hell is other people

If hell is other people (apologies to fans of Jean-Paul Sartre), Japan is a little slice of heaven!

There’s a lot to admire about Japan―deliciously healthy food; efficient and clean transport; spectacular natural and cultural landscapes; intriguing historic and contemporary architecture and art; inexpensive and exciting night-life; clean cities; outstanding service and hospitality; and public safety to mention a few. There are also some things I dislike―its free-to-air TV; smoking in restaurants; high rates of suicide; poor social welfare; whaling; excessive working hours; and sexism, among others.

What I admire most, however, is the general sense of public civility, expressed as politeness and consideration for others in oh-so-many ways. On public transport, for example, there are periodic automated reminders to switch mobile phones to silent, and refrain from phone-based conversations. Major roads and pedestrian areas have designated smoking zones. I’ve never seen children run amock through supermarkets, car parks, or public transport. Music volume in most bars and restaurants is low enough for people to converse quietly. Books read in public are discreetly covered with inoffensive patterned or plain paper. Water is served at almost every restaurant without request.

There are exceptions. I’ve seen a heated exchange between two taxi-drivers in a parking rank, and cyclists ignore pedestrian right-of-way crossings. But such instances are few and far between. Quite noticeably, public behaviour is far gentler compared with Australia and elsewhere. Which is a major reason why Japan remains very much a favoured personal destination.

Oh, and did I mention photographic opportunities? There are so many that I've added a new category to my portfolio; 'architecture', which includes bridges, fences, walls, stairs, interiors and sculpture. Let me know what you think...

You might want to avoid Hokkaido’s Mount Annupuri during the winter ski season; it’s little more than an Australian enclave. Similarly, visiting Japan’s more popular shrines and temples during the Chinese lunar new year holiday season can be wearing. By no means do all Australian or Chinese tourists behave boorishly, but when en masse mutual respect lapses noticeably!