With my apologies to David Letterman, here are my first five items (#10 to #6) of my top ten reasons why I like Japan. I guess you could also title this the top ten reasons to travel to Japan.
One of the comments we receive most often from clients is that Japan is very clean. Railroad and subway stations appear clean enough to eat off the floor. Even public bathrooms are useable, unlike many I have walked in and out of in America. You rarely see litter anywhere, even though it is almost impossible to find a trash can. And in the rare case when you do see litter, many times you will see someone picking it up. I will often eat food from street-side vendors in Japan, and I have never given the quality of food a second thought.
I have traveled extensively around Japan, and have never felt threatened or unsafe. As long as you use a little common sense, you can even travel around large cities with no worries. Violent crime, especially against foreigners, is virtually non-existent. On a per-capita basis, for evey murder in Tokyo, there are 400 murders in New York City. At most, you only have to worry about pickpocketing or being pressured to pay exorbitant charges in places like the back streets of the Ginza, Kabukicho, Roppongi or the northern Gion. Although, none of these things has ever happened to me or any of our clients. If you don’t have to worry about safety, you can relax and enjoy yourself more.
I could talk for hours about personal and client’s examples of lost items being returned. Everything from expensive cameras, computers and even passports have been returned. And everywhere you go in Japan, you don’t have to worry about people trying to rip you off. To me, it makes travel more enjoyable if you don’t have to be on guard all the time against someone short-changing you or substituting less-expensive and inferior items at stores. There was a good example of this on one of our recent tours. A sightseeing spot in Takayama overcharged us 400 Yen (about $5) when we toured there. They tracked me down that night while we were having dinner at the ryokan to give back the 400 Yen.
There is no denying the Japanese are fashion slaves. But sometimes the Japanese will “push the fashion envelope”. When it comes to fashion in Japan, there is only one rule: there are no rules. I am surprised by very little I see anymore. I have learned to expect the unexpected. I must say however, that the Japanese have an excellent sense of aesthetics. And while it is sometimes very different, they will usually be able to put it all together and make it look good. (Or maybe I am just used to the fashion now.)
6. Helpfulness/Customer Service
Here again, I could talk for hours about the Japanese people going out of their way to help. I have numerous stories about people going blocks out of their way to help lost clients find their way, people giving umbrellas to clients who were caught without umbrellas during heavy rains, restaurant owners doing their best to help clients enjoy their meals even though they spoke little English, etc. I could go on and on. Related to this topic are the many ryokan owners over the years who have performed numerous acts of kindness and generosity. After all, in Japan, customer service is not important. it is THE most important thing.