These are a few of my favourite things


I caught one of the new Syd­ney buses home to­day — so fresh it still had that dis­tinc­tive smell and not a trace of graf­fiti, slashed up­hol­stery or the usual de­faced win­dows, im­pos­si­ble to see out of. I don’t ex­pect this to last.

I thought of my re­cent trip to Ja­pan where I didn’t see any graf­fiti in Tokyo or Ky­oto, and con­tin­ued to pon­der the cru­cial dif­fer­ences in our cul­tures.

Given the need to get along in such a densely pop­u­lated coun­try, the Ja­panese seem to have mas­tered the art of con­sid­er­a­tion for oth­ers.

There are so many civilised and thought­ful fea­tures of their so­ci­ety that I would love to see adopted in Aus­tralia.

First up would be ban­ning of mo­bile phone con­ver­sa­tions on public trans­port. What bliss it was in Ja­pan not to be as­saulted with deeply per­sonal chats or pos­tur­ing work calls. See what you think about other at­tributes on my list. I would in­clude warm greet­ings and thanks; wabi-sabi, the aes­thetic that val­ues im­per­fec­tion and tran­sience (a great com­fort when house­work gets too much); com­fort- able wait­ing ar­eas in depart­ment stores, which are a bonus for hov­er­ing gen­tle­men who don’t know what to do with them­selves; and clean­ing up your own trays and rub­bish in cafes and on public trans­port. Then there’s iced wa­ter served the mo­ment you sit down in cafes and restau­rants, and bills as soon as you have or­dered, so you don’t have to catch a waiter’s at­ten­tion at the end.

Still with me? Let’s try some more, such as kids in im­mac­u­late school uni­forms (yes, I’ve heard the fash­ion­able ar­gu­ments that uni­forms are ir­rel­e­vant) and a cy­cling cul­ture with­out machismo (you don’t need to wear Ly­cra, go fast or have a fancy bike, just use it to go from A to B — who knew?).

The bul­let trains al­ways ar­rive and de­part on time, car­riages lin­ing up at the des­ig­nated area on the plat­form, so there’s no dart­ing along to look for the right door. There’s ex­cel­lent mar­shalling at events and ex­hi­bi­tions, so you can get in and out with­out frus­tra­tion, and gor­geous mem­o­ra­bilia, even il­lus­trated tick­ets, at cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions.

And, fi­nally, un­like in Aus­tralia, keep­ing those skimpy pole-danc­ing fash­ions for af­ter five, at least.

Tell me I’m dream­ing. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­ Colum­nists re­ceive a hard­back copy of New Zealand Wine by War­ren Mo­ran, a guide to key wine­mak­ers and wine re­gions; $75. More:

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