Japan has a well-tempered travel culture, thank goodness, because tourism is soaring. Travel elicits curiosity and wonder, and emphasizes our mutual interdependence. If we can treat everyone equally in public travel spaces, and honor each person’s value and dignity, we are on our way to a better quality of life and facilitating stronger global citizenship. Japan has a good blueprint for treating everyone like we deserve to be treated, like we’re one big human family.
Japan’s traffic system is one of the safer systems in the world. The photo below shows a few reasons why. The intersection has huge crosswalks, and the stop bar on the street lane is way behind the crosswalk. This creates space for pedestrians. There is no left turn on red in Japan (the U.S.A.’s equivalent of right turn on red), and that reduces possibility for conflict and eases pressure on people walking. The sight lines at this intersection are open, too, so there is good visibility for all users. The light gives a pedestrian signal automatically, so no one has to push a button. The speed limits are also very low (30-40 kph, or 18-25 mph) to increase safety for all.
Safe streets and lots of good transportation choices makes it easy to relax and access all the good amenities a given place has to offer. In the the shopping district in Komyoike, where Mai’s parents live, we encountered this country western line dancing gig. It was cool, upbeat, friendly.
I really love the contrasts and continuity in Japan between historical and present culture. We went to an Ikebana (art of flower arranging) exhibition in downtown Osaka, and saw this shrine on a rooftop pictured in the photo above. The photo below is of Osaka’s famous walking mall.
In Japan people are walking everywhere so you get used to it. Crosswalks, like the one below in Komyoike, are clearly marked and signed. And the neighborhoods in the newer suburbs have dedicated pathways, mostly off street, to connect to markets, work, parks, schools, and transit.
It’s not all about infrastructure for sure. Many towns and streets were laid out and built a long time ago, and the car was introduced later. This is where manners and respect is even more important. The street pictured below is definitely a “yield street”. I bicycled this street several times. There is a transit stop on the left. People get off the bus and walk on the street. Bicycles and cars yield to pedestrians and share the road. There are also other hazards you can see, like open drainage and telephone poles on the side of the road. These close quarters cultivate cautious users and a culture of sharing! Courtesy, respect and skills guard our dignity. Japanese cars are smaller, and pedestrian safety measures are designed into the vehicle.
I experienced travel in Japan from many perspectives, by foot, bicycle, train, plane, automobile, bus, subway. They were all valuable experiences. Cycling was a special joy. The vending machines in Japan are so well positioned, just where I needed them on excursions. Some machines offer an hot espresso drink, hot or cold, at the base of a long mountain climb. Thoughtful touches for travelers in Japan make it welcoming, rewarding and inspiring!