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Users' guide to Japan

When you are on the road for so many hours,  covering such a distance, there are so many things you notice that are unique to this country.

Telegraph poles

Because of frequent earthquake, all the wires run overhead. This means poles every 100m or so, getting in the way of every photo!  

Toilets

Apart from being scrupulously clean, wherever you go, the Japanese toilets are also discreet. Who has not felt embarrassed listening in to someone else's exertions or bodily functions? Why not push a button and mask it with the sound of flushing? And speaking of flushing, they have toilets with a basin and tap on top of the cistern, and when you flush, water automatically flows through so you can wash your hands and have it drain into the cistern, conserving water.  

Thank You

You cannot be too polite jn Japan. People at the airport thanked us for allowing them to sort out our problems with lost baggage. Each thank you is accompanied by a deferrential bow and if they hand you anything, they do so with two hands, holding each corner  - even if it is a visiting card.  

7-11 

The most popular convenience store, 7-11, sells sushi. They even sell a sort of DIY sushi with  clear sheets between the nori and the rice/filling which you pull out to roll your own maki. But forget about sushi. In Malta we tend to think this is the only food they eat but it is in reality just a snack food. The store has dozens of different pre-packed dishes, based round noodles, rice and dumplings. Each is amazing. Even a clear broth has more flavours than you could possibly identify.  

Noise

They may be paranoid about air pollution - quite a few wear face masks - but one form of pollution they do not need to worry about is noise. Whether you are at the airport, on the train or in the mall, no matter how many people there are, you can never hear them. There is no shouting, no crying, no running, no laughing.

Roadworks

As would expect, any roadworks are well signposted and there are always people at either end to direct the traffic and pedestrians. And every one wears all the safety gear, all the time, even when it is hot, even when no one is looking.

Ok, all what you would expect, but what is surprising, even in this cartoon-obsessed country, is that even the temporary lane barriers are cartoon characters!

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