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Marcin Wichary @mwichary
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Things that surprised/amazed me about Japan, an ongoing thread.

(More likely UI than food, but you know this already.)

It’s my first time here. Please comment away and/or point out my cultural insensitivities!
1. A very friendly immigration officer and I laughed together, and when I said “I don’t really know where I’ll be staying,” he actually applauded it.
2. Very nice and clean train from the airport, with power sockets, and vending machines onboard.

Tons of solar panels passed by on the way.
3. The ATM had a mechanical keyboard.
4. I bought a personalized subway travel card like a pro. From a vending machine!
5. The (Tokyo) subway shows an animation as you arrive at a stop, with the position of your car and a diagram of the station. It feels garish, but really useful.
6. A horizontal light switch that I must have now.
7. My hotel room is on the 13th floor, which I love.
8. The toilet seat raised itself as I opened the restroom door and FREAKED ME THE HELL OUT.
9. Public transit kiosks allow you to look at your itemized travel summary and even get a printout of it.
10. I think I am supposed to walk on the left side of the sidewalk, and I *think* someone sneered at me loudly when I originally failed to do so.

(But also, I am really tired and stressed out after a turbulence-happy flight, so perhaps I’m projecting.)
11. The fare gate closed on me in a rather gentle way when I tried to walk past it without inserting the ticket.

(Contrast: San Francisco BART gate that slammed itself into my thigh and gave me a bruise *after* I paid my fare.)
12. Most time spent checking in was getting a debrief on a naked public bath in my hotel on the 10th floor. Should I do this. Y/N
13. This UI might not be specific to Japan, but that’s not going to stop me from FALLING IN LOVE.
14. So yes, I intend to press “oscillate” at some point.

15. Okay, the magnetic Do Not Disturb/Clean Up sign is pretty genius, particularly compared to the usual paper one that always falls to the ground.
16. Police/ambulance sirens are quieter and more gentle here – closer to elevator arrival signals than to alarm clocks.
17. Interesting system: you pay for a ticket to a restaurant in front of it, and then enter and give it to a server. No tips, and after finishing you just get up and leave?
18. Also, they offered me a paper apron. Perhaps they were making fun of the only gringo on the premises, but damn if it wasn’t convenient!
19. I am not sure what this is all about yet; something tells me earthquake preparedness?

Also, is it stretched type all around? 0_O
20. Super interesting hotel flashlight. There is no on/off switch. The thing that mounts it on the wall also separates the two batteries and cuts off the power.

What do I need this for, though?
21. This vending machine had a flap covering the banknote port. I don’t understand why.
22. All the vending machines I used so far (three) used lights to show me what I could afford after putting in money.
23. All of the yen coins have arabic numerals… except one of them (5).

In general, only 50/100 look like they’ve been designed together.
24. Upon entering my hotel room, this light blinks slowly to show me where to put my card and get the lights/AC going.
25. I’ve been informed by @txsector that a one-yen coin will float on the surface of the water, and I can confirm this.

(As you can see, it took me a while.)
26. One can pick up so much about Japan just by reading up on the 5 yen coin, which has to do with:
· good relationship luck
· nuclear accident investigation
· language reform
· emperorship of Japan
· WWII (the visuals were about Japan’s reconstruction)
27. A clock just hanging outside in a seemingly random alley.
28. Does anyone know why does this subway entrance tell me this?
29. This construction site will tell you how loud it is.

(Related read about noise in Japan:…)
30. On a trash can.
31. I accidentally got in line with little kids walking to school in the morning. There was a little roped off sidewalk lane that led to school and only school. It was cute! It wasn’t creepy. (God, let’s hope.)

Does this road signage say “watch for children 7:30-8:30”?
(Google Translate and its “point your camera at something and I’ll make it English” feature have been really ineffective. I need to find a better alternative.)
32. Instead of two central buttons, this elevator bank has a synchronized three pairs, one next to each car. (Plus, on the left, another lower set for people in wheelchairs.)
33. I... think my Starbucks barista just sent me a death threat.
Oh my god. What’s going on in here.
34. Very specific guides on how to line up to the next train.
35. Some pedestrian walk signals have bona fide countdown progress bars!
36. I like this type-heavy visualization of what’s on this and adjacent half-floors.
37. I want to know slash I am afraid to ask slash I have a suspicion about the reason women’s-only train cars exist.
(By the way, if you’re thinking “Marcin, you’ve been there for less than a day, this seems really overwhelming” I can tell you that YES. YES, IT IS.)
38. I think this is like a parking elevator and car turntable? That door is really not very tall.
39. Interesting signage spotted so far. The third one is… that’s not how I’d interpret it.
40. Wait, does 28:00 mean four in the morning the following day? If so…

*turns to camera three, does a very slow salute*
Pro tip if you’re following this thread: tap or click on tweets that interest you; many have feedback and thoughts from awesome people who understand things better than I do.

(Also, thanks for following this thread!)
41. I am getting a sense that Japan/Tokyo take better care of differently abled people?

Examples: tactile presentation of the train configuration, and lower handlebars. Also, each elevator has a second set of buttons for people in wheelchairs.
42. So I briefly used to play with model train(s) as a kid before discovering computers and it’s definitely not all coming back to me now, why do you ask?
43. My phone and my battery died in the middle of exploring which was unnerving, given I once managed to get lost after literally having seen my destination in front of me.

(And I saw a bunch of things on the way I couldn’t take photos of. :·( )
44. Tower Records! With a surprisingly robust movie soundtrack section, and – on another floor – the first album I ever fell in love with.

(However, the sort order of soundtracks defeated me.)
45. Oh, so it’s gonna be like this.
46. Is there a name for this kind of esthetic? Is western text stretched thin in here (which I see very often) just to make the low information density slightly less unbearable?
47. Speaking of information density… the program guide on my hotel TV.
48. The architecture in modern part of Tokyo I’ve seen so far is really disappointing. Everything sort of looks like this, stacked without rhyme or reason. Am I calibrated differently, or is it just not something that’s cared about?
(For context as to why it’s a big deal for me I’ll go to this naked thingy later…

I needed to go to the restroom today. I found one in the subway, behind fare gates. When I tried to leave, the gates closed on me, saying I should seek assistance. But I didn’t know how to.
So I took a random train for one stop, left that station, came right back, and took a train in the opposite direction… All instead of talking to a stranger. And this was all with many layers of clothes on.

Comically, of course, that train ended up being some non-stop express.)
49. Interesting ATM UI, combining language selection with main menu.

