A Stranger in a Friendly Land

Today during our bus ride our team brainstormed some of the things that surprised us about Japan. I offered my observation that the entire country must be suffering from undiagnosed dehydration as nobody drinks water (mizu). My frequent requests for water have been the object of much amusement to my hosts and are always accompanied by a look of amazement. As the Japanese are among the healthiest (if not the healthiest) people in the world they must be doing something right, but I’ve felt like I’ve been dying of thirst for most of this trip.

I had always considered the Japanese to be at the forefront of technology. Although it might be different when I visit Tokyo, I have yet to see anybody with any of the newer versions of PDA’s such as Blackberry’s or Treo’s, and observed the first user of a Bluetooth headpiece only today. Almost none of the homes have Internet access, and iPods, so ubiquitous in America, are not prominent here.

Another surprise: coffee has also replaced tea for many people as the morning drink. I expected to be in green tea heaven in Japan, but most of my hosts have brewed coffee in the morning. Even a few coffee shops in Morioka did not sell Japanese tea (Nihon ocha). Since it’s such a staple drink, however, many stores or tourist sights will offer it for free, so I come out way ahead—in the states I’d be paying $3.00 for a cup of tea at Starbucks.