Ambulances, trams and old people…

I didn’t do too much the past week. I ordered stroopwafels for my colleagues (there’s a shop in Kobe that makes them, see website HERE), took a picture of the bento stand where I usually buy my lunch and took some pictures of strange shop names (what is ‘Pafe’ and why ‘Be your happiness with the flower’?). The sidewalk you see is actually in one of the main shopping streets of Kyoto. I have no idea why it looks so crappy.

I’ve also taken a picture of a letterbox and the post office symbol, for anyone who might find this handy someday: It’s a T with a double horizontal bar. The post offices are closed on Saturday and Sunday, which is odd because it’s the only place where foreigners can use the ATM. Also, a picture of the ATM you’ll be wanting to find… Yes, I’m out of inspiration for photo’s, I guess.

Last week, there was a scene of domestic violence just outside our house. We heard a girl cry and a guy shout at her. I didn’t see the (drunk) guy hitting or kicking her, but a friend did. I’m not sure if I should have, but I decided to go outside and do something about it. So, I walked up to them and asked the girl if she was okay. Of course, in such a position she can’t say no, but at least the fight stopped. The guy wanted us (housemates had joined me) to go inside, and then some conversation in Japanese ensued, which was too bad because this actually made us part of the fight, which was not my intention. Anyway, someone told them to leave and they did. Apparently someone (not us) called the police, because half an hour later both the guy and girl were back and they shouted for the “Gaijin who called the police” to come outside. Of course, we didn’t go outside again. 😛

Next up are some pictures of the river again, some pictures of the dance party, and pictures of the instruction given on Sunday by the fire department. Last set of pictures was taken in Otsu, a small town at lake Biwa.

At Otsu, I noticed three things. Firstly, something I’d noticed before and saw again: ambulances here don’t speed. Seriously, they don’t, they’ll stick to the 60 km/h (!) speed limit. And what’s more, an ambulance will besides using a siren that sounds a bit softer than ours, also announce that they’re coming using a tape recording of a woman’s voice. I don’t know exactly what it says, but at some point it ends with ‘-kudasai’ which means ‘please’. I’m guessing they’re asking people to please let them through…

There’s something else about traffic that is weird. Today, I wanted to cross the street, and there was a tram line and a tram was about to pass. So, I stopped and waited for it to pass, standing just far enough away from the tram to not get hit, but close enough to be able to cross as soon as it had passed. The driver, however, felt that I should be at least three meters from the track, because he stopped and gestured at me to get out of the way. I’m sorry, I’m trying to be understanding of this culture, but… What nonsense. Not that I don’t agree with being careful, but at some point they’d have to realize that it’s my own responsibility to keep myself safe, isn’t it? The whole point of ambulances and trams not stopping, is so that people will think twice about being in the way. I know that’s not how it works here, but I actually think I’d felt more comfortable if the driver had actually sped up.

Last remark is this: If you walk around in any smaller town, you will see mostly old folks. That’s because there are many, many old people in Japan. If you search online for “Japan population”, you find the statistics bureau of Japan, HERE. It shows that the birth rate as well as the death rate have dropped dramatically. This is rapidly becoming a problem, since young people are leaving the countryside and the elderly need care.

Japanese population pyramids

Some other things:

  • If someone is wearing a shirt with misspelled English (in this case “Denber’) and you wonder if it’s a statement: it probably isn’t, just don’t ask 😛
  • There are a lot of metal grids in the street that can catch the high heel of your shoes. Japan: Not high-heel friendly
  • Earlier, I claimed that Japan is environmentally friendly, based on the toll roads, but this is canceled out by the amount of water that is wasted. At every temple, there is a place to wash your hands and drink. This water is, nowadays, tap water and it flows constantly. It would be good if they would just add those sensors like they have in every bathroom.
  • To lock or unlock a door, you turn the opposite way from what we’re used to.
  • In Nederland, curry is a sauce, like ketchup. Here, it’s a dish.
  • Cashiers in Japan don’t have to know how to count. They just scan your groceries, put the money in the til and the machine returns the change and a receipt.
  • Vending machines, parking ticket machines and other machines will all accept notes as well as bills. Forgot to keep some change to pay for the bicycle stand? No problem, you can just insert a 5000 bill (45-50 Euro’s depending on how well the Euro is doing when you’re reading this :P) and it’ll be fine.