Global Programs Blog


​Garrison Lipscomb (JD '1​​9)
Legal and Internal Audit Department, Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, Japan

“Kon’nichiwa” / Tokyo in Two Words: Clean and Polite (06/24/18)

After being in the air for 13 hours, I landed at Narita Airport (NRT) around 3:00 p.m. local time, Saturday the 23rd. I walked through customs and was pleasantly greeted by one of my colleagues, Fakuda-san. A quick aside: the “san” suffix is a Japanese “honorific” and essentially the English equivalent to “Miss” or “Mister,” thus, Takuya Fukuda, my colleague, is Fukuda-san (Family Name/Last Name + san).

Fakuda-san accompanied me to my lodgings located in the Ota-ku ward of Tokyo and ten minutes walking distance from the Zoshiki train station, which I would quickly come to realize as a crucial advantage going to and from the office. That evening, I joined a group from work for an amazing dinner. All in attendance eased any anxieties I had before heading in for my first day at the office.

My first impressions of Tokyo could easily be summed up in two simple words: clean and polite.

Everywhere was clean. The airport, the streets, the trains, the restrooms, the restaurants, etc., were virtually spotless. Interestingly, there is a noticeable absence of trash cans in most areas along the sidewalks and streets but still no trash. Almost everyone travels with a bag or backpack of some sort and simply carries the trash with them until they dispose of the trash properly.

Additionally, I was taken aback by the politeness of all I have come in contact with. For example, the packed train station, which I assumed would fall into the winner-take-all chaos similar to some of my other public transportation rush hour experiences, was shockingly organized. You get off your train, you move to the back of the line, and you patiently and politely wait your turn.

I spent Sunday getting familiar with the area. I then decided to take a ride to the office to familiarize myself with the train setup and pleasantly missed my stop. It was an easy mistake and one I was glad I did not make my first day heading into work. I took the opportunity to walk around the area near Shinagawa station and then made my way back to the apartment. A mild bit of jet lag caught up to me, but I was excited for my first day at the office.

“Kon’nichiwa” ~ “Hello”

Osaki Bright TowerView from bridge crossing from Osaki Bright Tower to Osaki Station, Shingawa, Tokyo, Japan, 06/25/18
Tamagawa Green SpaceView from the Tamagawa Green Space looking southwest over the Tama River, Ota-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 06/28/18