J-Pop members of Lexcode’s DTP (Desktop Publishing) and QTY (Editing) teams, including yours truly, took a well-deserved break in February in one of the world’s most popular travel destinations—Japan! Our amazement with the wonders of Tokyo made for a warm journey amidst the biting cold of winter.
The trains (and the subway/train system)
Ask anyone who’d been to Japan and the first thing to most likely come out of their mouth is the train. No, it’s not the superfast bullet train that wowed them. It’s the system itself! For the uninitiated, Japan’s subway and train system is a complex maze seemed to be built to confuse people. There are two main lines: the JR line and the Tokyo Metro subway line; then, there are the private lines. All these lines use the same railways, creating a confusing transportation web that requires complex maneuvering!
We testify to this confusion. There were several times when we got off thinking we need to switch trains, only to find out that the train we’re already on was the one we supposedly had to switch to. Add the fact that there weren’t many English speakers whom to ask for directions—definitely a huge challenge!
Coming from the Philippines where everywhere one goes is almost always filled with random sounds of people talking, it’s definitely a culture shock to visit a place where even public places are, most of the time, quiet and peaceful. Train rides are a quiet affair, even when they’re packed and one can hardly move a toe. People walking along the streets often talk in low volumes, and even sellers hawk their wares at a relatively softer “noise” level.
Although we had anticipated it, language was definitely a challenge. Even road signs and train stations are not always translated from Japanese to English. In most cases, only the major signs and stops would have them.
However, in spite of the challenges in communication, the Japanese people are generally kind and helpful. When we’re trying to find Sensō-ji (the famous red-gated temple in Asakusa), we probably looked lost and confused enough for a rickshaw driver to suddenly approach and ask us what we’re looking for. Funnily enough, it was just a few steps away from where we stood. There were lots of other moments like these that stood out from all the majestic views we’ve visited. Receiving help from strangers, communicating with them through gestures and smiles, are simple acts of kindness that truly made our trip even more memorable.