Clever, but a bit overwhelming from my perspective. However, if you’re used to UIs looking like that TV guide or subway above…
50. Logitech is called Logicool here. I wonder if there’s Logitech too, then.
51. And, in the “brands I recognize doing things I don’t” department…

(Also, an amazing place name in that second photo.)
52. I heard a loop of birds chirping in various places in a big subway station. (Sorry for the shoddy video.) It didn’t add up then, but I read now it’s a guide for vision-impaired people, telling them about the beginnings of escalators leading towards the exits.
(It feels thoughtful, repurposing pleasant nature sounds – particularly in an urban setting – rather than perpetuating the harsh beeps and bleeps associated with technology.)
53. Strangely (to me) proportioned cars.
54. I did it! I went to the hotel bath and sat naked in public for the first time in my life.

I wore my Crater Lake slippers on the way for good luck! But also memorized the etiquette three times over:
55. Mac OS is better at recognizing my awful kanji than the app I used before.

Here’s “big bathhouse,” the first try:
56. Genuinely amazing: part of my hotel bathroom mirror is covered in some sort of a substance that doesn’t allow it to fog up.

(My initial reaction was probably the same as ancient people seeing an eclipse. The smudge on the right is me trying to understand the phenomenon.)
57. A colour-coded orange section on the subway car with priority seats (the elderly, injured, parents with kids and pregnant women), but also a quiet zone?
58. A lot of cabs are older cars, with mirrors mounted all the way in the front.
59. A handle to help you sit down and get up, plus a little notch for your… cane, I think?
60. Manspreading: A global epidemic. :·/
61. A split-flap date clock in an older subway station!!!

Google Translate says both buttons (which I assume are for manual advancing) say “push,” but they look slightly different?
(By the way, I really enjoy all of you jumping in with context, stories, corrections, and so on. This is very informative and I appreciate it!)
62. In addition to 2+ writing systems, each subway station in Tokyo also has a letter+number identifier, e.g. E09.

Also, I liked the convention “grayed out text = stations already visited.” It helped me once I got it. Does it mean each line is always shown in the same order?
63. I didn’t know I had so many feelings for vending machines until I started seeing dozens of them outside, exposed to elements.

(Which explains the money cover above.)

Also, vending machines don’t seem to be gross here! Which is becoming kind of an overall theme.
64. Speaking of vending machines, this Tommy Lee Jones encounter was very Lost In Translation.
(Something tells me you can unpack a lot about Japanese culture from the name Pride Of Boss alone.)
65. …aaaaand this just happened.

That’s a wrap, everyone! I don’t think I am ready for anything more.
66. After a few readers told me red labels mean “hot” and blue “cold,” I had my first hot coffee in a can, from a vending machine. It was good! Plus, it arrived within a second of pressing the button.
67. One-bit train arrival indicator.

(Unless it’s zero-bit, always lit up to brag how often trains run here.)
68. The circle of life is universal, I suppose?

(I read this top to bottom: Friends abandon you when you have a kid, your kids grow up, eventually you die and they take over.)
69. This ATM has a hook where you can hang your groceries or bags for the duration of the interaction.

70. On a whim I followed the arrow to see the line of gingko trees.

The line of gingko trees held a surprise.
71. Akihabara, or Electric Town, a Tokyo area filled with electronic and special interest stores.

It’s a bunch of city blocks that look like this. I don’t think I know how to explain how much of an assault on senses this was.
72. The huge stores (many with names having “Camera” in them?) are multi-floor shrines to personal electronics, with unprecedented to me density.

If I was a kid, I think I would just live here. This would be my Terminal.
73. And there’s hundreds (?) more tiny stores, like this unassuming electronics one where I saw…


74. My brain is still recovering, so I’ll leave you with this video of trains going in and out of the station. I watched them to relax, although there was rarely a time where there was no moving train in sight.
(Spoiler alert: I have enough material for this thread to be twice as long. Make yourself comfortable!)
(Love how many people are like “don’t leave without buying X from a vending machine.” So now I have my life’s first vending machine to-do list.)
75. Speaking of recommendations, this matter-of-fact one from a grocery store made me smile.

(Despite best efforts of new hotel translators and three different iPhone apps, my room momentarily became sauna. But I actually really, really like trying to figure the Japanese language out on my own!)
76. Walking up the stairs is good for you!
77. An interesting way to wrap a magazine to prevent you from reading it in a store!

And yes, this does appear to be a magazine about spreadsheets?
78. It seems that construction sites are supposed to tell you ahead about their work schedule for the week? Some of those displays are even electronic!

(I drew the complicated one on my trackpad. It says 解体工事: demolition work. February 4 is Sunday = no construction.)
79. I liked this little drawing on the door in between subway cars. (And infinite bendy subway cars where you can move in between without the fear of falling off the train.)
80. Water fountains in subway stations!

(Fun moment elsewhere: A nice lady tried to help me when lost, and I said “subway” and then tried to visualize it with my arm going underground, after which she asks “metro?” and I’m like “I’m European! Why on earth didn’t I say that?!”)
81. The subway very often tells you how far things are, exactly.
82. This anthropomorphized, walking, smoking forbidden sign (with dead eyes) is lovely, and also conceptually really confusing, and also I hope it gets its own TV show.
(Amidst all this, I actually wonder how much stuff I’m *missing* because I sadly know so very little about the language and the culture.)
83. American hotels often have bibles, this is what I found in the new one I’m in.

(However, this is not typical. I just learned, post factum, that by visiting this hotel I put money in the pocket of a person who’s looking like Japan’s Trump:… :·/ )
84. A 100 yen shop! I wonder how similar it is to dollar stores in America…
85. A used electronics store where everything’s shrink-wrapped, which was… eerie.

(Also, not an expert, but I haven’t seen this type of PlayStation before.)
86. If you told young me “you’ll lose some of your hair and some of your ideals, but you will one day spend some time going through boxes and boxes of Sony remotes,” I would be like WHERE’S THE EXPRESS LANE.
87. Super cute little 1980s electronic watch in the shape of a Japanese personal computer.
88. Speaking of which, who challenged the gaming store clerk to a game of Mario Kart… and won!?

Of course not me. Jesus. It took me like 20 minutes to work up the nerve to press Oscillate.
89. Spotted this a second after I finished a hot shower with my door open.

(There must be a name for this kind of a situation, as it happens to me all the time…)
90. Spotted a few semi-automatic sliding doors that open, but only if you press the button located in the middle (and sometimes the buttons are only on one side, and the other direction is fully automatic).
91. At a weird corporate-world breakfast place open early, and really curious what this free-floating button does (maybe emits a really nice sound?), but don’t want to bother anyone…
92. Cute subway train people also take subway trains to work.
93. There is a *lot* of foot traffic control flow, and not just limited to the subway.

(Last photo: women’s bathroom.)
94. There are so very many “keep on this side” signs, sometimes beautifully worn out by millions of feet walking over them. (Will try to take more photos of those.)
95. There is so much more happening under one’s feet. There are many arrows pointing in the direction of points of interest, sometimes with surprising to me redundancy.
96. Emergency exit routes are up there as I’m used to… but on the ground as well, in relatively small sizes.
97. But the most astonishing is the vast network of tactile routes for people who cannot see, to be felt by their walking canes?

