Nomadic Gatherings by Michel Guntern
Chapter One: Taking Off - Taking The Train in Japan.
The sleek, streamlined, white and blue bullet drew up casually, like a head waiter in a white tuxedo ready to take an order.
The Hikari Super Express to Hakata; Shinkansen in Japanese, was the 'créme de la créme' of train travel (until the Australians finally produced the Sydney-to-Melbourne-in-three-hours with either French or Japanese consultation). The station platform was neatly marked out with yellow arrows and numbers indicating where the corresponding carriage would stop.
I was in line five; carriages one to five were unreserved. Everyone waited in orderly fashion, even the 'gaijin' (foreigner) could get this one right; unlike washing and rinsing all the soap off before getting in the bath, so hot that you want to dive in a cooler immediately or add just a little cold water; not wearing outside shoes in the house or house-slippers on tatami mats; not wearing house slippers in the toilet, toilet slippers were for that; and not forgetting to change back afterwards!
So much of Japanese life was rules, rituals and ceremony; keeping grace and saving face.
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