I will write another set of "What they can learn from Singapore/Malaysia" in a separate blog entry.
(1) Japan is a really country with really courteous people
In particular, the people from the service industry. The cashiers at 7-Eleven, the workers at the small grocery shops, and of course the salespeople at the shopping outlets.
Contrast that to Singapore (and Malaysia). While there are places with excellent service staffs, there are also alot of
- unenthusiastic salespeople who are just waiting for their shift to end
- salespeople who follow me around as if I am a possible shoplifter
- self-employed bosses who get irritated when the customers don't buy their stuff after walking around the shop.
(2) Japan is a place where trust makes things easier for everyone
There are alot of cyclists on the pavements of Tokyo. And many of them leave behind their bicycle unattended, without even chaining it up. For a country to exhibit such a behaviour, it must really mean that their theft rate is low. Contrast that to my experience in Singapore, I have chained my bicycles and they still get stolen in broad daylight after a few hours.
On rainy days, alot of people put their umbrellas at the door of the shops. In Singapore, no one does that, fearing their umbrellas will get stolen by people who are caught in the rain.
Same goes for the shoes. When I visit Japanese temples in the beginning, I was a little apprehensive at first about leaving my new shoes outside the temple doors. In Singapore, ,most people don't leave new shoes outside the doorsteps of their flats, lest they get stolen. It's pretty sad, isn't it? When people enter my flat, they asked that my shoes be brought in. In Japan, everyone leaves their new shoes outside the temples with no concerns of theft.
(3) Japanese have strong legs?
Ok, this is just a little sarcasm for what's happening in Singapore. We have a very bad issue with commuters rushing inside the trains just so that they can grab an empty seat. It really makes us look ugly in front of the tourists. Kiasu Singaporeans squeeze their way in before the commuters in the train can get out. In contrast, the Japanese line up in one single file at the train platform. No rushing, and no one gets hurt. In fact, I have seen many cases when there are empty seats in the Japan subway trains, and yet people choose to stand!
(4) Japanese are law-abiding
I thought Tokyo was supposed to be a place where stress level are high, and people run instead of walk. It's true, you do see quite a few Japanese running around in their office attire to chase the next train. But at traffic junctions, Japanese actually wait for the green man to appear before they cross. Compare that to Singapore and Malaysia, where people cross the road anytime, so long as it appears to be safe.
(5) Go in from the back, and out from the front
In Singapore and Malaysia, we board the bus from the front and pay our fares. One problem with this is that some commuters actually underpay their fares because it is hard for drivers to keep track of where they alight. I know, because I used to be a bus fare cheat when I was younger.
In some of the buses in Japan, people board the bus from the back door. They do not pay the fare upfront, but instead grab a ticket which states where they board the bus. When they alight, they alight from the front door, and show this ticket to the driver, before paying their fare. In this way, it becomes harder to underpay. but then again, I can already think of a loophole in this system - damn, I'm smart!
On a side note, when you drop your money to pay your bus fare, the machine returns you the change. How cool is that?
(6) Japanese cars have no car horns?
Throughout my 12-day trip there, I almost never hear any car horns. In Singapore, car horns are so normal. Our drivers horn when
(1) they need to notify their car-pooling friend/wife/mistress that they have reached.
(2) the car in front is not moving fast enough.
(3) the car in front is slow to react when the traffic light turned green.
(4) they don't like the face of the other driver.
(7) Japanese do not draw on walls
Vandalism is not a common thing in Japan. In Singapore, we see vandalism in many places. Any walls in Singapore is a potential drawing paper. And when you enter toilet cubicles, you see doors defaced with vulgarities, or listed handphone numbers of pimps.
(8) Japanese can pee better
Japanese toilets are clean. And you don't see urine stained toilet bowls. In my Singapore office, I still see pee below the urinals, or lining the toilet bowl seat. Gosh, we need to learn how to aim better.
(9) Japan is free ice water paradise
Ice cold water is free at almost every Japan-run eartery. I went to eat ice cream, and they serve free ice water. I eat a small bowl of noodles, and they serve free water. Gosh, even when Wifey ordered takoyaki balls (otopous balls) at a restaurant, they serve ice water.
Ice water is not just given free, but customers are given easy access to free ice water - there are numerous ice water jugs for you to drink as much as you like.
I pity the soft drinks companies doing business in Japan. Ya right, as if I care. =p
(10) Japanese know how to clear their own mess
Singapore and Malaysia have a food court culture, where you leave your used plates and utensils on the table after we finish eating. After all, that's our way of keeping the cleaners employed. It's pretty ironic how we leave a messy table after we eat, and yet we always search for the cleanest table to have our dinner on.
In Japan, people clear their tables after they finish eating. It becomes such a big part of their culture, you would have been an outcast if you do not clear the used trays and plates.
