Some time ago a friend asked me: what is it that you like about Japan? At that time I didn’t really know the answer to that question. Nature, culture, friendly people... it sounded like a standard answer that can apply to any country, but that was all I could think of at that moment.
I asked Remy en he gave an answer that - in my view- didn’t make much sense: “in Japan everything is clear. And with the Japanese you know what’s coming.”
I was quite surprised and would argue the opposite. It’s never clear in Japan and with the Japanese you never know what’s coming while I’m in a permanent state of surprise and amazement. My eyebrows reach ever higher heights and I keep picking up my jaw from the floor.
And still... somewhere Remy might have a point. Or does he?
Well, after having cycled twice in Japan, we come to the following conclusion:
Remy was right: you know what to expect from the Japanese. Their punctual and strict. Whatever situation you find yourself in to, they’ll always stay pleasant and polite. And if someone did something wrong in traffic, then both parties apologize. Correction: apologize a couple of times (in the Netherlands you’ll hear ‘hey idiot, can’t you watch where you’re going?!’, in minor cases.
That’s nice. People are not mad so quickly or try not to show it. The atmosphere is harmonious and respectful.
But I was right too: we never stopped wondering or being amazed. Almost nothing goes as planned or expected and were surprised countless times by what we saw or heard, what we had to do or not do. And fair is fair, we did get annoyed sometimes “oh no, typically Japanese.” Sigh....
These two aspects, plus camping wherever and the fact that we felt very safe - as well in traffic as among other people - makes Japan a great country to cycle through for us. Apart from that, the culture and history of Japan is very interesting to us. And Japan is beautiful. The country is nine times the size of the Netherlands, has 127 million people and is three quarters mountainous. The useable areas for living and agriculture is only 10% which makes some cities the most densely populated areas in the world. The non-populated areas are wonderful, but hard to cycle through. The variation between these areas where we wonder or are amazed, is ideal for us.