Japan 4/26-5/3

I spent six days in Japan running after my dear, energetic friend Reiko through “her city” of Tokyo, through gleaming subway stations, train stations and shopping malls noticing all the fashionably dressed men and women streaming by me. Many Japanese women have a fashion sense not unlike the French, a je ne sais quoi of understated, unadorned elegance, drappier and with more fabric around their narrow waists, but like the French, one has the idea that everything in their closets matches, interrelates in a way nothing does in mine. Their colors seem to be black, gray, white, accented with a dusty rose or pale blue. I guess colors like aqua and orange have been outlawed. Red also seems to have been banned although it is part of their flag. I never saw those colors on anyone in Japan and we traveled from Tokyo to Aomori in the far north for the last of the cherry blossom festivals, then down to Mt. Fuji for a look-see.

Another thing that struck me was that many people, especially service people smile and bow a lot. It is a little disconcerting. We went to a large department store featuring food on their ground floor, about 100,000 different types of Bento Boxes as well as sushi, breads, sweets, teas, etc. We were on our way by train to the south and we hit the store at their opening time 10:00 a.m. Inside the main door were lines of uniformed employees bowing and smiling at us as we hurried past. I felt as if I were royalty being welcomed to Downton Abbey. Do I bow back, acknowledge them with a half smile, wave my upraised hand like the Queen or ignore them and barge on past to do my shopping? I chose to mumble ‘thank you’ as Reiko rushed us by them. It was as disconcerting as having my luggage loaded onto the bus from the airport into the city. The three attendants, bowed as they accepted our luggage, then lined up to bow to the departing bus. Amazing really.

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