(11) Special train carriages
You may have heard of the women-only carriages in Japan. But do you know that there are also "Mild aircon" carriages? Since trains are segregated into a few carriages, it makes it easy to have a mild aircon carriage for the old, and the cold.
Time for us to implement similar carriages - one for "Mild aircon", and maybe one called "Freezing North pole"?
(12) Japanese phones do not ring
In Singapore, people revolves their life around their handphones. In order to show off their handphone ringtones, you get to hear them go off on train, shopping centres, food courts, and even the cinema (some people just don't understand). When commuting on public transports, one is sure to hear handphones ringing every few minutes.
Coming to Japan, it is hard to hear ringtones (just like car horns). Phones ringing are banned in many places, including many parts of the trains. I believe it was done to reduce any possible annoyance to the ageing japanese population.
After I came back to Singapore, I sighed knowing that I came back to the real-world, to the nation of "cool" ringtones.
(13) The best invention comes from Japan
No offense to my smoking friends (sorry, Plankton). But most non-smokers hate the smell of smoke. In Japan, smoking is banned on many of the streets and outdoor locations. Tobacco companies have thoughtfully provided community ashtrays in the few areas where smoking is still allowed.
Do you know it is bad etiquette to smoke while walking in Japan? In Singapore, I often find myself walking behind a smoker, and always have to overtake him so that he smells my fart instead. =p
So in Japan, one is less likely to breathe in 2nd hand smoke in the streets, which is good.
So what's this "best invention" that I'm talking about? Smoking boxes! These are enclosed transparent glass containers that you see in parks and open places. If you want to smoke, get into the smoking boxes with other smokers. I think It's Japan way for helping smokers to kill one another with 2nd hand smoke.
(14) Yes, Japan cashiers can count
Some time ago, my friend whose family runs a business told me that his cashier sometimes faced problems with customers who claim to have received the wrong change -the customers would say they gave $50 notes instead of $10 notes.
Well, the smart Japanese cashiers have a way to get over this. They put the large bill that they have recived on the table, and then count the change in front of you before giving you back the change. By flipping the dollar notes slowly and counting right before your eyes, there are no disputes. Subtle and ingenious!
(15) Japanese are punctual people
The Japanese have fixed timetables for buses and trains. If you checked online and it says the train will leave at 7.53am. It will leave at 7.53am. Even for highway buses, if the highway bus or train reaches its stop too early, it will wait at the stop till it aligns back to its scheduled bus, before moving on.
So in Japan, you won't get the "When bus don't come, they really don't come. When buses finally come, they come in two or threes" syndrome. Arrival times of buses don't follow an exponential distribution.
(16) Japanese elders are respected
In Singapore, dumping the parents to old age homes is growing as a trend as people get more self-centred as a result of prosperity. Old people getting tricked into buying magic stones, old people getting robbed in lifts, these are common news that we read on the local newspapers. Most TV artiste slowly leave the station as their popularity drops with age. And alot of people in their 50s and above are having problem finding a job.
In Japan, 40,000 Japanese live over the age of 100, thanks to their prudent diet (minimal red meat!). I understand that Japanese businesses have often traditionally promoted people largely based on age and length of service, rather than ability alone. The typical Japanese is more courteous to those older than themselves, even if by few years.
If you watch Japanese dramas, you will see many veterans in pivotal roles. In Singapore dramas serials, they are often headlined by eye-candies.
(17) No PDAs in Japan
There are no public display of affections (PDA) in Japan. Wifey observed this, and I agree with her. It's a surprising finding for me, I was expecting fashion frontrunners to be a little more "expressive".
In Singapore, we often see debates on whether kids these days are overly expressive. The older generation here tend to get a little uncomfortable seeing kids these days hugging and kissing in public. Well, maybe they should consider migrating to Japan. =p
(18) Japan, the recycle nation
I love Singapore because there are rubbish bins everywhere - it makes my life convenient.
In Japan, there are much fewer rubbish bins. But every dustbin is a recycle bin. the McDonalds there requires you to sort your waste by recyclable, non-recyclable and liquid (including ice cubes). Wow.
(19) Lockers in Japan train stations
Being a tourist in Tokyo, I often find myself with large baggage and shopping bags. One of the nice features about their subway and train stations is that there are lockers. For the price of 500 yen (S$7.50), I can put my bags in the locker at any station, and sightsee with just the camera (and the Wifey). Singapore should get some lockers in Orchard Road and Sentosa too.
However, the lockers are normally big enough for your bags, but too small to put in your Wifey if she gets naughty. =p
(20) Japanese babies can't cry
In Singapore, everytime a toddler or kid fall down, they are sure to cry.
In Japan, we have seen countless toddlers fall down, and just stand up on their own without crying. Gosh, I wonder what special milk powder they take.
I have been to Europe and the US and many parts of Asia, but there's no place that impresses me more like Japan when it comes to culture.