You’ve seen a lot of them in my photos already. It’s those distinctive (usually yellow) lines. They seem to be EVERYWHERE.
Not just inside, but also outside.

I think parallel lines tell you to go, and dots to be careful?
I loved this one that seamlessly bridged the outside with the inside. Imagine how hard it could be to do that otherwise!
98. I mean this is all SO THOUGHTFUL.
(Although I am sometimes perplexed, because they also have text on them sometimes? Is it just mixing two uses or groups of users?)
(I want to read and learn so much more about this. From what I seen so far, it’s just very inspiring, having this seemingly pervasive network of assistance that’s also highly visible to those who don’t use it.)
(I’ve only seen baby version of this idea on subway platforms in other countries, which exists here also.)
99. This mailbox seems pretty standard, except everything is covered in Braille, incl. the customizable bits!

(But also: electronic mail?!?)
100. My first watch was Seiko. I saved money for it. But this Seiko is better.

(Also! I love the typography there with West, Dusk, Dawn, and East in English alongside all the kanji.)
(Awww, yessss, the verboten wanderer is back. This time it’s making a mess, too. Does it have a name!?)
101. More subway traffic flow control. These gates can change directions depending on need, like traffic lanes on some bridges or roads.
102. This vending machine was more futuristic; tap once on a giant touch screen, then tap your transit card. In and out. I saw people using this almost mid-stride.

I used it to get a drink wonderfully named Pocari Sweat (thx, @Racoon1300).
(The design and proportions of this particular machine really remind me of early iPod Nano/Video. iPod for giants!)
103. Speaking of which, there is a bit of a surprise in the following photos.
104. I’m sort of astonished how many electronic stores are here in Tokyo. It’s beyond belief, as if Amazon never happened.

This is just one tiny part of one floor, just aisles of iPhone cases… and I’m stopping only because Twitter has a limit of four photos.
105. This is a very gentle and courteous phrasing, particularly given Japan’s reported deep-rooted fear of fire.

“Please do not push this button unless fire emergency occasion.”
106. Oh, no, WHO WRONGED YOU?
(By the way, it is really fun to see, out of the corner of my eye, other people watching me take all these photos of random things.)
(Should I go to whatever this building is, after I recover? Bandai Namco has always been a mythical entity for me…

/cc @jonwiley)
(BTW, @RicketyRoads asked me what I see when I use Google Translate live video feature. Here’s an example.

There’s a kernel of truth here, but it’s all very fickle.)
107. Not that I’m any better. This morning I tried to translate this text on a green lane outside. I drew it over and over again, and only upon looking at hiragana itself I realized i was seeing it upside down!

(It says 止まれ, or “stop.” 🤦🏻‍♂️)
108. “Gray = past” theme continues at movie theatres. Which is a pity, because I’d watch The Last Jedi dubbed into Japanese… (I guess it’s for kids and adults can deal with subtitles.)

The 24hr clock still makes me so happy.
109. I saw traffic cones in various colour combinations. I am not sure if the colours mean anything.
110. This is what I’m getting myself into.

It’s weird watching someone play without seeing what they see. Also, there is a LOT of screaming going on.
I placed second against some teenagers who also probably cheated! \ō/ It was much closer to a rollercoaster than I expected (and I am afraid of those). We wore wrist sensors, so we could wave and grab things. Guess which character I chose!

(There are a few more games in here.)
Last VR tweet: I am learning that operating a mech means 45 minutes of wait and 5 pages of instructions.

(Funnily enough, I learned of mechs not from Japanese sci-fi, but from Stanisław Lem’s “Fiasco,” my favorite book of all time.)
111. A nice bit of thoughtfulness: a box in front of the VR machine where you can stash your things as you’re playing.
112. Presenting for your consideration, the best business name since Condomania earlier in this thread.

(Seeing a non-English speaking country adopting English can sometimes be so playful in unexpected ways. I’ll have more examples later.)
(I have so many more things to share, but as you can imagine, this has been EXHAUSTING.

I am now going to Hiroshima – a place that means a lot to me – and I need to be more in my head there.
You can tweet me any time, although I might not respond immediately.

I’ll be back here, and in Tokyo, in a few days. Will continue this thread then. In the meantime, this bunch of verboten wanderers will keep you company. さようなら!)
113. I’m not really here, but I was just on an elevator ride so scenic I just couldn’t not share it with you. (Still in Tokyo.)
(((I won’t write much about Hiroshima since it was really tough, but three moments:

I. It was snowing as I approached the half-destroyed Industrial Promotion Hall dome early in the morning. It seemed like the most peaceful place on earth, and it broke my heart.
II. Inside the museum, I spent an hour looking at old photos of Hiroshima. I tried to decipher signs on shops and just understand better life before the bombing.
At some point, an older woman volunteer came up to me and just started talking, in English, about the history of Hiroshima. Eventually, I asked her about the signs, and found out I was making one cardinal mistake: I was reading them left to right… instead of right to left.
III. Some time before I cried for the second and third time that day, I stumbled upon two boys on a school trip just having fun scrubbing a random video in the exhibit. They were laughing quietly in that we’re-getting-away-with-something way.
At some point they noticed me noticing them, and paused. And at this point, completely unexpectedly, I quietly burst out laughing, too – it turns out I needed that kind of release without knowing it.

Fortunately, we didn’t get in trouble.)))
114. My first Shinkansen ride was so beautiful I made a little video out of it that very evening:
115. Also, what made the video even possible to some extent was that all the train rides I’ve had were so quiet! No talking on the phone, no loud shouting or conversations. There are no “quiet cars,” because all the cars are supposed to be quiet.
116. Why are some of these subway train entry gates asymmetric? At first I dismissed it as an accident, but OF COURSE it is not. I figured it out on my own and so can you! Answer soon.
117. …but not before we take a look at the best logo ever made, for a delivery company called Yamato Transport.
118. …and this cute weather indicator in a little town.

(Google Translate tells me the last option says, and I quote, “it will be bad.”)
119. Not unique to Japan, but uniquely consistent: this arrow means “this thing is behind you.” By definition, it can only be shown facing you; particularly inspired is the last use, before you climb the wrong set of stairs.
120. Likewise, since you’re looking down before entering an escalator, we can give you a little bit of a useful info then.
…and that brings us back to 116. Asymmetric gates tell you this is where the arriving car begins or ends, I assume so that you can make better boarding decisions?

This sort of blew my mind.
121. Handles on the subway and buses are abundant, and they even include transverse handles, which I am not sure I have seen before.
(At the railway museum in Kyoto, they were so proud of those they showed not just their evolution, but even prototypes!)
122. This train crossing doesn’t just have a nice-sounding signal, but it also shows you which way the train is coming from!
123. Cute animals – giraffes, monkeys, frogs – as construction barriers.

