This month I happened to spend more time traveling than in Japan. And while I would like to tell you more stories about life in Japan, at the moment it seems somewhat distant even for me. Twelve hours to the East and back, twelve hours to the West and back and your body is having hard time trying to identify in which time zone you should end up eventually.
Travel stories would be nice, you say, except that when it is about work, the itinerary is often limited to airport – hotel – office – and back, all in not so picturesque locations and more often than not quite far away from the scenic routes. On the other hand, it is not about places, but rather about people, quick “catch-up” coffees somewhere in between the meetings and other ones postponed until the next time…
But, let’s use the occasion and talk a bit about…traveling.
If you wanted to do it in a proper Japanese way, that is relatively simple as all you need to do is to get a guide, study it and follow!
You have understood by now that Japanese culture is inseparable from clear rules and instructions. The same applies to traveling. You would be surprised how detailed some travel guides can be, even listing (with photos) what to buy as gifts at Monoprix (a famous supermarket chain in France)!
As for traveling itself, they would explain it differently: once you studied the guide up front, you do not have to waste time at your destination and can head directly to the right spots to take pictures and to do all the planned shopping. So, if you happen to be in tourism business and want to attract Japanese visitors, all you have to do is to get a good coverage in a Japanese tourist guide. Improvisation, random chance and serendipity rarely exist in the Japanese world.
Once, when still in Paris I had Japanese friends visiting and promised to show them around. Knowing all the “according to the guide” stuff, I decided to test some places in advance myself and so I ended up queuing for a coffee and dessert at Angelina. In case you do not know, it is a famous spot for coffee, desserts and especially hot chocolate at the heart of Rue de Rivoli.
I was patiently waiting, the queue was slowly moving. Behind me a man was talking with a little girl, seemingly on a “father-daughter” day out. Nearby, a group of tourists were discussing which desserts they should choose at the shop corner. People at the tables were taking their time to talk and enjoy the food and atmosphere. When my turn came, the waitress looked around for the table and asked:
- “You are all three together, right?”
To make a long story short, following the guide may not be a bad idea, but… if you are looking for a good dessert in Paris, better go for Saint-Honoré Rose Framboise at Ladurée Champs-Élysées 😉
Je m’baladais sur l’avenue, le cœur ouvert á l’inconnu*… (Joe Dassin)
*I have walked along the avenue, my heart open for the unknown…