Earthquakes and catastrophes
Earthquakes do happen a lot – at least in Tokyo. (I did asked a friend who lived in Kyoto and he never actually experienced an earthquake throughout his exchange semester). Unlike how i expected it though, they were mostly smaller one and i got used to it very fast. Several times i did notice my bed shaking while i was asleep but i didn’t mind it or was panicking. It also seems that the Japanese people are trained on how to handle such situations and wouldn’t even panick if bigger once appear. I noticed a lot of meeting points to gather in case of an emergency, there are a lot of indicaters of the current position relative to the water level and also there were filled water bottles in front of some houses which i guess is in case water supply is limited. Fun fact: vending machines do have an additional purpose in emergency situations – they can be opened up and serve as water supply.
Politeness / level of service
A funny thing occured while i took my module “company factory visit” where employees would introduce their companies. Whenever the FAQ round starts us students would ask questions right away. Even though we were reminded almost every time that we should say thank you first before asking questions. And it just starts from there. I could observe coworkers who went out for a get together drinking, when they take their leave they always bow to each other. Also in (more expensive) retail stores or at hotels, when you leave they would stay behind and wave you goodbye until you left their sight. In restaurants wet towels and also credit cards and money are handed to you with both hands indicating an appreciation of that good. Though i am not sure whether this should be called politeness anymore.
Souvenirs / Omiyage
I had serious problems to find any souvenirs regarding postcards and magnets which i am very used to find at any touristic corner in europe. It is not that Japanese don’t have a souvenir giving tradition in fact it is the other way around. There is the Omiyage tradition in Japan which stemmed from around 1600. People would do a pilgrimage to shrines and temples to pray. However since this is a very dangerous and also expensive excursion people of a village or town would send a representative on that journey. They would support him by collectively giving him some financial aid. As a proof that he reached the location the representative would then bring back a Talisman (Omamori) to the townspeople. Since then transportation improved a lot and the financial aid is not really necessary anymore however the Souvenir bringing remained. In fact whenever you go to vacation you would bring some kind of Omiyage back to your Co-Workers and family and friends to let them be apart of your experience and also to apologize for leaving work to your other co-workers. Such Omiyage are mostly consumable products (also because of the limited space) which are specific to that region. That is why you don’t see a lot of postcards around because their equivalent of postcards are small consumable products such as chocolates. And on every train station and souvenir spot you can actually see Omiyage ready products in different quantities depending on the customer’s need.