Japan is an incredibly clean country. Not much trash around on the street. And food is incredibly clean, as it would have to be to have things like sushi. But they don't make cleanliness at all easy. For one, garbage must be sorted into 5 different categories (PET, unburnable, burnable, plastic wrappers, and cans) for recycling purposes. Rather challenging to figure out which can a particular piece of trash falls into, such as mylar wrappers (cans, plastic, unburnable)? They do have a manual on how to use the system, but it is many pages long and I haven't taken the time to read it. At least they are into recycling.
A downside to this is that you don't find many trash cans on the street. I guess it would take too much space to put out 5 cans for trash, so they just don't put any out at all. So I often end up carrying any trash I have back to the dorms and disposing of it there.
Bathrooms generally do not have paper towels in them. And many times they don't even have electric hot air dryers. Add to this that the sinks only have cold water, and it doesn't make you want to wash your hands after going. But many bathrooms have real fancy toilets (for example, the ones in our school have heated seats).
So, they recycle garbage, yet they are environmentally wasteful in many ways. Such as that their buildings have very poor insulation, so quickly get cold when the heat is off. They spend a lot of time and effort managing heat and lights to minimize electric usage, yet don't take the basic step of using insulation and double pained windows and such.
Outside of this, ATM and credit cards are another are where they differ significantly. For a country so electronically advanced (faster computer connections over cell phones here than over land lines back home), you still can't find an ATM which accepts foreign cards. Or stores or restaurants which accept major credit cards. Definitely still a cash society (they don't even use checks). I've even heard that buying a car with cash is not unusual.
I heard from a long-term student here that surveys have shown overwhelmingly that Japanese think they are too insular and need to be more open to foreignors. But when the surveys asks the individual about whether they would do so, the sentiment shifts to show that the individual is not willing to take steps to open up.
Off of the conflicts, and today being Valentine's Day, I thought I'd give a briefing on how the Japanese celebrate. Valentine's Day is a day where Japanese women give men gifts. Chocolates are supposed to be standard gifts. Men don't give gifts on this day, but have a day in about a month where they get to give gifts to the women (and the gifts they give must be suitably larger than the one they received on Valentine's Day).
Sorry, no photos. I am headed to Kyoto for an overnight excursion this weekend, so should have some from there to post.
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