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posted Nov 30, 2011, 10:56 PM by Gilles Depardieu   [ updated Mar 15, 2013, 8:12 PM ]
"What the Japanese hate most is improvisation" The Japanese Chronicles, 1956, By Nicolas Bouvier

I didn't expect this remark by the prominent Swiss travel writer to be so true, especially after more than 50 years of Japan relative exposure to the outside world. Expelling surprise from their lives is still a cornerstone of Japanese psyche. In Hiroshima restaurants or in Shinjuku love hotels, I felt I was rejected because I was a foreigner. "It's full", they said, or, "It's not yet open", even though it was seldom true, I could see by the number of clients inside. 
At first, these answers used to put me into a powerless rage. At these moments, I could not stand Japan and the Japaneses, their pride in being the purest ethnical country in the world, their cultured inability to speak foreign languages...
But later, a French expat in Tokyo asked me: - Do you speak Japanese?
- No
- You see, I speak Japanese, hotels and restaurants always welcome me, and do their maximum to please me as a guest.
- So they hate people not speaking their language...
- Not at all. They are perfectionist. As they don't speak English themselves and they are used to give an excellent service to their clients, they don't want to risk to displease you.
- But they are displeasing me by rejecting me from everywhere! I don't want to starve or sleep in the streets.... All I see is that they don't want to lose face
- I don't see it your way. But why do you go to love hotels?
- Do you know any other hotel in Tokyo with rooms under 100 Euro a night?

Later in an amazing small French restaurant in Kyoto, or in the train to Mount Aso volcano on Kyushu island, I started to appreciate the Japanese humble but rock-solid hospitality. I have never been in a country where train controllers are so polite, where retired people clean the streets for free.
In my view, Japan is the "perfect country".  Large cities and subways are of course crowded, but there are no hassle or bad smells (except ours). Countryside landscapes are even neater than in Switzerland. Locals are eager, although often unable, to help.

Photos: Mount Aso, 
List of rooms in a Shinjuku love hotel, 
A voluntary cleaner,  
Kyoto imperial palace