With so many Kiwis heading over to Japan for the World Cup next year, Jeremy Wells, ACC & Hauraki Head G Lane and I were asked by the Great New Zealanders at Tradestaff to reccy the place. Much like Trevor Mallard and Gerry Brownlee we were in Tokyo strictly on business. Nothing but business. Jeez we got a lot of business done.
The greater metropolitan area of Tokyo is home to 38.5 million people. How does someone from a tiny little country like New Zealand get their head around a giant monster like that? I went for a basic word association approach. Here are the first five things that came to mind on the plane ride home.
Cuteness, masks, honking, crime and hot oscillating butt water.
The Japanese love cute things. There are cute images, toys and people everywhere. They have cat, dog and hedgehog cafes so people can hang out and eat with cute things. Everything has a cute mascot. Every digital billboard features cute dinky cartoons. Much of Japanese tv is made up of panel shows. But unlike ours where comedians at desks deliver topical gags. Their panels are full of good-looking people reacting to footage of cute animals. Llamas, sheep, tortoises, guinea pigs. Footage from zoos with human reactions in the corner of the screen. There are also heaps of oddly pervy daytime cartoons. All good stuff.
Half the people on the streets of Tokyo walk around wearing surgical face masks. Initially, I thought it was to protect themselves from catching a disease. It's actually to prevent sharing sickness with others. Wearing a mask all day just to save your fellow citizens from catching your cold is a pretty selfless thing to do. It's got to lower the number of sick days. I reckon bringing this piece of business information back home has more than justified the trip.
Over an entire week in Tokyo, I heard maybe five horn beeps. There are millions of cars but no honking. It's incredible. Everyone is just so friendly, patient and polite. I deserved to be honked at on multiple occasions. But wasn't. We took to the streets in small red go-carts dressed as Mario from the Super Mario Karts video game. The kind of thing that would really fire up drivers back home. We were weaving recklessly between taxis, buses and trucks. No one honked. Except for us. There was a lot of craziness out there but the only time our guide got stressed was when one of us honked our horn. It was just a friendly beep to acknowledge a bunch of people who were waving and staring. The guide was not happy. "No horn, only emergency, no horn," he yelled.
I got chatting to a guy holding a dead cat near Shinjuku station. You can buy beer from vending machines in Japan, so I asked him what's to stop underage kids drinking. The guy told me "because the legal age is 21". I said, "yeah but what's to stop kids drinking". He didn't understand "because the drinking age is 21", he repeated. I explained that if there were beer vending machines on the streets of Auckland every teenager in town would be sniffing around. He said, "Ah yes but Japanese are very honest". They are too. There is very little crime in Japan. No one has to lock their push bikes, there's no graffiti, they display iTunes coupons right by dairy doors and the only thing stopping underage drinking is a rule.
Oscillating butt water
Our New Zealand toilets are embarrassingly primitive. We don't even have robotic arms in the bowl, extending out and firing water up into your business. Which is a pity? It keeps things clean as a whistle down there and it feels great too. A couple of times I blasted myself just for fun. A little refresher in the middle of a day. Not only that. Many toilets in Japan automatically open their lids for you. Some play music too. What are ours doing for us? Nothing.
Tokyo is a great city. Friendly people, great food, amazing infrastructure. Couldn't recommend that place more. If you end up over there for RWC 2019 make sure you take the time to enjoy the cuteness, masks, lack of crime, lack of honking and most of all hot oscillating butt water.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.