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 Bidetsplus.com). 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.