There are many things I love about Japanese culture. There are three lighthearted aspects of it that consistently entertain me, and I experience them every time I pass through Japan, even if it’s just for an hour long connection:
- Excessive use of “I’m sorry.” For example, I don’t think it’s necessary to apologize when you upgrade me to first class.
- Gratuitous use of the phrase “thank you for waiting.” I’ve been waiting for five seconds, that seems a bit unnecessary.
- And probably my favorite of all is the “galloping.” To express a sense of urgency people tend to fake jog whereby they take 10 steps when they could take just two, even if they’re wearing high heels.
Anyway, I stayed at the Hilton Narita Airport last night as I’m enroute back to the US, and had one of those experiences that’s so uniquely Japanese I have to share it. There was a huge typhoon that hit the area overnight — apparently the worst typhoon to hit Japan in 10 years — so the weather was horrible. There’s a small pond with a tiny waterfall in the interior courtyard of the hotel, and the water in it was literally flying upwards.
Anyway, as a result the airport shuttle was running “a few minutes” late. Of course this was communicated to me with a horrible sense of shame as if they had personally offended me, but sure enough they had a solution. “Please go outside and our staff drive you to the airport in their car.”
I figured I misunderstood him. I mean, surely they weren’t going to have their employees drive us to the airport in their personal cars. Nope, that’s exactly what they were going to do. We headed outside and one of the employees was waiting in his car. It even had a Hello Kitty umbrella in the trunk and a McDonald’s “holder” in the center of the console.
During that short drive he apologized no fewer than eight times and said “thank you for waiting” no fewer than five.
Gosh, I love Japan…