By Brian Chernett

Sometimes what we experience falls short of our expectations and we emerge from it disappointed and disillusioned. Sometimes the opposite happens and you want to tell everyone you met. Last week I returned from a holiday in Japan. The visit exceeded my expectations and left me in awe of a country of which I had such different perceptions.

I was particularly impressed by four areas. All of them areas that enhanced my enjoyment of Japan and none of them to do with the scenery or customs that normally attract the attention. All were ‘hygiene factors’ and all of them done well.

They were —

Cleanliness and the absence of rubbish

We were in Japan during a period when millions of children were on school trips and public areas were, as you would expect, very busy. We visited 5 separate places and travelled by train, tram, coach, underground and boat. In all those places, we didn’t see a single piece of rubbish anywhere. If this can be done in a country of 127 million people why can’t we create the same culture?

Politeness

Everywhere we went the service was outstanding and it was a pleasure to be served by a smiling and obviously caring person. The culture of bowing was so nice and was clearly a trained process and was done by everyone.

Smiling people

There was an air of happiness with their lot and, even in Hiroshima, no apparent anger and a feeling of their accepting some of the responsibility of the A Bomb on the behaviour of their national leaders. Every child we spoke to gave the peace sign.

Efficiency

Everything we had done for us was done with unbelievable efficiency. The greatest learning for me was “The Bullet Train” (Shinkansen). This train service of dozens of trains going every 10 to 15 minutes on all lines and travelling at 200 to 300 miles an hour. The drivers were given 8 second leeway on arriving early or late and there has never been a fatal accident due to collision or derailment. The bullet train started over 40 years ago (in 1964) and we are nowhere near achieving this technology. Why haven’t we modelled how they do it?

The on board service is as impressive as the trains themselves. Hot food is delivered to your seat and service is every 30 minutes. Signs and notices are clear. The toilets and floors are meticulously clean.

The experience made me wonder what stories Japanese tourists return to Japan telling about their experiences in the UK. Were their expectations exceeded by the service and the welcome that we offer them? I suspect they were not.

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