Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Little Bit About Culture – November 17

And specifically the culture that you can really only experience first hand:

Imagine you lose 60 dollars in Central Park. Like you’re just walking around and pull a tissue out of your pocket and 60 dollars falls out of it and you don’t notice until an hour later. Would you even bother retracing your steps? Would you even think to go back and look – maybe the hundreds of people that have since passed just left that 50 and 10 lying on the ground? Of course not. Central Park is in America. And cash money lying on the ground is totally up for grabs. If you don’t take it – the guy behind you will.

Not in Japan. After Heli lost his Rail Pass (~300usd) and then re-found it in the Tourist Center’s Lost and Found, we had a little bit of confidence that Michael’s 6,000 yen might still be wherever he had lost them. So we did the whole retracing our steps deal and didn’t really find anything. At this point Michael was a bit depressed and neither Heli nor I really knew what to do.

Japan is incredibly expensive you see. And my ATM card decided to not work and Heli had charged all three rail passes to his debit account so neither of us really had any money to offer Michal in condolence. As he went into the information center – totally disheartened – we were ro-sham-bo-ing about who would buy him a beer. It was the least (and the most) we could do for him.

Meanwhile in the information center, Michael is struggling to even communicate with the guards about what he’s looking for and why and who he is and why he’s even there. In a final, vain effort, he pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down 5,000Y and 1,000Y – the two bills that he lost.

The guard’s face lights up and he trots over to a drawer to pull out the two bills, paper clipped together with a note saying that an elderly man had found it and brought it back to the information center. …really?

So then Michael actually bought a round for all of us to celebrate.

And then a few hours later Heli left his calculator at an entrance gate and the woman came running out of her booth after us to return the calculator to him.

And then the next day Heli lost his Rail Pass (again). Let me quickly explain these Rail Passes to you – think of a European Rail Pass – okay and now replace Europe with Japan. Great. Basically, they don’t check ID and it means that you can ride BULLET TRAINS anywhere in the country FOR FREE. It cost 300usd for a seven day pass (which we only used for three days) and we way more than made back our money on it. But if somebody else were to find it, they could just flash it at a gate to get onto the $200 train to Kyoto – the biggest tourist attraction in Japan this time of year.

Our guess was that he dropped it on the floor of the station – because he had it to get into the station but not out of. More out of curiosity than necessity (we had no more use for a pass), we made our last stop on the way back to the ship at that station to see if anybody had returned his pass to the lost and found. Sure enough, we walked in, I held up my pass to show them what we were looking for and they run back and pick up Eli’s. No ID check or anything – in a country built on such honesty and integrity they simply assume that nobody else would try to claim an item that’s not theirs in the Lost and Found.

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