At the end of 2016, I took a week-long trip to Japan. I went with the highest expectations and was granted a even better reality. From their transportation system to public facilities, from food to scenery, from people's manners to culture, everything was beyond amazing. The trip helped me understand why Japan has such fine reputation in the world.
There are two specific stories I'd like to share:
1. One of my friends bought a pack of fake $100 USD bills from Amazon and took it with him on the trip. The bills looked very realistic and had me fooled for a while at first. His plan was to "make it rain" in a crowded night club and watch people fight over them. "The master prank", as he calls it, didn't go quite the way we expected. One night when we were pretty boozed up at a Tokyo night club, my friend proceeded with this plan. Many people soon started picking them up from the floor. What took all of us by surprise was that these Japanese youngsters organized the bills in a stack and returned them back to my friend. They thought he'd dropped them by accident. My friend had no choice but to thank them and recollected the "money". This story became one of our classic Japan trip stories. As we laugh at our own pranky foolishness, we can't help but appreciate the honesty within these Japanese youngsters.
2. Another night in Kyoto, we wanted to visit an Onsen and ended up in a hot bath house. Being the only girl in our group, I was alone in the women’s side. Since I was completely unaware of the culture, and didn’t really speak the language, I felt like a huge idiot being in such a traditionally cultured setting. Expectedly, almost everyone in there were grandmas over 60 years old. They also seemed to all know each other. There was this one particular grandma, who’s probably in her late 80s, seemed like to be the ultimate queen B of the bath house. Upon her presence, all the other grandmas started bowing to her, handing her soaps, and back rubbing her. She was like the boss of the bathhouse grandma gang. I, being the uncultured foreigner, didn’t know any of the rules and was just minding my own business. The queen B grandma immediately came to discipline me. She first told me to not leave the water running and put a bucket below the faucet while washing myself. Then she basically scolded me out of an Onsen and told me to wait for my turn in the sauna house. The entire exchange was so bizarre since I couldn't really understand her. All I figured was that in a traditional setting like this, the elderlies have seniority and should be prioritized before anyone younger. I left the bathhouse feeling ridiculed and totally schooled. Despite the uncomfortable experience I did learn a valuable cultural lesson.
So there you have it, two stories shaping two of the most important values of Japan: to be honest and helpful, and to respect the elderly.
P.S. We never played with the fake bills again after that incident and grandmas will forever be queen Bs in my heart.