The silence hit me like a steam train on my first night in Japan. I could not sleep - it was too quiet. Where was all the noise?
After so much time in Asia and without even noticing it, I had become accustomed to noise at every hour of the day. Where were all the horns, roosters, motorbikes, dogs, karaoke singers and street sounds? I just wasn't prepared for how quiet, clean, punctual and organised Japan would be in comparison.
How is it that Japan is the only country that has embraced the toilet with built-in control panel? After being converted to a heated toilet seat on my first night, it has just gotten better and better. An ordinary public toilet experience today came complete with the following built-in options to enhance the whole experience: heated seat, bidet, spray option, auto flush, toilet seat cleaner, power deodoriser AND a sound effect that mimics a waterfall. Saves embarrassment and lessens the stage fright when toilet sounds break the silence or there is an audience in the queue. I have now seen the light and may never be able to pee with anything less.
The small parts of Tokyo and Yokohama that I have visited so far have been an eclectic and exciting blend of sights but feel like a mere scratch on the surface of this enormous metropolis. It has included narrow streets full of designer boutiques, port side action, noodle-slurping delights, witnessing a traditional wedding at a shrine and the full train commuter experience. I considered leaving a trail of breadcrumbs as I left one station - it was big enough to house a small town, with 13 separate exits.
My rockstar status has completely disappeared. No-one has asked to have their photo taken with me, no-one is staring at me anymore and they insist on having full conversations with me in Japanese (I can't understand a thing but I'm good at nodding and smiling).
When a tiny, older Japanese lady asked ME for directions in one of the gardens I visited, I knew I was no longer the novelty foreigner and had blended in as a local (understandable after four days).
Strangely enough, I was actually able to point her in the right direction, but my laughter broke the silence as she wandered far enough away not to hear.