Luckily, I was selected to join the JR East Fellowship Program
2009 for studies in signalling and telecommunications
technologies. My visit allowed me to visit several tourist spots
and to get in touch with Japanese culture. On my first day
discipline, restaurants and convenience stores service from
everyone in the airport, train station, built up my excitement
to see the glories of Japan during the next 3 months. My first
smile was for the neatness, which stems from discipline and
role awareness of Japanese people. On top of the technical
knowledge and related railway experience gained from the
Training Program, the field trips allow me to discover beautiful
places with red leaves in the autumn, especially historical
and famous Kyoto, Hiroshima and Nikko. These memorable
places demonstrate the long history of Japanese history,
unique architecture, ancient customs and the cruelty of war.
Of course, every country has a national history, but I strongly
believe visiting historical places a better understanding of
the real spirit more than just learning history at school. At
the weekends, I often took a train to tourist attractions such
as the Imperial Palace, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya and
Akihabara in Tokyo. Amazingly, an industrialized and high
technological nation such as Japan, which has a hurried
lifestyle and acceptance Western culture, still preserves
much of its national culture, especially in dress and food.
The Japanese kimono is delicate with beautiful traditional
patterns and spiritual themes. In the fashionable areas of
Harajuku, Shibuya and Akihabara, many younger people
wear extreme fashion styles often copying manga comic
characters—a trend called cosplay. Another cultural theme
that I could not forget is Japanese cuisine, which is very healthy for health conscious people. I had the opportunity to eat ‘Okonomiyaki’ in Hiroshima and ‘chanko nabe’ after
watching sumo. (It looks like Thai sukiyaki.) Japanese food
used high quality raw materials, with attractive arrangement
and packaging. It is always fresh and healthy with plenty of
fish and soy bean curd (tofu). The packaging is well-known
and attractive so people around the world instantly
recognize Japanese products. I think the traditional and
unique art shows how modern and traditional art can merge
and evolve to match consumer needs. During the short period
that I lived in Japan, I learned a lot from conversation during
meal times on how the food was made and how good the
particular ingredients are for our body. For beverages,
I believe that the sweet smell and taste
of umeshu plum liquor and the astringent taste of green tea are very good for health.
In addition, the celebrated tea ceremony deeply impressed
me. I never had problems with Japanese food because
I like it even though it is not as spicy as Thai food.
Eating plenty of wasabi hot radish with meat was delicious too.
While travelling, I found the Suica pre-paid cash card very
handy for buying goods in stores at train stations and tickets.
As a foreigner with no bank account and monthly allowance
in cash, the card saved me carrying cash around increasing
my security control helping living expenses. Payment by
Suica card reflected the integration of the public transport
system (automatic fare collection system). While travelling,
there were vending machines for foods, drinks and snacks
everywhere. They sold things I had never seen before so I
tried to guess the products from other products that I knew
the machine was selling. It was fun and helped me practice my Japanese reading and understanding.
I spent my first month studying Japanese at OVTA. There
were not only JR East trainees included foreigners who had
to train or work in Japan. I think this is good for foreigners in Japan and is also a strategy to expand Japanese worldwide. It is hard to live in Japan without knowing the language
because it is quite difficult to find goods labelled in English.
Japan seems like a country where people pay attention to
detail and innovation. Examples are electronic buttons in
toilets, advertising TV and catalogues on trains etc.
Looking around, most Japanese women wear cosmetics
unlike in Thailand and Europe where only about 60%
use cosmetics regularly. This observation might reflect
personal attention to beauty and fashion styles in Japan.
Protecting the environment is another key theme that is
being emphasized from the corporate to personal level.
For examples, a lot of Japanese manufacturers make
extra efforts and implement green environment campaigns
through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
programmes by trying to reuse, recycle, reduce waste
products and pollutants from production processes.
At the individual I saw people washing out PET bottles
and removing labels before putting them in the recycle
garbage collection facilities provided by the local government.
I strongly believe Japan became a world leader
based on discipline, spirit and seriousness which
they foster in their children from generation to generation.
Good examples are the orderliness of how people
use escalators and how they react in a disaster,
on escalators, people always stand on the left
to allow people in a hurry to walk past quicker.
On station platforms, people queue in an orderly
manner allowing passengers to get off first.
But despite the serious organized side of Japanese
life, people still like to have boisterous fun at karaoke bars and onsen hot springs.
Despite experiencing the shock of an earthquake and two
typhoons while in Japan, I left the country full of admiration
and with a strong will to visit again and explore the seasons further, especially the cherry blossoms of spring.