I’m back from Japan where I had hoped to blog lots but there was so much to see and do I spent my time doing and not writing about it. Home now and looking back on the holiday of a lifetime. I suppose the first thing to mention are the people. They were so nice.
I suppose it’s easy to be impressed with customer service when you come from England where you are lucky if a shop assistant registers your presence and stops talking to her colleague. It’s a little like going to the states and being hit with “Have a nice day” but the Japanese turn it up to eleven. From the minute you step foot in a shop you hear someone wail the equivalent of “Can I help you?”. This is usually accompanied by a beaming smile and a bow.
My language abilities in Japan were negligible. I pretty much survived on “Arigatou gozaimas” which is simply how you say “Thank You”. You heard it a lot, no you heard it loads. It seemed to begin being said at
the start of a transaction but then it was repeated throughout, said at the end and followed you as you left the shop. In the way that we often cut “Thank you” down to “Thanks” and “Ta” Japanese people also shorten theirs too. You would often just get a “Gozaimas” and sometimes it would be just an odd, whining, stretched out “Maaassssss” that followed you out.
One of the most unusual things about communication arose in the shopping areas. It would seem that the staff are encouraged to call out sales pitches in a higher than normal voice. Usually it would be the girls doing this and it would be a strange, high keening sound. It wasn’t just the pitch either but the pace of what they said was odd too, starting fast and ending on a long, slow, high whine. The first time I encountered it I was bemused but when the shopping day gets busier then more and more girls step to the front of their shops with big smiles and begin this strange keening, usually holding signs, products and, on the odd occasion, a megaphone. It can be quite overwhelming. It became so in Tokyo where it was accompanied by booming music and amplification.
While I am waffling about shopping I should mention the 100 Yen shops. They are like the Pound shops over here but given the current exchange rate they are currently 84p shops. If you have been into a pound shop (You have. We saw you although you tried to move off quickly and you hid your pound shop carrier
in Tesco bag to spare your blushes) you will have noticed that many of the items there are made in Japan or by one of its close neighbours. Just imagine then what the range of creative rubbish is in a 100 Yen shop. They were Aladdin’s caves of cheap and tacky wonder.
Sitting in a damp, grey England and reminiscing makes me wish I wish I was back there. This won’t be the last time I visit Japan in real life or a in a blog.