Japan Land of (mostly) High Technology


I've recently been to Japan on holiday and thought I'd share a few thoughts on a bit of a funny story that happened.

Story Time

I’ve been to Japan before, but once again I was struck by the general politeness and general common decency of Japanese people. The casual bowing is infectious and you can't help but feel they still have something we have lost at some point – automatic respect for each other. The Japanese are quite finely nuanced people, for sure, so I’m sure they have their ways of expressing their annoyance and displeasure.

Having spent the entire day at Sapporo airport in white out conditions, the snow had piled high at the airport. They then decided to cancel the flight. They paid for a hotel (thank you), but for some reason elected to choose one which was firstly, a 20 minute train ride, then followed by a 20 minute taxi ride . The procedures don’t always work well in these circumstances – about 1.5 hours queuing in various queues to find out our fate for the night. You've got to wonder on the logic in a huge snowstorm of picking one that's a decent drive away.

With heavy snow, and after sitting at the airport all day, it’s a bit of a stress. Especially with no money left – I checked though and all good – taxi’s and train both take card.

Mountain View, above Niseko Village

Transport Troubles

The train was bad enough - after lugging cases down to the train , and then after being rejected by the ticket machine (no matter which way I inserted my card), I gave up and queued and waited. After a 10 minute wait, a member of JR staff picked us out of the queue and took us over. When he saw my overseas card, he selected the ticket machine which accepts overseas cards. Little did I know that only one machine could accept overseas credit cards.. but in a very small way that JR employee helped remove a bunch of the frustration of the day – a little bit of help when you need it makes all the difference.

We made the train and then arrived at Kitahiroshima and went outside. It was really heavy snow – piling up all over the place. The driver spoke no English, but with the use of a bit of google translate and wild gesticulation, the hotel name was conveyed and we set off.

After 20 minutes we arrived - yay!. Then the fun started. He didn’t take card, as we’d been told he would.

The hotel guys spoke no English either – and despite a comedic mime show, the hotel wouldn’t pay the fare and add it to their bill. Helpful.

Out came google translate – it brilliantly and correctly understood and displayed everything I said to it, but produced a bunch of what must clearly have been gobbledygook back from the driver.

Eventually we had to backtrack - the car was fishtailing a bit here and there he wasn't looking too jolly. Extremely luckily, the 7 Eleven half way back to the railway station had an ATM and I could get some cash out.Arriving in a country, I'd have some cash, but not when leaving - we purposely spent the last of our money, inadvertently creating the situation that caused us so much difficulty.

Its funny, but even in what must be one of the most high tech countries in the world, the technology and reliance on it didn't help me much. It was a bit stressful when you've just had enough for one day. He put the meter back on, back to the hotel and I gave him a tip - something not regularly done in Japan. He's thought I'd overpaid and offered it back, which goes back to my thought at the top of this blog about respect for other people.


Olympic Ski Jump, just outside Sapporo