Convenience Stores & Slippers
We are home and just about over the jet lag which lasted much longer than I was expecting. My sleep patterns simply refuse to slide back into place. By 4pm (midnight Japanese time) I am exhausted, and by 8pm I literally cannot stay awake! At 4am I am wide awake and ready to face a world, which for the most part (at least around me) is still asleep! When we finally get to France this will be 5am.
Trees are pruned like this all over Japan.
To round off our trip I thought that I would reflect on some of our experiences and illustrate the post with some of the photographs which didn’t reach the blog. Whilst blogging ‘on the run’ the only photographs I had available were those taken on my Ipad, which didn’t always reflect the stunning scenery.
Decor in and around a local restaurant.
Japan has an extensive network of convenience stores. Just in Tom’s very small town/village there are about six, the biggest of which are the Family Mart, The Co-op, and the 7/11. There is also a small supermarket and 100Yen shop. This is repeated a few km away, in the next village.
I remember when growing up (over 50 years ago) on the edge of a small valleys town that almost every street would have a small shop. These were very expensive, but saved the bus journey or walk into town.
In my experience in the UK convenience stores have tended to be significantly more expensive than a supermarket, but win out in that they are…convenient.In recent years the large supermarket chains have opened smaller satellite stores.
In Japan the convenience stores didn’t seem to be very much more expensive, and had an excellent range of fresh food. The convenience store is also the home to ATM’s, photocopying facilities and a refuge for lost or scared children, or indeed adults. The idea is that someone in distress goes there and they undertake to look after the person and alert the police or some other agency.
Although in the Japanese supermarket the range is obviously bigger it isn’t necessarily cheaper, and in some cases are more expensive.
In Japan the wearing of indoor shoes or slippers is culturally very important, and in keeping with tradition we obviously fitted in with this. Japan is a very formal society and in most Japanese homes and schools (and Tom’s is no exception) there is an entrance with a larger than usual step up into the hallway. All outside shoes are left at this lower level and slippers, or at a pinch just socks are worn in the house and particularly on any tatami mats. In the traditional Japanese ryokan hotels this was also the case and slippers were provided to wear inside the hotel and not just in the bedrooms. At Tom’s schools slippers or indoor shoes were necessary and there were even outside areas which were deemed ‘inside’ for slipper wearing purposes!
To add to this a different set of slippers are provided for people to change into as they enter toilet areas, which are deemed unclean, although in our experience every toilet we used was spotlessly clean! Just after he arrived a female Japanese friend visited Tom and informed him that she wouldn’t be able to use the toilet unless separate slippers were available.
He bought slippers…