Japan has a major public relations problem.
Yesterday, an article in the Guardian titled "Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?" made its way around the highbrow social circles of the internet. Then there's the continued fallout from Japan's two-year-old nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, which continues to present problems of epic proportions. There's also the issue of the Japanese economy, which people love to refer to with negative terms like "The Lost Decades," despite the fact that things in Japan appear to be rosier than they are in many other places. Finally, on the foreign policy front, Japan's problems with China and Russia continue to be a source of international tensions.
But Japan is awesome. Really awesome. And it doesn't deserve this negative press, when Japan has solved many of the problems that plague us every day. Here are some things that I love about Japan.
Japan has the lowest crime rate, by far, of any country on earth. This leads to a significantly higher quality of life than one would have elsewhere. Whether you're going home by yourself late at night or traveling to a rural place alone, you feel incredibly safe in Japan. No place is perfect, but in this respect, Japan comes as close to perfection as anything I have ever experienced.
Japan's system of public transportation is nothing short of incredible. In San Francisco, people complain that a propensity for earthquakes and a seaside locale has prevented the city from building an extensive underground transportation system. I actually believed this was true... until I visited Japan, where every city has incredible public transportation, typically in the form of subways, despite being close to the water and in earthquake-prone zones. Japan also has bullet trains that make it easy as pie to travel between Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities. And domestic air travel is a breeze. The country's low crime rate means that domestic airports are similar to what American airports were like pre-9/11, with very few security checkpoints. Also, in New York, I am used to being barrelled over by SDPs (Seriously Disgusting People) whenever I am on the subway. In Japan, there is tons of order. People wait in two places to board the next subway — in one line that guarantees you will get on the next train, or a second place that guarantees you a seat on the second train (that typically comes just two minutes later)!
Whether I am handing money to a cashier at 7-11, getting served dinner at an izakaya, or asking for assistance at the train station, in Japan, I was treated with respect and everything operated with incredible efficiency. Last year, I wrote an article for PolicyMic about the drawbacks of a tip-based culture, and I acknowledged that in Europe service is restaurants is inferior because of a lack of tips. However, Japan provided me with service that was superior to that of any American restaurant, because people take pride in their work. After eating approximately 30 meals at restaurants, I had not one complaint.
Yes, I will say more. Every restroom in Japan is incredibly clean. True story: I didn't even consider building a nest when going #2!
With vending machines everywhere, one never has to worry about getting a nice cold coffee or tea for little more than $1.
You may say, "I live in New York and we have the world's best food." I don't think that's true. Sorry broseph, but in New York, lots of the food isn't fresh. In Tokyo, you have the Tsukiji Market in your backyard. I ate many of the best meals of my life in Japan. And they were super healthy too. Three words: Sushi. Sushi. Sushi.
Yes, I love Japan for all of the above reasons and many more. Any Guardian readers who doubt it would do well to visit the country and see for themselves.