Note: This writeup is written by a young American tourist, on his first visit to another country. I'd really prefer if you think of this node with regards to what it's like to be a tourist, and less about facts, figures, and the not so happy elements of Japan.

We all know (or should know) the basic reason why Japan is cool. They bring us great anime like Gundam Wing, Slayers, Evangelion, Card Captor Sakura, and... well... Pokemon too. They're also huge on video games and electronics, seeing as how Akihabara is the electronics capital of the world. They just plain kickass at construction (this is because they got a lot of practice after the EVIL AMERICANS dropped their EEEVIL BOMB on the Japanese - though it might have saved more lives than it took...). The economy and industry in Japan is booming.

But do you know the little wonders of Japan? The nifty little facets of Japanese life that makes Japan so.. splenderific? I visited Japan for 2 weeks in the spring, but even so, I feel it necessary to act as if I'm an expert. If the US were half as efficient and competent as Japan, we would be a force to be reckoned with. As we are, we're just a country known for Presidential Fellatio (yes, I saw reports on this while I was in Japan).

First of all, the Japanese drive on the left side of the road. The roads are much more narrow than most US roads (except in the boonies and in Hawaii), and the people are VERY crazy when they drive. I began to wonder why my Japanese teacher (who came from Japan) was scared to drive in America when it seems so much deadlier in Japan, and I asked the people I was staying with.

I was shocked to learn that they couldn't make left hand turns (since they're on the left side of the road) at red lights. Somehow, Japanese accidents are much more infrequent than those in America. I attribute this to three factors.

1) If a traffic light is red, you stop. If it's green, you go. There is no decision.

2) Pedestrians truly DO have the right of way. Drivers remain alert because people randomly jump out in the middle of the road.

3) Mirrors.

The mirrors were my favorite part of Japan, and I really feel that the US needs to adopt these. The Japanese have circular mirrors at intersections that curve meniscusly like a lens. These mirrors allow you to see in all directions, even down the road that's at, say, a 30 degree angle with your road. It's the best thing since sliced bread. I've seen several intersections where I live that you're just kind of pulling out into it blindly and hoping that a car isn't coming. With the mirror, you can see it. Why the US doesn't have these is anyone's guess. (I don't know if this is true for every state, but I haven't seen mirrors in Maryland.)

Driving isn't the only transportation improvement. As you may know, Japanese trains are... just... incredibly efficient, and they can take you almost anywhere. But do you know everything about the Japanese trains and train stations?

The seats are orgasmic. Honestly. On many of the trains, the seats are heated, and when you sit down, it makes your butt feel so warm, and since it's so cold outside, it just makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up.

At the train stations, they have Kiosk stands and all kinds of machines. This includes hot chocolate machines, which are incredible. I love hot chocolate. They have bins for empty cans, empty plastics, and other trash. Everyone is talking on a cell phone.

Cell phones have become a rampant fad all over the world, but it hit Japan especially hard. Docomo, I think, is the name of the major phone company. Everyone I saw had a tiny little phone, and they all talked on them all the time. It was great. :)

Each tree alongside the sidewalk had a little can attached to the side of it. People were courteous and put their trash in those as opposed to on the ground. It was the cleanest place I'd ever seen.

Workers are very VERY worky. Especially for foreigners. We walked into stores, and immediately three people would come up to us and offer to help. It was crazy. It was amazing how much English they knew.

Bathrooms, at least at my brother's dorm at Chiba University, were weird. They were about the size of two big people placed side by side, and they were both a toilet and a shower. It was incredibly compact.

Public bathrooms (The Japanese word is otearai, but it was usually in English too as lavatory, though I also remember seeing labatory, which I found amusing.) and restaurants didn't have any napkins. The reason was simple. People stood out on the sidewalks along the street and handed out packages of napkins. These napkins had advertisements on them. It was surprising and brilliant at the same time. I still have some of these napkins in my drawer to remind me.

TV on the whole sucked, but the good programs were REALLY good. The unique thing about Japanese TV was the commercials. They were very fast, and VERY good. They were very memorable, and usually very funny. I still remember a phone company commercial where a girl was swinging a mallet at some giant blocks to get a giant phone down to her level... It was weird, but really funny. Purin purin purin, purin purin purin, burin burin burin..... zurin! (I still don't know what it was advertising, but it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen) The Japanese are masters of onomatopoeia. In commercials that used sex appeal, which were a little rare, usually only for drinks, they used water and rain much more effectively as a sexual stimulant than I've ever seen American commercials do. This last bit is really a personal opinion, but I feel that this is true.

Until I think of something else specifically cool about Japan, this will do. Japan is great on both a grand scale and a small scale... But honestly, I would hate to live there. As great as everything seems to be, all of the people are entirely too serious. I don't understand how such serious people can produce such incredible comedy... I guess it's because they open up in private, and only act really seriously in public. Everyone should go at least once in their life, though. :)