Saturday, 26 January 2008

Japan - First Impressions

Tokyo Narita Airport 9 am. We arrive after our 10 hour flight from Frankfurt, jet lagged, contact lenses completely dried out on my eyes, hair crumpled and messy. I feel dirty and tired, but ready to be hit by all the images I have of Japan.

The ultra-modern airport is filled with neatly dressed people crammed in the arrival hall holding signs in Japanese scanning arriving passengers. Everything is sterile and clean, quite a few people are wearing white surgical face masks as if we were still at the peak of a SARS or bird flu epidemic. Wall to wall ads are advertising the latest high tech gadgets or the 2009 spring collections of the hippest European fashion designers. All the signs are in Japanese and no one speaks English to give us directions to the public transport to the city. We just follow the masses down the escalators and are being pushed by special agents into the insanely full subway.

That's how I was expecting my arrival in Japan. But it was nothing like that. The airport had a distinctly dated feel, seemed fairly deserted, quiet and low key with no sensory overkill, no claustrophobic frenzy by pushing masses, no being lost in a myriad of Japanese signs and no big surprises really - apart from maybe the heated toilet seat and the choice of hot or cold water for one's posterior.

In fact our trip from the airport to the city was onboard the rather quaint Airport Limousine bus. A white gloved attendant checked in our luggage and once we were ready to depart, gracefully bid us farewell and bowed. We then listened to the famous female voice politely reminding us that using a mobile phone during the hour long trip might irritate our neighbours.

Day 1 in Tokyo: I'm impressed by the friendliness of Japanese people, the cleanliness of the city and the lack of crowds and craziness.


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