Working for a Japanese company is a real plus. I get to visit Tokyo at least once or twice a year. In the time that I have worked for this company I have visited Japan, a resounding 17 times. Amongst the places that I have had the privilege to visit include, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.
This post is about the 7 things that I like about Japan:
1. I love watching the Shichi-Go-San or 7-5-3 Festival because this is the time that little children get dressed up in the Kimono and are taken by their parents to the temple to pray. – This traditional custom happens on the 15th of November and the kids are taken to be blessed at the local Shinto shrine and to thank God for their good health and pray for future blessings. Children are dressed up in colourful kimonos and they are really adorable.
2. I love the art of “Kampai” , where after a long hard day of work, you, your colleagues and your boss, head down to the restaurant for a drink before dinner. It is customary to start with a glass of beer and then move on to the Sake or Soju depending on your boss’ preference. I like the way everybody needs to wait to have their glass filled, and then normally the most senior person will lift up the glass in salute and yell “Kampai!”. Everybody yells “kampai” back and drinks their sake. If your boss pours your drink for you, this is the highest honour and you should drain your glass. I love partaking in this act of camaraderie that is unique to the Japanese.
3. I like the “Slurping” practice that goes with eating a great bowl of ramen.
Ramen stalls are a dime a dozen in Tokyo and especially in winter, these little stalls are packed with regular customers, business men, working girls.. etc, etc.. all huddling close and slurping their wonderful bowl of piping hot ramen. Apparently, the noisier you are, the better it tastes and I am inclined to agree. Delicious!
4. I like the fact that when entering a home, especially a traditional tatami styled abode, one should always remove one’s shoes. Also, rolling of heavy bags or items on the Tatami floor is a strict no-no. I love the soft way that the Japanese scurry around on the tatami – so graceful, so light footed!
5. This next one needs no introduction. I love the majestic Mount Fuji! Standing magnificent and proud, Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. Along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku, it is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains”. Mount Fuji is an active volcano, lies just west of Tokyo, and if you’re really lucky you can actually see it on a clear day. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art. Here is my shot of it.
6. I like the “no jostling” practice that the Japanese try as much as possible to adopt. I once went to Japan’s Disney world on a local public holiday. The place was packed. However, the one thing that I noticed was that no matter how packed or long the queues were, nobody in front of you or behind you “accidentally” stepped on your toes or jostled you. Even during the watching of the parade, the Japanese sit and wait in an orderly fashion. They are really polite about respecting personal space. Somehow even for an area as huge as Disney world, with so many people milling about, I always feel that parents with children can have peace of mind that their children will be safe here, because of the fantastic security system.
7. I love the Hina Matsuri celebration held on the 3 March because I am a girl and once it was explained to me, I thought it was a great celebration and one that even Malaysians should adopt! It is the festival dedicated to Japanese girls. Dolls representing an ancient Imperial couple, are displayed in houses of unmarried girls, to bring good fortune to them. Superstition has it that if the dolls are not put back into their boxes before midnight, the girls in that house will never marry. What an easy way to ensure that all the single, eligible girls find a suitable spouse. If only life were so easy!
Of course, there are heaps of other things I love about Japan but these are just 7, off the top of my head. What are your favourite things about Japan?
(by the way, if you are wondering why the cherry blossom that is like the No.1 on almost every traveler’s list is not on mine, that is because in the 17 trips I have made to Japan, the trips have NEVER coincided with the Hanami.. and so I have no photos. Imagine that.. Sad but true!
Also, if you are wondering why the Onsen is not listed on my top 7 things, it is not because I have not experienced it and loved it, but rather because I was not allowed to bring my camera into the bath, for obvious reasons! )
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