(I listed them all for future search purposes, not because I don’t trust you to name them!)
124. Another fascinating hybrid purchasing method, in a convenience store. You grab things, and walk up to the cashier as expected – but all the money-related bits you do with the cash register that has more UI for you than it does for the cashier.
125. One thing you learn the hard way as a designer: it’s easier to add than it is to remove.

126. I liked that on the train I took, the signs above the doors reflected the direction of travel.

(They also alternated between languages, in case you were wondering.)
127. In order to get the degree sign, the designer of this took a regular 7-segment display and… put it in upside down.

I loved this. Whoever made it and the Medium underline guy should hang out! They live in the same kind of universe.…
128. Speaking of upside down, a cool train schedule book rotating gizmo at the station.
129. Not only is the drink label perforated so it’s easier to remove and recycle, but the perforation is stronger at the ends to help you out!
130. This is also a fascinating hybrid opening cap. (And foot road signage photobombing it.)
131. Possibly the cleanest trash truck I have ever seen.
132. Can/bottle recycling trash cans that kind of look like cute robots, but they’re scheming against you for sure.
133. (Quite possibly with the parking indicators, at least those that chose to be evil instead of good.)
134. One of my hotels (but only one) offered me a Smoke Guard and that made me worried more than anything else.
135. It wasn’t long after I got enough courage to try Oscillate when another restroom moved me up to face the next level’s final boss: Pulsate.
136. But the one thing I *really* did not expect to find next to a toilet was… volume controls.
137. Vending machines are truly ubiquitous, at 5½ million total (for 127M people).

When I was biking through some rural areas near Hiroshima, I was astonished not just that they were there – but that I saw one every few minutes.
(But contrary to all the lore, outside of some cigarette machines, pretty much all that I saw were machines with liquids: cold and hot drinks. No vending machines with candy or weird stuff, unless they’re hiding somewhere I’m not looking?)
138. Getting the machine to give you back (the rest of) your money is such a fun great interaction on some of the models. First of all, there’s a big yellow lever to pull…
Then, the machine counts down the money it owes you one coin at a time, which is REALLY satisfying. (Here, I put in 1,000¥ and ordered something worth 130¥.)
Lastly, your change gets spat out at the very bottom, close to the ground, next to the delivered item.

(Although I can’t decide whether that’s good. On one hand, it’s easy to grab with whatever you ordered – but also sometimes I forgot, and I had to reach further down again.)
139. This vending machine had a bottle opener and a little bucket for caps. It also had… mystery items! I saw that in other machines in that town, too. The last photo is what I got, because of course I had to try it out.
140. An incomplete list of surprising things I ordered that also tasted surprisingly well:
– hot green tea
– hot milk tea
– hot corn soup
141. This is something that made me really happy yesterday.

I love Stanisław Lem’s books enough that I sometimes have a dream where I go to a bookstore and find a stash of his books that I somehow never knew of.
(Which is impossible – I have all of his stuff – but you don’t question the logic of a dream in a dream. So I get really excited, and then equally sad when I wake up.)
When I travel abroad, I often try to find his books. He’s popular enough for it to be possible, but not *hyper* popular, so it’s still a challenge.

I failed in a few bookstores here, hopelessly lost. I started doubting if Lem was even read in Japan. Was *any* hard sci-fi?
But I didn’t give up. And in another bookstore yesterday, I seeked help. I went to a machine, and somehow (no English UI) figured out how to search for books.
I typed in “Stanislaw” instead of the easily matched “Lem,” and I got some results! They all pointed to this section right next to me that looked like an entire case filled with hard sci-fi.
Since I cannot easily read a spine, I have to go through them one by one. And I eventually find one of Lem’s books! It’s a paperback of The Futorological Congress with a horrible cover harking back to a failed movie adaptation.
I guess it’s good enough? I gather that all the other results in the database were just old and not updated, or maybe in different bookstores…
But then, just before leaving, I looked up. And there, in the upper right corner, I found an entire section of Lem’s books!!!

I never looked for a ladder faster in my life. They were there, with Polish titles alongside Japanese ones! Apparently Lem *is* “big in Japan,” too.
I think this was the closest I ever been in real life to that recurring dream of mine.

And so, I got three, including a paperback of Solaris, and a hard cover of Fiasco, which is my favourite book.
The books are read right to left, and have that small wraparound band called “obi” that is, I believe, specific to Japan. I remember it from CDs and it was there on the record I bought yesterday.…
So excited to have found them, and I’m actually going to try to read Fiasco! There are so many things here that perplex me: bolded bits and footnotes (neither present in the original). Chapters have their original Polish titles. There also seems to be a glossary at the end.
Why are there two bar codes? (They actually scanned both.) Why is the text on the page split this way?

It’s kind of incredible: this book that I have read so many times, appearing once again as a mysterious, unknown artifact.
142. I found a bona fide train viewing area… and it wasn’t that hard to snap a photo with three different trains on it.
(I mean, look at these older trains on display at the museum. Those are some good-looking trains!)
143. How confident you have to be in your train network that your caveat is possibly about arriving somewhere *earlier*!?
144. There aren’t just millions of train toys.

There are toys that are all about train infrastructure, like this car that transports train parts. <3
…or other toys for “boring” transit options.

I’d be exactly the kind of kid that’d get excited about “Midtown ticket counter.”
145. Speaking of transit infrastructure toys… here’s a gruesome dystopian vision that makes Cars feel like a kids movie.
146. This Is The Future That Liberals Want.
147. The tone of this ad is kind of incredible.
148. How lucky you must be as a museum to get your mascot designed by Miyazaki!
149. At the Gas Museum (sic!), gas range cookers that also look like faces.
150. (150!)

This is a particularly Marcin-shaped mystery. I know this clock from my childhood. From Poland.

I recreated it in JavaScript. I wrote about it (…). So why is it here, now, all over the place!?
(Also, how likely it is for me to take two separate clock photos, on two different days, in two different cities, both at 10:26?)
151. A cute relaxed kitten plus a cute pictogram of its startled Schrödinger counterpart.
152. What… happened?
153. This ticket ordering machine had an impressively large touch screen.
154. I generally liked the convention of lighting up things where you’d insert cards/money or get something out. Not new, but more comprehensive and more elegant. (Some lights would pulsate like old PowerBooks/MacBooks.)
Some machines would (also) show a little diagram on the screen and point to the relevant parts.
155. When things came out of the machine – for example an ATM – they would all come out at the same time, instead of sequentially.

