Lingering fall-out from our trip to Japan

Our family has traveled a great deal, but I think few trips have affected us as much as the Japan trip we took this summer.  Two things account for that:  First, we took a comprehensive tour, so we saw more than we usually see on a trip.  Second, Japan is so very different from America.  Our European and even our Mexican trip have been to familiar cultures.  Japan, however, even though it has a Western gloss, was a radically different culture from any we’d previously experienced.  It’s therefore not surprising that the trip lingers on in our memories.

One of the downsides of the trip is that the kids are currently refusing to eat any Japanese food.  They’ve always been fairly adventurous eaters, and they liked a lot of the food we had in Japan, but it got to be too much for them.  In the months since our return, every suggestion that we enjoy some Japanese food for dinner (sushi, for example, as I have a gift card to this nice place) has been met with a resounding “No.”  I got one of those loud “Nos” just yesterday, when I was trying to avoid cooking dinner, so the subject is on my mind right now.  I assume that one of these days the children’s overloaded circuits will reset, but until then, it seems that Japanese restaurants are no longer part of our dining-out repertoire.

Another thing the has stuck with all of us is how immaculately clean Japan was.  Just yesterday, my son kept asking me to explain again why the Japanese have no garbage cans in public places (answer:  to limit the risk of hidden bombs or toxins) and why, if they have no garbage cans, Japanese streets, train stations and subway stations are entirely free of litter (answer:  the Japanese responded to the absent litter bins by carrying their own trash away).  Both kids came way with a heightened sense of social responsibility after having seen Japanese civic honesty and cleanliness in action.

We are also contemplating bringing a little bit of Japan home.  Our Japanese trip offered us some of the worst and some of the best toilet experiences we’ve ever had when traveling.  The worst were the squat toilets in public places outside of Tokyo.  We mastered them, but not happily.  Moreover, I kept wondering how in the world arthritic people manage to deal with them.  The best toilets, though, were the ones with the bidet seats (like these, at  They’re such a marvelous hybrid of cleanliness and efficiency.  Instead of trying to squeeze a stand-alone bidet into a small bathroom (and Lord knows, all the bathrooms were small), the Japanese turned every toilet into a bidet.  I won’t gross you out with details of their wonder (but you can see product videos here, which are cool), but suffice to say that they are wonderful — and affordable, and easy to install.  We’re thinking of giving these bidets as a gift to ourselves this holiday season.  They’re affordable decadence.


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  • Oldflyer

    I have never been to Japan, but from reading I am intrigued by the culture.  The dichotomy between extreme courtesy and formality in social interactions versus casual brutality, particularly toward anyone outside one’s class.  I expect that the culture has benefited to some extent by exposure to Westerners, but hopefully they will retain some of their more beneficial aspects.
    A couple of  anecdotes I have picked up.
    I had a cousin who was part of the post WWII occupation force along with his new bride.  He lived in a lovely home formerly owned by a physician.  They reported that the gardener trimmed the grass with scissors.  So patient, so diligent.  His wife had a staff at her call, including a seamstress.  They loved the Japanese with whom they interacted.  Pretty nice duty for a 2nd Lt.  But, he earned it as a tail gunner in B-17s over Germany.
    I had a Naval Aviator friend who was 3rd generation Japanese.  (Think about the fact that we entered Naval service about ten short years after that bitter war). Apparently his family had made a serious effort to westernize, and he spoke not a word of Japanese.  He said it was terribly embarrassing when he was in Tokyo.  He looked exactly like everyone else but could not communicate a word.  Looking around me now at people who resist assimilation, I admire that family in a sense, but wonder if later generations regret completely losing touch with their heritage.

  • Earl

    Looked at the website you linked…..didn’t get into it in any detail. 
    I presume they have a reservoir where the water is WARMED before it’s used……?

  • Michael Adams

    Saves on toilet paper, too! The trees thank you for your kindness.

  • michal

    we bought a bidet attachment. No it doesn’t heat the water but it’s good enough for a quick spray.  It never gets that cold here, anyway.  And we’re Israelis, so I guess that makes us made of tougher stuff.  It cost about $15 by the way.  look around before you buy and ask a plumber too. Nothing worse than buying some thing and it not being compatible with what you have. Plumbing is expensive.

  • monique

    Japan has always been on the top of my list of places I want to visit. Not only because of the food, which I totally love, but the culture and everything that I’ve heard about the people and their discipline. I have an aunt married to a Japanese who is one of the kindest man i know.
    When the tsunami struck the country, we were all amazed on how the people and the government handled it. There were no crimes and looting which are expected in tragedies like these. People were organized lining up patiently for food, water and goods. I wish my country could do the same.
    Their technology has always been very intriguing for me too. they are always the first ones to introduce new inventions. Sometimes, even out of this world inventions that would somehow become useful to us. One of my favorites is the bidet. as mentioned here, they are wonderful. When we were building our house, I required that every toilet has a bidet. my husband thought it was absurd, but after checking them out, he was convinced that it was all worth it. It’s affordable, it’s practical and most of all it’s eco-friendly. Even the kids love it. We never had any problems with ours.
    We haven’t been to Japan yet, but we’ll definitely save up for it, so we can go as soon as possible. Thanks for this article. I enjoyed reading it.