I’m completely overwhelmed by the politeness of the Japanese people. Every encounter is heavily punctuated by smiling,bowing and liberal thank yous (arigatou gozaimasu). It’s a very pleasant experience – one I could get used to. Likewise the cleanliness. There seem to be armies of people on duty in public places ensuring the highest standards of hygeine. In Kyoto station there is someone whose job appears to consist of wiping down the handrails on all the escalators.
Another more unsettling manifestation of the Japanese proocupation with hygeine is the use of surgical face masks. At first I thought there had been an outbreak of SARS that had passed me by but it transpires that people wear facemasks when they have a cold to avoid passing infection on.