Here, it was really easy to grab my card and the receipt via one gesture.
156. If you’re asking “but can I *insert* more than one thing?” the answer is HOT DAMN YESSSSS. The machines encourage you to just put in the entire phat stack.
(If you’re also asking “Marcin, will this thread ever end?” my answer is I REALLY DON’T KNOW. The discoveries simply don’t seem to ever end.)
157. For example, only just a few hours ago I discovered a new type of interaction. Instead of inserting a card or touching it a few times, this ticket machine asks you to place it on a mat for the duration of the transaction.
158. Only yesterday, I discovered that as you approach a taxi, the driver can remotely open your door for you, and then do the same as you arrive.

There are also many more automatic sliding doors around, even in little stores. Opening a “normal” door seems like a rarity.
159. When you pay, even to a cashier, you don’t hand someone the money. You put it on a special tiny tray. It feels elegant and refined.

(I went to a coffee shop really early and they didn’t put one out yet, and really scrambled, not wanting to do the transaction without it!)
160. Also, in bakeries and so on you’re supposed to just grab a tray and put your stuff directly on it? It was kind of weird.

As you bring it all to the cashier, they transfer them onto a plate or basket for you, or into to-go bags. PLEASE TELL ME I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG.
161. Two beautiful things in another bakery’s placard.

One is a list indicating the presence of allergens (milk, peanuts, and so on).

The other, and I miss it so much from Europe: the price with tax included! (Which is typically usually even the default here?)
162. Speaking of beautiful… look at these manholes, even the tiny ones!
And those above, in turns out, are the ones when they phone them in.
Because when they don’t phone them in…

I seriously have no words.
163. Amidst all the high-tech restrooms, it’s fun to see ones that are really old. Here is a cool retro hand soap dispenser, and a vintage flush handle that nevertheless already allows you to choose between a weak and a strong flush.
(By the way, no paper napkins or towels ever in restrooms! There are scant hand dryers, but I think many people just walk out with their hands wet…? Or are you supposed to carry a handkerchief?)
164. Typography! From whatever little I understand, I believe Japanese writing system(s) have an unprecedented flexibility: they could go left to right, right to left, or top to bottom.

Here’s an example from the side of a (modern) bus and a (vintage) tram.
It seems that flexibility can be used when you’re out of particular type of space.

These displays show the interim stations that the train will stop at. You can immediately sense whether it’s a local or an express, but it also gives you more!
165. Here are some beautiful station indicators from a local commuter line. Showing the terminus to the left/to the right of a given station can be achieved with a pretty narrow sign.
166. It’s really fun to see when Japanese and English coexist, and Latin letters are forced to do things that makes them rather awkward.

Look at “cars” here!
Or here!
(I’m not an expert, but diagonal Japanese feels much more natural than Latin would!)
(It’s actually really refreshing to see English as a second-level citizen for once!

Here is an archive of a guestbook from a small museum. Japanese entries have been retyped, but English ones just copied and pasted.)
167. “Horizontal” Japanese can be beautiful, also. Here’s a small collection of barriers with text.
168. Just as I wasn’t really sure what those said, I am not sure how I’m supposed to feel after seeing this.
169. Seeing elevator buttons described in three different ways – none of them being English – just made me so happy.
(Although in another instance, I was confused why two different Japanese writing systems were used at the same time?)
170. This ATM has a little tactical dynamic Braille display to – as far as I understand – communicate numbers.

It’s a really interesting ATM in a number of different ways…
171. It has a table top form factor, which I’ve seen on a few other machines.

(Old 1970s and 1980s arcade games called that form factor “cocktail,” I think because you could put down a drink on your Ms. Pac-Man game?)
172. The money arrives in a little pocket (which is lit green, because green light means “stuff gets in or out of here,” as we already saw).
173. Lastly, action keys have red lights. When a light is lit, it means the key is active (yellow key = backspace, green key = enter). It’s an interesting way to achieve what onscreen UIs often do by “graying out” unavailable buttons.
174. Speaking of accordances, I liked how this ticket-buying UI simply enlarged the most common buttons.
175. I started paying more attention to the yellow lines, and interesting cases of those.

For example, in less populated areas, they are not connected, but the straight line is implied?
176. It was also interesting to see where they terminate. This one leads to more info delivered in Braille.
This one leads to a dedicated assistive machine that can talk to you (green buttons), and also has a tactile map of the surroundings.
This outdoors one in Onomichi leads to a few tactile maps, including a way to feel the area’s beautiful bridges.
And on a very different scale, here’s a tactile map of a restroom on a train. I’ve seen many of those kinds of tactical maps.
177. That the train seat numbers are in Braille also will be of surprise to no one at this point.
178. That the train seats have handles to hold onto since the train can sway a bit as you’re moving is also thoughtful.
179. But what’s truly wonderful is that those handles are in many more places, helping people who can’t stand for long. Here’s an example of one set next to the elevator.
180. More hooks! A multi-purpose holder next to another ATM, plus an umbrella hook in a restroom.

(I felt so uncomfortable taking that photo. In general, I feel I’m getting away with things, since my iPhone doesn’t have a forced shutter sound like Japanese phones do!)
181. And lockers! They are everywhere: train stations, museums, just chilling outside next to vending machines. Some are advanced – tap your card to lock and pay – and others much more simple. But they are all SO CONVENIENT.

(Bonus: more humanoid trash cans.)
182. All modern elevators have another set of buttons for people in wheelchairs. (Which I’ve noticed are, funny thing about accessibility, much more useful to many others, too!)
(Although I chuckled seeing that glued on protector in that last elevator. I also saw a more old-school way of solving the accidental button press problem elsewhere.)
183. There are many tall buildings and there’s generally a pretty strong convention of referring to floors by 1F (ground floor), 2F, 3F and so on – the F provides enough context, which helps in advertising and so on.

The floor below 1F is B1. No F.
184. But the addresses are a huge mystery. The system is like… a fractal? It feels unlike both the American grid and the more organic addresses I know from Europe.

I basically use Google Maps here and rarely if ever know what street I’m on.

Read more:…
185. Why would you worry about addresses when you could just play with this fun telescoping, bendy straw!
186. Public phones with distinctive green colour and shape are much more pervasive than I’d expect. (I am not sure what the gray ISDN phone is about! But I didn’t see those that often anyway.)
187. More tech survivors: I was surprisingly thrilled to be in a car that had a MiniDisc player!

(Also, it was fun to spot one button with kanji amidst icons and all the Latin.)
188. *resists the urge to vandalize*
The last one was in this tiny underground store whose branding and 18+ label got me worried!
But it was just a retro computing and gaming store with a slice of parallel home computing history I really wish I knew better.
(I had this feeling too many times: “I wish I could read this book!”)
189. If trash is not subdivided even further (see the android trash cans before), it’s typically split between “combustibles” (red) and “incombustibles” (blue).

(Good thing they didn’t go with “flammable” and “inflammable,” I guess? Har har.)
190. The same colour scheme is often used for restrooms, but there is no relation.

