Thursday, April 14, 2005

Other Hiroshima Impressions

by Kristin

This is such a pedestrian friendly, green city. The cherry blossoms (Japan is famous for the blooming of these trees) are starting to come out. I can't wait to see them and for the weather to get warm!!! The cherry blossoms only stay in bloom for about a week I think. But during that time, people are picnicking, camping and partying all along the river banks (so I've been told). I've already noticed it going on.

Public transportation here consists of trains, street cars (trolleys) and buses. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people ride bikes which is apparently a national thing and not only a Hiroshima trend. A.J. found a bicycle parking deck next to a train station! People ride their bikes on the sidewalks. A.J. has already gotten a bike. I'm kind of holding off for right now as I like walking everywhere. I've already ridden a couple of times on the back part of A.J.'s bike. It's just a rack over his rear tire for passengers or for strapping something on. It was a little bit difficult to get the hang of riding on the back at first....the Japanese make it look so easy!

I can't wait to explore the countryside! I especially want to get to some onsens soon (natural hot springs). I've heard such good things about them!! Along with the countryside, I'm eager to get to Osaka and especially Tokyo. I'd really like to dig up some of the crazy, quirky, seedy stuff that I'm sure Tokyo has to offer.

One of my favorite restaurants to go to is a place that has really good pasta and yummy Mexican food! It's owned by a guy from Detroit. It's got really good beer, too. However, as most things, it's not cheap. So, I really have to limit myself from going there.

I will say that customer service here is phenomenal! People are friendly and helpful. I don't think I've ever had the kind of service I get simply from a transaction in something such as a convenient store. Even gas stations will stop traffic to let their customers get out onto the street. It's amazing!

I've also noticed that while some things (such as electronics) are superior, other areas are lacking such as an archaic banking system. Also, Japan seems to be king as far as bureaucracy goes. I thought it was bad in the States but it seems to be worse here. For example, one of the new teachers had taught in Japan last year. While here before, he got a speeding ticket. He said that he had to go through about 7 different people just to pay the fine. The obvious downside to this would be the huge headache. However, such a bogged down bureaucratic system does create jobs.

Something else that I've noticed is that many things seem to be created for a purpose. It all seems to be about presentation as well as efficiency. For example, there are machines outside of public buildings which provide plastic bags for you to put your wet umbrella in on rainy days. That way, when you go into say a restaurant, you don't create a wet mess with your umbrella. This also creates jobs, though too...right? Somewhere there's a company that manufactures these plastic umbrella bags. As far as jobs aplenty, I've even seen at certain times of the day (on busy streets) cross guards. Their only job is to wave their flashing wand to let people walk and to stop traffic. It's kind of comical since there is already the crosswalk lights.

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