It’s not easy to travel there because you can’t speak their language, join a tour. You won’t enjoy the theme park because you can’t understand a thing. Trains there are horrible, people need to push you in.
That’s what everyone warned us about.
It wasn’t surprising then that I was very worried prior to leaving for my trip to Japan with my hubby and 2 little kids aged 4 and 8. We arranged a short and slow travel itinerary because of all the warnings that it was difficult to go around without a tour group. Even though we saw so little of it… my Japanese experience blew me away.
We went to Disneyland and despite not understanding anything during shows, it was probably the most enjoyable experience we have ever had in a theme park. It wasn’t just because the weather was beautifully cool (cold in the evenings). It wasn’t just because everything was clean. It wasn’t just because the quirky park guests were wearing extravagant costumes themselves and there were photo ops everywhere.
It was because of the people.
I went to the theme park expecting to be pushed and shoved since there was a thick crowd of people. With a Japanese phrase book in my bag for emergencies, I was ready for the park. Elbows out and each hand holding a child, we starting falling in line for rides, fast passes and shows. The elbows and the phrase book proved completely unnecessary.
The Japanese always keep a respectful distance. In line, they kept a good 6 inches away from the person in front of them. Even if the line was very long with no ropes to guide the people who are waiting in line, they never shoved or tried to push their way in. They always respectfully waited and very pleasantly, in quiet voices, spoke to each other. Everyone, even the children, were very well behaved. People actually sat down during the parades to give everyone a good view, even the ones at the back.
The ultimate proof of their discipline and respect was during the very popular evening show in Disney Sea called Fantasmic. People started lining up for the show 1 hour prior to the show. So we sat down on the floor to mark our place and ate our dinner. To prepare for what I expected to be a mad rush to watch the show, I parked my stroller horizontally (the long way in) to give us plenty of wiggle space for the crush of people to come. I expected people to try to push themselves into our space in order to get a better view of the show.
People started to trickle in and sit behind us as the hour passed. 15 minutes prior to the show, an announcement was made that everyone should stand up and prepare because the show is about to begin. We all stood up and the 4 of us marked our place. We were so pleased with ourselves because we had an excellent view standing up. The people in front of us were seated on ledges and were well below our neck lines. When I looked behind me, I got the shock of my life.
The people behind us had formed a straight row from where our stroller ended! Even though the stroller made almost two feet of space behind the people in the first row, the people on the second row still formed a straight line and quietly, with no complaints, accepted that they will not get a good view because of my stroller. The people on the 3rd and 4th row had it even worse.
Ashamed, I hastily adjusted my stroller sideways and the people right behind me immediately insisted that it was unnecessary. After I did the adjustment, most of the people started bowing and only then did the shift their position and closed the distance between the first and the second row while still maintaining a respectful distance.
This is why it was a great experience. It was relaxing. I didn’t feel like I needed to defend my position in the line all the time. If you are standing in front of them, they will not move until you do even if you’re slow. They will respectfully wait for you to make your order even if it’s taking you very very long to figure out what you want with no angry, frustrated sounds from the server or the customer behind me. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, they will apologize profusely, bow, and find someone who can help you. If you don’t understand what they’re saying, they will go as far as to take you to where you need to go themselves even if it is out of their way.
We took a train and a subway to a different city to visit Kidzania and although we were confused at first, we picked up the logic of the ticketing system quickly enough and there were always plenty of people posted in the stations to assist you. Even in the train stations and subways, people formed straight lines behind the arrows which indicated where the doors of the trains will stop.
Needless to say, we are eager to go back to Japan again, even the kids. Hopefully my hubby can get away from work for a much longer trip this time so we can arrange to see more of this beautiful country.