By the way, restrooms are everywhere! Malls, tiny convenience stores, minuscule train stations. EVERYWHERE. They are free and clean. It’s REALLY glorious.
191. All the maps seem to always be facing your orientation, instead of up = north.
I even found this amazing map of auditorium seats, also presented from your perspective.
192. Japan seems to have a secondary official calendar where the years are counted in eras matching the reigning emperor.

Here, 1964 was the 39th year of the Shōwa era, 1993 the 5th year of the (still current) Heisei era. More:…
193. A lot of subway stations have (vanity) mirrors.
In one mall I actually stumbled onto a little mirror corner called “vanitory.” I laughed it off as an example of amazing flawed translation – but it turns out this is an actual English word. It’s funny that I didn’t expect that trip to teach me English, and yet it did.
And it definitely made me reflect on English the way seeing foreigners use a language tends to.

Of course “height” is going to be misspelled since it’s so inconsistent with “width” and other words!

Of course “here is not parking” seems like it’d make perfect sense!
194. Here are some of my favourite translation, and also that pictogram in the last photo is beyond priceless.
I mean, sticky people get in all sorts of trouble here.
195. I gave Google Translate hard time before, and indeed, things can be rough.

(Although I like the idea of a “very button”!)
Google Translate told me about “Moses following children” in a restaurant menu, “The Russians” on an air conditioning panel, and “the peregrine falcon per cent” in a post office.
Some appear and quickly disappear as I slightly shift my position, including this hilariously inappropriate translation of an ATM label.
But there are many genuinely amazing moments where I can at least get the *gist*.

Walking through the otherwise completely incomprehensible bookstore with it was like having a lens with superpower, like glasses that made *information* naked. (If you know what I mean.)
Today in a restaurant, the waitress tried to ask me something, and I had no idea. She tried so hard, brought a piece of paper with tons of Japanese, nothing. And then I had the idea to point Translate at it. Turns out and was asking me about my allergies.
A few times I showed others Google Translate they were really impressed; perhaps the only time *I* appeared cool and advanced during this trip.

(Otherwise I mostly feel like the attached surreal vignette I witnessed today.)
196. Speaking of restaurants, I love little moist hand towels that are always there waiting for you – and also added to your bag whenever you buy food from grocery stores or bakeries. So refined!
197. If the place is not using a ticketing system or you don’t order at the country, often they’d bring my bill to me immediately, and then I went to the register to pay on the way out.
198. In love with cute little shopping baskets to be filled with cute little things.
199. It was interesting that when listing emergency numbers, marine accidents and incidents were as high priority as ambulance, fire, and police.

(From a phone booth. There are phone booths!)
200. There are tons of little delightful melodies. I made a compilation video of a few on the subway and other trains – particularly there, a particular melody can identify a train or a station as you’re traveling. (More info:…)
(Even the washer/dryer in my hotel played a little melody when it started and when it ended its job. It was such a surprise I wasn’t prepared to record it.)
201. I liked how the owners of the said washer/dryer taped over irrelevant pieces of UI (buttons, drawers), and labeled the remaining buttons A, B, and C just to help me out.
202. I saw more things like this. Here, the railway clock explains how to embrace the 24-hour time (and NEVER LOOK BACK).
Various establishments announced their support for English.
(Or even American English!?)
This one made me laugh. I almost imagined the exasperation of the people putting it together, trying all sorts of approaches, only eventually to arrive at “very slippery.”
203. Because otherwise everything’s so gentle and respectful! Instead of “No tampering,” it’s “Is you open this cover, you will be inquired by crew,” for example.
204. Although you can make a ship angry.
Or toy with your train’s emotions.
It’s actually kind of amazing how many things become humanized here. From cigarettes and lightbulbs…
…through houses and cars on top of BRIDGES.

(I wonder what HR has to say about *that* relationship.)
205. What surprised me quite a bit is that I haven’t noticed any emoji. I sort of have this impression that emoji exist in print and ads in America. Maybe I’m mis-remembering? Because I don’t think I saw any used in that context here in Japan.
206. I have seen this, a lot – ♨️ – a symbol for hot springs.

(By the way! I have done many since my first day: open air hot bath under the winter’s sky, and public town hot bath, and I’m now so good at it that I notice other foreigners’ etiquette mistakes. :·) )
207. Although it is still impossible for me not to see this as a shrug emoticon face.
Although at some point I came up with my first Japanese typographical joke! Here it is:


(I’m not saying it’s *good*, but it has to count for something!)
208. This kaomoji rubber mat was pretty cute.

As far as I understand:
Emoji: 😃
Emoticon: :·/
Kaomoji: ಠ_ʖಠ
209. There’s a lot more smoking here. Smoking alcoves, smoking sections at the restaurants and on trains. (I once tried to sit in one as an experiment… I lasted a whole 3 minutes.)
210. But people wearing face masks – and a lot of people do, including cops in cars and postal office clerks in their windows – apparently has nothing to do with smoking.
As someone explained to me, it’s a) not wanting to make other people sick, b) not wanting to get sick yourself, c) some sort of worry about pollens from China!?
211. There is a lot of free wi-fi around: on many subway stations, in restaurants, in shopping malls. It’s also always pretty fast. Some wi-fi comes with fun signs.
There were always (legally-mandated?) interstitials, and some of the UI and security choices were… interesting. Or, to me, incomprehensible.
212. Brands I recognize doing things I don’t, pt. 2.
(It’s also always fun to see different variants of soft drinks and so on.)
213. During rain and snow, I saw tons of umbrellas and – despite what the second image might tell you – most of them were just what Blade Runner promised: transparent. (Third image: Me under my transparent umbrella I brought with me to the U.S.)
214. Some places had this fun umbrella dryer!
I also noticed a new type of umbrella hook… and a bunch of “don’t forget your umbrella” signs. (But despite them, there were quite a few forgotten umbrellas around. Always in an immaculate shape.)
215. I posted a regular fire hydrant sign before. However, most of those were elevated higher – sometimes much higher – and had a distinctive shape.
(This style was creatively reused by other things, chiefly bus stops.)
216. On the bus (where you board in the back, and leave in the front and pay your fare then), stop buttons were positioned at different heights to accommodate more people.
217. In many places I noticed this – a barrier separating people from cars, rather than a raised sidewalk.
218. Some street crossings offer to talk to you in many different languages.
219. I saw a bunch of interesting bike parking with similar UI and operations as those automated lockers. (And also, some lovely translation.)
220. This bike lane signage was pretty cool.
221. I also rented a bike. It was my first time biking on the left; taking right turns through intersections was even more frightening than biking on huge, scary bridges.

(Bonus points if you notice a fun typographical detail in that last photo.)
222. My bike lock had a thoughtful detail: it came with a little token with the lock combination so I didn’t have to memorize it or write it down.
(But, my confidence took a big boost – and I was reminded of all the jokes made of me in primary school – when even the biggest helmet was too small for my enormous head.

