Something I noticed while travelling in Japan is how much I am a creature of habit, doing commonplace things on auto-pilot much of the time. In an environment where my normal way of doing things doesn’t work as I expect it to, I am surprised by how long it takes to adapt. Sometimes I don’t. Some things I never adjusted to while travelling in Japan.
- Opening hotel room doors into hallways, not into rooms. When entering I never stopped trying to push the door after unlocking it or pull the door when trying to leave the room.
- Deciding which side of the sidewalk or escalator to use. It doesn’t help that it changes city to city. But there is a current. Inevitably, like a spawning salmon I swam against it.
- Thinking that stopped escalators are broken. Not so. If no one is on them they are saving power. They start up when you step on them. Something I discovered midway into hauling my suitcase up a long flight of stairs.
- Getting a three-ounce cup of coffee in a paper cup from the automatic dispensing machine as part of the free breakfast included in the hotel. My usual and quite modest habit of two cups of Canadian-sized coffee looked very greedy. I had to choose between going to the coffee machine five times in five minutes or taking two cups at a time, going back twice but shorting myself three ounces. (On the road, every one of those ounces counts.) One morning I tried two shots into one cup. It looked as if it should fit but didn’t. As the cup ran over, the gentleman next in line sneered (when I turned to take a napkin to mop up I caught him) and snorted. Polishing his omotenashi spirit for the 2020 Olympics, I guess. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t escape drawing attention as I was often the only blonde in the room and doing what no one else was doing. I can’t tell you how grateful I was the morning I came down to find a group of Aussies tucking into their breakfast. As long as I didn’t speak I could blend in.
You have to laugh—or at least I do. Often the way to best cope with anything is to turn it into a have-a-laugh-at-my-expense story.