Japan Just different

Japan is different – taxi, futon, eating, distance and trash

I’ve already mentioned trains, toilets and white gloves, here are 5 more differences between between Europe and Japan.

Taxi red and green

The first time I tried to hail a taxi, they all drove past. As in many countries, Japanese taxis have a red and green light on the roof. I let the taxis with a red light pass by, but non of the taxis with green light on, ever stopped. Then I realised! In Japan it’s opposite – red indicates it is empty and green that it is occupied.

Sleeping on a futon

If you stay at a Japanese hotel, when you are shown to your room, there will probably be a table in the middle of the room, but no bed. The futon, matrass and blanket are most probably stashed away in a cupboard somewhere, and should be rolled out at bed time. They are in fact extremely comfortable.

No eating on the go

In much of Europe and the US, eating on the go is pretty much the norm. But don’t expect to see that in Japan. The Japanese find it rude to eat or drink while walking or using public transportation, and you don’t see people walking around with a cup of coffee to go. The only exception is on the long distance trains, where the Japanese purchase bento boxes (packed meal) to eat on the train.

The Japanese keep a distance

I first noticed this at a traffic light. People don’t all go to the edge of the road and wait for the green light. People keep their distance from each other and people stopped up 20 meters from the crossing, waiting 2 or 3 meters from the next person. Likewise, for the Japanese, it is in bad taste to show physical affection where others can see you. Long hugs, sitting on laps, cuddling, or kissing in public could make people around you incredibly uncomfortable, and hugging when you meet, even close friends, is certainly off limit – bowing is still the norm. The picture below shows people waiting to cross the road in Matsuyama – and even the people that knew each other, kept a distance.

It’s hard to find a trash can

The Japanese take all their rubbish with them. It can be very difficult to find a trash can anywhere, and even if you do trying to work out which compartment it should go in to can be a pretty daunting task. As inconvenient as this may seem, japan remains one of the cleanest countries in the world. In Seijo I was woken at 6am a Sunday morning, as there was communal clean-up – and all the residents participated, sweeping and washing what to me, already looked like a spotlessly clean street. Anybody interested in football probably remembers the Japanese staying behind after a match to clean up their trash at the stadium.

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