Also, a random thing I learned: Fixies without brakes are illegal in Japan.)
223. I supported this towel warmer after half an hour of walking in below-freezing temperatures… despite its dubious typographical allegiances.
224. Although, to be fair, I also encountered some breathtakingly beautiful typography.
Also, the neons!!! <3
225. Also, this split-flap parking display foreshadowing something amazing to happen in a few days hence!

(Although, I feel bad for split-flap displays that don’t change often.)
*Vin Diesel voice* The thing about media fights… paper always wins.
226. There are a lot of stamps here. Which is amazing. Some, as far as I understand, perform a function similar to signatures – you carry with you your own small seal stamp?
Where other places would use holes or notches to cancel or validate things… in Japan, you also encounter stamps.
Not to mention, tons of stamps just for fun?
(This is a cool read elaborating more on stamps and seals:…)
227. In all these electronic stores, you can still find tons of paper catalogs, which is basically the best. #UninventInternet
228. I saw a lot of tape and label makers. From old-school…
…to more modern editions…
…to cute/domesticated machines.
All of them with millions font/colour/tape finish options.
229. I wish I could have stayed longer so I could understand how “cute” works here – I don’t want to assume this is meant to be perceived the way I perceive it.
Some of the “cute” seems confusing, to me almost undermining the main message? But I assume this is just me not being calibrated.
Although some signage is… not cute at all.
230. Under my feet, I encountered a lot of signs like these – but never figured out what they were for…
231. I liked these warning signs for cars shaped like flowers, though.
232. Someone told me “Have you tried the genius that is onigiri packaging? The nori seaweed isn’t touching the rice, but 1-2-3 you pull away the wrapper and then it is! Fascinating.”

I tested it out and indeed! Alchemy.
233. In shoes-off places, someone would always rotate shoes so that they’d face the outside. (In one traditional hotel, the shoes even came with labels for room names.)
234. In many (small) hotel rooms, I saw this interesting configurations with exposed hangers facing the room – presumably, to fit things in a narrower space.
235. Some bathroom tubs gave me an indicator for… water level!?
236. Some came with really sophisticated/complicated faucets with some sort of a water flow limiter?
237. Two entertainment options in one of the hotels. :·)

(I saw other VOD machines and other trouser presses, too.)
238. By the way, while most hotels I stayed at had built-in hot baths (onsen), I don’t think I saw one single hotel gym.
239. Spotted at the post office. ( ⚆ _ ⚆ )
240. I have never seen an airport tray that clearly communicated what should go inside it (and out of your pockets/bags).

Seemed…. vastly preferable than TSA employees shouting it in your ear.
241. Also at the airport, a TV where you can change the channel. How do people agree on what to watch!?
242. Upon boarding my flight back to the US ( :·( ), the screen in front of me showed me my seat number. So simple and so clever. Never encountered that before, either.
243. I also discovered the most futuristic ATM: one where you just drop your card in a chamber (of course it is highlighted, too!) and what I assume is magic does the connection.
244. I mentioned before how the coins have indicators (hole/no hole, rough/smooth edge, big/small size) that allow people to distinguish them just by touch.

At some point, I wondered why my transit card has a notch. It’s so that you can tell it apart from others with fingers!
245. There were also a bunch of ATMs with extra calculators to help you with math? (Which, funnily enough, reminded me of the original Mac desk accessories.)
246. A peculiar choice: showing you how to use a touch screen by employing… a mouse pointer.
247. This is kind of wonderful; I’ve never seen anything like this cautioned against – or even acknowledged – before.
248. At busy subway stations in rush hour, there are even more signs (and people) helping to deal with the traffic flow.
249. A cool platform edge signage showing you the train is about to arrive – and from which direction.
250. Just like you could slide in a stack of money into a ticket machine, you could also insert more than one ticket together to get through this fare gate.
251. On any type of train, there has always been a manned gate and a wide gate for wheelchairs. But even any regular gate was wide enough for me and my big bag – and I was never nervous crossing it.
252. Japan seems to care A LOT about trains in general. These are a few really cool-looking local trains I saw in actual operation.
253. Not that a train has to be good-looking. It was so rewarding to see a little reliable commuter train just weaving its way through the city, like it’s no big deal.
254. Speaking of which, can someone help me and decipher what was this train crossing trying to tell me? (Both Google Translate and me drawing these shapes failed.)
255. A lot of the trains utilize this fascinating system: there are cars with reserved seats, and cars where you can sit at will. This feels like such a great hybrid model accommodating both planners and spontaneous people. (I wish movie theatres did that!)
256. Even a train ticket machine will allow you to reserve a seat. Here, the UI actually tells you which car is the least occupied at any given moment, which is super thoughtful.
257. As a consequence, there is a lot of signage directing you to the appropriate car.
A LOT of signage.
Each train has its own map, and in front of you, there is often even a mini version of that map.
And for trains without reserved seats, there are still interesting systems. Here, each door position was labeled with a symbol, and my train was announced as “queue up anywhere you see a triangle.”

So much better than an enigmatic “board center.” *cough*BART*cough*
258. By the way, it was cool to queue up for a train called Thunderbird.

(Other fav name: Eveningliner.)
259. I liked this consistent visual language for priority seats on one of commuter lines.
260. This cool little UI shows you how far your train is from the current station in a way that reminded me of old videogames.
261. This perplexed me. A map on a train with two sliding transparent sections. Do they serve a purpose? Do they prevent people from touching the map itself and damaging it?
262. The best/fastest trains are the famous Shinkansen, or bullet trains. I have to say, seeing giant Shinkansen signage leading to my first trip was THRILLING.
263. Here are a few that I went on. (The first photos have someone on the platform who takes care of controlling the train? They always had a red umbrella-like thing of undetermined purpose.)
264. Someone compared Shinkansen to “wingless airplanes,” but I swear the Shinkansen I rode on had wings.
265. The trains run so often, and so precisely, that I had an 8-minute layover on the same platform, and in that small period of time there was ANOTHER Shinkansen passing through.

…which I learned about the hard way (by boarding the wrong train).
I was also once on a Shinkansen crossing a river, seeing another Shinkansen crossing the same river on another bridge, and – in between the two of us – yet another bridge being ready for yet another train. That was incredible.
266. Small surface details: A little arm rest tray by the window, plus the actual big tray has a raised edge so that things can’t escape easily.
267. This design for a cup holder was clever – it extended only when needed, and also it locked in place, so it was pretty stable.
268. I also saw this cute set of retractable hooks, for both the aisle seat and the window seat, I assume?
269. All the seats always face the direction of travel, although you can rotate your pair to sit family-style.

