurant which turned out to be a Circassian restaurant! With such a small minority of Circassians in the world, we couldn’t believe we found one in Tokyo of all places!
Even though we only stayed for ten days, we couldn’t get over how polite everyone was. At first we were slightly dubious about how genuine their kindness was until we took the Metro one evening to get back to our hotel in Yokohama. A rather intoxicated Japanese gentleman was sat next to my husband and proceeded to what I can only imagine was to use my husband as a human pillow. Gently pushing the sleepy intoxicated man off, he suddenly regains consciousness. Oh no! I thought, please don’t turn into a fight! On the contrary; the man couldn’t be more apologetic for his actions. Wow. Now these are genuinely nice people!
Over our ten days in Japan we only encountered two other women wearing Hijabs. With less than 1% of Japanese residents being Muslim, this was not a common sight. As we walked down the street we would get the feeling we were being stared at, only to turn around and for that person to look away quickly. On that note, at no point did we ever feel isolated or threatened by these stares. They were looks of pure curiosity, nothing more.
After accidentally stumbling across a festival in Tokyo we were confronted with a lot of curious locals. They would point at our Hijabs and mutter a question in Japanese. I can only imagine they were asking us a question or maybe paying us a compliment. A word we got rather used to was Kawaii, meaning cute in Japanese.
Even though we had a few obstacles with finding suitable restaurants; We loved our time in Japan and even though there is only a small population of practicing Muslims, we were greeted with only curious and polite looks from the locals (a few requested to have photos with us!) and a ton of great memories from our short trip to this fast paced land.