Just like in the Hundred Acre Wood, it was a very rainy and blustery day. So blustery that the rain came in sideways, garbage bins were turned over, and if one ventured outside you were knocked off balance. Accordingly we stayed indoors and had a home day, which was a welcome respite after our adventures. We even had afternoon tea in the hotel, which is something we hardly ever do.
We know that part of the fun of travelling is not only the beautiful locations, the local food and the bustling cities but also the completely baffling things one sees. Japan has plenty of all.
We saw people in Nara and also in the Iris Garden taking photos of dolls set in the landscape. We're sure this guy's girlfriend was wondering why he was not taking her photo, instead of having to reflect the light onto the doll.
At Guitar Street we saw this instrument. We are still to find out how it works.
In Disney we saw plenty of friends wearing matching clothing, including footwear. The garments were not necessarily Disney merchandise either - we saw one grungy couple wearing exactly the same ripped jeans, Nirvana t-shirt, sneakers and earrings. We still can't work out if the girls wearing sailor uniforms were straight from school or were instead doing some Sailor Moon thing. It wasn't just the kids either - older couples, younger couples, mothers and daughters. UniQlo even had a style section devoted to this.
All young people do the peace sign when getting their photos taken, quite possibly to the annoyance of their parents. We saw a mother scold her daughter when they were getting their photos taken at the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto. You can just imagine the conversation:
"For goodness sake, do you have to do that in every photo?"
"No! Put your hand down now!"
The compromise was to have a proper photo and then one doing the sign.
Other idiosyncrasies are not necessarily baffling but are cute in the uniquely Japanese manner. Each train station has its own little tune to announce the arriving train and passengers are greeted with a bird chirp or cuckoo as the end of the escalator approaches.
Food in general, both sweet and savoury including rare cheese and a banana shop doing a roaring trade. Each and every one is different from the other.
The cars are not quite as boxy as they used to be but the Nissan Cube is still omnipresent, along with the the aptly named Suzuki Wagon. This one takes the cake though.
Of course there is the whole Japanese vending machine culture. We spoke previously about the machine which neighed like a horse when it delivered the drink. Also the lost in translation moments like Earl Glay tea and Lady Shave at the hairdressers. Yet English is even more widespread now in the big cities - we heard people bid farewell to each other using "bye-bye".
In the retail fitting rooms one is required to take your shoes off. At airport security we were provided with replacement sandals as our shoes transited the X-ray machine.
A note to visitors to Japan that cash rules, despite being technologically advanced economy. Large hotels and department stores take credit card, everywhere else cash. The best place to find an ATM is at the back of every 7/11 store and those machines will accept an international credit/debit card.
We love Japan (can you tell?) and have already decided to return for a fourth time. Even after spending 10 days here there is still so much we did not get to see. With snowy winter, cherry blossom spring and a glorious green summer completed, we will return for the autumnal colours of the maples.