Trains and toilets: two things that have struck me as very different from what we are used to. Although I could lenthen that list to include: people cycling on pavements (which drives me nuts), the post service redelivering things on request at helpful times such as 7pm-9pm and obsessive rubbish sorting to name a few!
But for today I will just stick to the subjects of trains and toilets.
Toilets here range from the most basic squat toilet (I'll spare you the details) to the rolls-royses of toilets! The more sophisticated kind include heated seats, emergency-call buttons and a whole range of buttons that, judging from the pictures, will pump water or blow air just about any place you can imagine.. and then some. I haven't had the guts to experiment with these. But my absolute favourite is the button which, when pressed, simulates the sound of a toilet flushing. The reason behind this takes some explaining. If you happen to have read "Stupeurs et Tremblements" by Amelie Nothomb, which I reccommend if you haven't, youll know that Japanese women are averse to anyone hearing them pee. So, to avoid this embarrassment, they flush the loo first to mask the noise. But, not content with this arrangement, they've now gone one step further and made a recording of that noise just one push away! Quirky indeed!
Trains here are not so much quirky as almost inhumanly efficient - if we have to wait more than 4 minutes for one it seems like a long time! And there are train lines everywhere around here, and on each line there is a variety of options from local to rapid express trains! From about 7am til 9am, and then again at evening rush hour, the trains are absolutely jam packed with commuters - I swear I have even seen people's faces pressed up against the door's window, looking harrassed but grateful they managed to squeeze on!!! When the doors open at a busy a station, a tidal wave of identical dark suits pours out, only to be replaced by those queuing on the platform. But if you avoid rush hour I have found trains to be the best place to gawk at Japanese, especially young Japanese with their off-beat sense of fashion! And by off-beat I mean a mismatched, OTT combination of pretty much everything the fashion magazines reccommend, but all in one outfit... And, just one last comment, about half the people on a train at any one time are asleep. It doesn't seem to matter that they sat down 10 seconds ago, or indeed that they are standing up, sleeping on trains is a national pastime. Yet despite this they never seem to miss their stop but wake up exactly 10 seconds before the need to get off!! Crazy!