(I’ve been told that when the train reverses at the terminal, all the seats are rotated automagically from the control panel, which would’ve been AMAZING to witness.)
270. Among my proudest achievements was, during one brief train stop, running out to the platform vending machine LIKE A PRO to grab something quickly…
271. …an achievement relatively quickly undermined by the realization that there are vending machines on the train too, OF COURSE.
272. In a weird reversal of pretty much all of my life, this train restroom was much better than most stationary ones. (Flushing without touching! And something I nicknamed “ButtOn.”)
273. Some Shinkansen even accommodated two… flavours of doing… things.
274. I also went to see the Kyoto railway museum, which was really awesome. Some of its interior design (look above) even resembled a train.
275. A few amazing moments in that museum.

First: Sitting in the cabin of the original 1960s Shinkansen train.
276. Second: They had a powered train where you could press the actual buttons to get the pantograph up and down!
…which was sort of a dream of mine. (My grandpa worked at the railways.)
277. Third: I also touched the very wire that pantographs grab to get electricity!

(And survived to tell my story.)
278. Fourth: This really cool, heavy, and loud button with massive springs inside went up and down and opened/closeed the train doors.
279. Fifth: You can ride on the rail bike! If you’re over 120cm tall.

Which I am!

BTW this is not a photo of me. :·)
280. Sixth: I ate some ice cream in this 1958 dining car, now moored and converted into a restaurant.
281. Also! Also!!! They had an actual split-flap display with the original control panel. You have NO IDEA how excited this made me.
I spent so much time with it and figured all of it out (incl. some of its bugs) – at the end I was giving the Japanese people tips. That was really awesome. I really want to have one now.
282. I saw these beautiful diagonal line train schedules at a museum (incl. a plotter that drew them!) and I assumed they were obsolete/vintage… but then I saw them in actual use on a commuter train!
283. This was a cool idea: putting a little camera atop a model train, and allowing kids to ride them, the view making model trains feel more like real trains.
284. Stepping outside the museum… The first class is called Green Car here. What it is depends on the train, it seems. In this one, the Green Car was the front car: it had huge seats with a lot of legroom, and a great panoramic view.
285. In this other train, Green Car was this system where after loading a Green Car ticket onto your transit card, you could just tap above to indicate you’re taking a seat. (It remembered your other choice, so if you swapped seats, it would un-flip your last one automatically!)
286. I also had this fun moment when, enthralled with the views outside of the train window, I realized I wasn’t the only one.
287. “Marcin, enough waxing poetically about trains. Show me more of those trash cans that look like robots.”
288. How about this brick that inexplicably looked like a Face ID icon?
289. In this cool music store, I found a music keyboard that used 14-segment displays! Those were popular on pinball machines, but it was exciting to see them used elsewhere.
290. (One vending machine also introduced me to this variant of a 7-segment display I haven’t seen before.)
291. In another mall, after feeling overwhelmed, I sat down to one of the digital pianos, and simply started playing that one Bear McCreary’s sonata I know how to play. No one stopped me.
(If you’re interested, I wrote about this sonata a few years ago:….)
292. This happened more often, different flavours of being lost: in a bookstore where I couldn’t identify one single section; in a giant Shibuya train station, half under construction; in a heavy rush hour traffic where at times I felt I had little control over where I was going.
But at no point I felt unsafe, and those experiences I learned to treasure. Japan seemed like a perfect place to be lost before I went there; now I know it for sure.
(My internal compass is not great, but somehow in Japan I ended up going in the opposite direction than I intended even more often than usual.)
We’re about to bring this threat to its end. It’s actually funny how it all started, completely unplanned, with this little exchange with my friend @wynlim. The list ended up much longer than I ever expected.
(And if you care, there’s a parallel keyboard-only Japan thread that is still going on… )
You probably noticed a lot of patterns. Here’s another one. A lot of my discovery of Japan followed this routine:

1. Discover something amazing.
2. Realize this amazing thing is EVERYWHERE, a baseline.
3. Discover an even more extraordinary version of that thing, in some places.
One thing I didn’t mention much yet that follows that pattern was *people.* Everyone I met in Japan was very polite. But some of those people were incredibly kind.
I know just as I don’t understand “cute,” I don’t really have a strong grasp on the roots of the politeness and kindness. I know that sometimes it’s easy to mistake the latter for the former.

I’m pretty sure, however, all of the following fell under the second category.
293. A staff of a small museum working hard to find someone who spoke even a bit of English, just to ask him to walk up to me as I was already halfway through the galleries, and apologize for their museum being so English-unfriendly.
294. After learning that I have to leave before 6am, the hotel staff preparing a breakfast care package just for me.
295. A woman in a café bringing me a card with wi-fi details after noticing I tried to use my phone.
296. A train station clerk going above and beyond to annotate my first-ever Shinkansen tickets to make sure I understood them.
297. The cab driver studying some English while at the traffic stop, just so he could tell me that I need to go straight after I leave.
298. And then this, possibly my favourite moment in a trip filled with many wonderful moments.
I’m at a busy Shinjuku train station, trying to catch a train. I have Google Maps and all the tech but the station is so busy, and the trains run so often, that the moment I figure one train out, it’s already gone – and another train, on a faraway platform, takes its place.
After some 15 minutes of me trying to figure stuff out, I’m approached by a young girl who, in rudimentary English, asks me whether I need help. I rarely say yes when someone asks me that – but in that moment, I’m ready to say yes.
She asks me what I’m trying to, and then does this amazing dance on her phone: she switches between some sort of a local transit app, trying to figure out which train I should be taking…
…and a Japanese/English translation app, where using the amazing 10-key swiping system, she blazes through Japanese words to have the app spit out their English equivalents.
At some point, the girl indicates that the next train is two minutes away, and then punches something into the translation app.

“Guides you” comes out. I nod.
The next minute sees us running through the rush hour traffic to another platform. I’m having trouble just following my guide. Eventually we arrive, and she points up to the staircase that leads directly to my train. But her other hand, the one holding her phone, is raised too.
On the screen, there are a few Kanji characters she thought of typing in during the brief moment we were navigating the tough crowds of what Guinness recognizes as world’s busiest transport hub.

And below, the translation: “A pleasant journey.”
299. These two weeks in Japan made me wide-eyed, and happy, and amazed, and lost, and overwhelmed.

But one thing that surprised me most: it also made me *kinder*.
At some point, I started going above and beyond to come back and say “thank you,” or to fix the shoes facing the wrong way, or to do whatever little I could to make things better in this culture I still understand so poorly.
Thank you to all for joining me in this big experiment. I loved your comments, and questions, and suggestions. Twitter didn’t make it easy for either of us, but we persevered!
If you’ve read this far, your goal is to take one of the above things, and bring it into your world. I know I’ll try.
But everything good needs to come to an end. I’m writing this, jetlagged, back at my San Francisco desk.

It might be a trip that will change my life; the possibility of me moving to Japan is now bigger than zero. I don’t know how much bigger.

I guess we’ll find out.
Oh, yeah, and also:

300/300. The green tea Kit Kats!!!
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