Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Final notes on Japan

I wrote the comments below while we were travelling through Japan, but I wanted to wait until we had left Japan before publishing it.

Around 13 years ago we visited Japan for the first time, spending a week in and around Tokyo. I recall being impressed then. Well, nothing has changed and I again find myself truly enjoying our stay in Japan.

In my view, the key to enjoying Japan is to be observant, paying attention to the smallest details of everyday life, while trying to understand the Japanese way of life. Soon, you may find that the Japanese are doing things their way for very good reason. I have observed countless little things that serve the people well and can only be admired. I also enjoy the extremely courteous behaviour of the people, combined with very high service levels and what appears to be true respect towards their fellow citizens. Add to this a high level of perfectionism, combined with pride and reliability and you begin to understand why one gets the feeling that things just work very well in Japan.

I am not the person who would easily rave about a hotel, but I think I have found a new favourite. We stayed at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo and I would be hard pressed to think of any other hotel in the world that I would rather stay at. What makes it so? Well, I guess the general Japanese service levels have a lot to do with it, but I am particularly impressed with the hotel's architecture and fittings. The selection of art throughout the public areas is just stunning. The modern style rooms are what many of us can visualise and wish for, but would find difficult to execute. Every little building aspect evident in the rooms is simply completed to perfection, with some truly difficult and intriguing details. The attention to detail is simply unbelievable. As an example, picture a standard large size flat screen TV along with a slimline DVD machine, all built perfectly into a slick wall unit with no visible cables whatsoever. In other hotels, this is where it would end. Now open a small trap door on top of a section of the desk. You will not only find several international power sockets, capable of accepting various different power plugs from around the world, but also input connectors for the A/V channels of the flat screen device. Of course, you may not carry the required cable to connect your PC or iPad to the unit, but no worries. Another flat drawer contains a selection of different A/V interface cables, all neatly laid out in their own slim compartments and held together with custom made leather velcro straps. Wow. The bathroom is truly amazing and has a TV unit built into the mirror with a special water resistant remote control. That sort of thing could easily look kitchy but in this case, it's all done in style. I could go on and on, just describing really interesting and useful details of our room, but I guess you get the idea.

Vero has already covered our stay in Nagoya and I fully agree, Nagoya has a different feel to it. It did however display the same degree of efficiency and friendliness that we had gotten used to in Japan. Our last stop in Japan was in Naha, a smaller island to the south and - as I was told by an insider - more relaxed and less efficient than the rest of Japan; much like southern Europe.

In conclusion I want to say that I would love to visit Japan again, with more time and visiting different areas of the country. If one could find the right guide, even a motorcycle tour through Japan would be an interesting exercise ...

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