ANDY FISH is a comic book artist

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Enough about Japan Already!

A country with a hero that looks like he borrowed your mom's canasta glasses is all right to me.
I'm NOT one of those American's who goes on and on about how great Japan is, how much better it is than America, blah blah.  It's different.  There are good and bad about both countries, and even though Tokyo remains my favorite city in the world and I love my time in Japan I'm not a blind Japan devotee.

It's cleaner here than the East Coast of the US or Europe.  I've found the Midwest and West Coast's of the United States to be relatively cleaner compared to the East Coast.  I.e. Seattle is cleaner than New York or Boston.

People are respectful not just of each other but of their surroundings-- so in Japan you'll find very little trash, very little graffiti, virtually NO pan handling and the homeless people keep pretty much to themselves.

In Japan the subways and buses are spotless and run virtually to the second here.  In fact stops usually have a countdown clock telling you when they will arrive and they stick to it.

Bus and Cab drivers wear full uniforms, complete with ties and white gloves, and they (like all the workers I've encountered) are devoted to fully performing their jobs.

Clerks in stores don't check their phones or even have chit chat with co-workers.   I'm not saying when it's busy-- I'm saying NOT at all.  They are focused on their jobs.  In unison they greet you when you walk into some stores and say thank you as you leave.   They don't flip open their phones or talk about a date they had to their baggers while you're being checked out.

The service level is ridiculous here in Japan.

For example, two purchases I made today-- the first an oversized backpack to help get back the art supplies I bought while I was here.  Bought at a Duty Free shop in a mall for 1075Y (about Ten dollars).  They had a display up and then behind the bag was the selection of ones you could buy-- they didn't have the color I wanted so I brought the display towards the front counter to ask if I could buy the one on display.

Instantly, two young men in suits (yes SUITS) approached me, and rather than try to use my pig Japanese skills this time I opted to just use English.

"You don't seem to have this in this brighter blue..."  I started.

The first young man;  "What color do you want?"  His English, better than my Japanese but pretty broken.

I point to the color of the bag I'm holding and explain there are no more.

Both young men run, yes RUN to the section of the display and pour through it, producing the bag in the color I wanted still sealed in plastic.  The first young man hands it to me, I nod and the second young man takes the display model from me and hangs it up again while the first rings me out on the register.

They bow as I leave and thank me for spending my $10.

Down the road a bit I notice that a pair of shoes I had looked at earlier in the day for 3990Y was now marked down to 2000Y (about $19.25).

The clerk, this time a young woman wearing a uniform bows to me and asks if I know my size in Japan.   I do not, and she apologizes to me.  Looks at my feet and says "big big size".  My American Shoe size is 11 or 12 and my European shoe size is 46.

She digs through the boxes and pulls out a 28.5 walks me over to a chair and seems generally alarmed that I'm taking my own shoes off to try them on.  She unlaces the shoes I'm going to try on, helps me get them on and then laces them up for me.  It's like shoe stores when I was 7.

They fit like a charm and she's delighted that she could help me.  Again, rings up the order and I'm out as they all thank me, bowing and grateful that I stopped in.

Previously at Mandarake, Rulers of Time (the greatest store in Japan) I asked a clerk if he had any old Gee Gee Kitaro comics-- he quickly unlocked the display case, took out a book, slid it out of it's protective bag and placed it in my hands to look at.  It was a first print from 1967-- worth about $600 and yet here I was manhandling it.   Luckily I know how to handle old comics but this kid was delighted to show this to me.

That's the bottom line here, in Japan people seem to genuinely love their work, or if they don't, they opt to completely throw themselves into it when they are there.

I think that's a huge thing I'll have to adjust to back in America.

Japan has its faults.  Men pretend to sleep on the subway so they don't have to give their seat up to a woman.  Women in general are treated pretty poorly.  My brother's sister in law seemed honestly shocked that I was doing the dishes when she walked into the house, taking a picture like I was wearing a lampshade and bamboo skirt.

There's a certain weird element of men in Japan, advertisements for Girlfriend apps make me think there are a lot of lonely dudes here who don't know how to talk to women.

But I love Japan and I always will.  Already planning my next trip.