To Japan After 60 Years
By JOHN M. DERBY,
June 27, 2019
The last time I was in Japan was 60 years
ago, when I was 24 years old, a military correspondent in
the Korean War (conflict).
The military allowed for what they called R & R, or
Rest and Recuperation after a soldier served a certain amount
of time. I was allowed to spend three weeks in Sinjuku,
Now, I was back in the same place and everything had changed.
The hotel I stayed in then had tatami mats and I slept on
the floor. The one I slept in now had beds so small a normal
size person’s feet hang over the edge and one had
to back into the bathroom which was the size of the ones
you would find in a motorhome.
The city was very clean and orderly, and the Japanese were
very polite and most spoke English. That was not the case
60 years ago. Back then, the signs in the subway were all
in Japanese and the crowds were so thick that one had to
be standing in front of the exit just to get off the train.
Now there are different levels of bullet trains waiting
to speed you at over 150 mph to all parts of Japan. There
was one bullet train which reached almost 200 mph, the same
speed which they had predicted for the California bullet
train, when and if it will ever be completed as once expected.
There is a second level of speed and a third level for Japanese
bullet trains traveling at about the same speed, however;
stopping at more stations and taking longer to get from
one city to the next. For that reason they are priced cheaper.
The seats on these trains are ticketed and they are very
There are regular trains for the shorter runs, and they
would be similar to the trains which are run on the BART
commuter lines in San Francisco.
People use the trains; lots of them. The rush hours are
particularly bad. Whole commercial villages are built underground
using the train stations as focal points. These might compare
with some of our malls except they are much larger.
For travelers confused by the train system, there are taxi
cabs, and they are relatively cheap and also abundant. The
price starts at $4, and for under $10, one can ride to almost
any place within one of the districts in Tokyo.
Food is plentiful and reasonably priced, if one does not
go for the most expensive menus. Twenty dollars will get
you a nice dinner, or what they call a “set,”
which includes rice, a salad and the entre.
There are very few fat people in Japan. It could be the
diet of rice and noodles with low meat content, or the amount
of walking the Japanese do on a daily basis. The people
are attractive and women particularly are careful not to
allow the sun to blemish their pearl white skin.
It was surprising to see how many people wore face masks.
Inside a hospital, almost the entire staff wore face masks,
however; people on the trains and buses seemed to be concerned
about the air they breathe. On the world scale, Japan is
not considered one of the more extreme countries for air
As expected, June is the rainy month and most people carried
an umbrella so they were prepared for the sudden downpours
which came and went as fast as the trains.
While Tokyo was somewhat non-descript other than for the
number of high rise buildings, considering the history of
earthquakes, other towns like Kyoto were more traditionally
Japanese and one could go to the old town section and see
many of the Japanese women dressed in their Kimonas. One
had the feeling that the women and men enjoyed their heritage,
and that is why the Japanese spend so much time and energy
maintaining the castles and temples as well as gardens of
their historic past.
The Imperial Palace was a must do stop, as was the National
Imperial Garden, both near the center of Tokyo. Some of
these structures dated back 400 years and were repaired
after World War II.
Of the places I have visited around the world, Japan is
at the top of the list. With English as a second language,
it is easy to get around and not as expensive as the rumors
one hears about the country.