Wednesday, April 7, 2010

#19: Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

One of my favorite Sakura trees in our neighborhood. Pic taken 2008

We left for Indonesia and China on Friday, March 19th and the cherry blossoms ("sakura" in japanese) were still tucked away in the buds. When we returned on April 1st they were in full bloom here in Tokyo! Their beauty is breathtaking to me. I could stare at them for hours.

This is our third Sakura season. During Sakura '08 it was just Jason and myself. Sakura '09 I was 9 months pregnant making us 2.5. Finally, Sakura 2010 there is three! Jason, myself, and our beautiful baby boy, Deacon who will be one year old on the 15th of this month! Is that for real?

I will greatly miss the cherry trees of Japan. I know there are cherry trees in the US but it's just not the same. The Japanese gather friends, and food, and booze and sit underneath the trees enjoying the beauty and taking in the nature. There is even a word for this experience... ohanami. I think literally translated it means to view the flowers. (Japanese speakers please correct me on this if I'm wrong.) I will miss the picnics and the time spent with friends underneath these trees. It's not only about the blooming of the flower but also what this time of year seems to do to this culture. Like the blossoms, people seem to open up a little more themselves.

Jason and me in Ueno Park. Sakura '08

Jason and me and baby in Naka-Meguro. 2009

This is a cherry blossom tree outside of our school. This pic was taken 2009.

View of the Sakura trees in Naka-Meguro this year, 2010.

Jason and me in Naka-Meguro 2010 and Deacon asleep in the stroller.

The Kuiper Fam in Yokohama 2010!

Monday, April 5, 2010

#20: Customer Service

Our recent trip to China has made me VERY aware of the next item on my list of things I will miss about Japan...FABULOUS customer service. I mean simply awesome! Yes, of course, there is the occasional establishment that makes me frustrated but our experience, as a whole, has shown us that Japan takes care of their customers. Let me give you an example, our friend told us this story about a year ago. He and his family had order McDonald's for take out. They got their food home and realized they didn't have their french fries. My friend called McDonald's and told them they had forgotten the fries. After numerous apologies on the phone a McDonald's employee then DROVE the fries to my friend's house! This is good customer service! Stories like this are not the exception but the rule.

I will greatly miss the customer service here. Another small example, when you leave a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) they will sometimes come outside to wave, bow, and see you off until you are out of site. When Jason took a trip with the school down to Kyushu there were several staff members of the hotel where they were staying lined up waiting outside to greet the buses as they pulled into the establishment. You are always greeted when you enter a store and always thanked when you leave a store....even if you didn't buy anything.

Also, when unexpected things happen such as a poopy diaper explosion on an airplane seconds before take-off they react with patience, kindness, and a desire to help in any way they can.

If you have to wait in line to give your order or check out at a register, you are apologized to for having to wait. And if you have to wait for a little longer than the norm (about 3-5 minutes) they apologize for the hard wait you had to endure...seriously, they say Japanese, of course. Sometimes we get a waiter that bows to us before he takes our order (kinda like a greeting) and after he takes it before he walks away and this is at a cheap restaurant.

Requests from customers is expected unlike in the US when you feel like you almost have to apologize for asking the staff to help you with something.

We were talking to some people from the Netherlands when we were in Indonesia and they had lived in the states for a time and they said that the US had very good customer service and I thought to myself, "Have you ever been to Japan? Because if you had, you wouldn't be saying such things."