No grumpy faces to be found, only joy in Ja­pan

Har­mo­nious liv­ing, fast trains and top tech­nol­ogy

The Rep - - ROUND & ABOUT - CHUX FOURIE

ow would you like to live in a coun­try where the un­em­ploy­ment rate is 2.4% of 127 mil­lion peo­ple, there is no crime, ev­ery­thing is spot­lessly clean, toi­lets are the topic of con­ver­sa­tion with vis­i­tors, trains travel at 380km/h and a bunch of grapes costs the equiv­a­lent of R175?

These are just some of the things Gavin and Karen Coet­zer no­ticed when they re­cently vis­ited their daugh­ter, Tea­gan, and son-in-law, pro­fes­sional rugby player Lionel Cronje, in Ja­pan.

The cou­ple flew from Johannesburg to Nagoya, the near­est ma­jor cen­tre to Nis­shin City, where the Cron­jes live in a dou­ble-storey house right on the street, with­out even a fence.

Karen says the homes are very prac­ti­cal with beau­ti­ful wooden floors and great tech­ni­cal gad­gets – mak­ing ev­ery­thing very prac­ti­cal,

He­spe­cially in the kitchen and bath­room. Every­one leaves their shoes out­side which ob­vi­ates clean­ing and scratch­ing of floors and Lionel’s rugby boots (re­ally ex­pen­sive ones) stay out­side, as does Tea­gan’s bi­cy­cle, their um­brel­las and so on – but no one would think of tak­ing them.

In the kitchen there are three con­tain­ers – for plas­tics, re­cy­clables and burn­ables – and you sep­a­rate your lit­ter into them. Trucks fetch them weekly and have mu­sic play­ing (like the old ice-cream carts) to alert you to the fact that they’re on their way. As a re­sult, you see no lit­ter any­where!

If nec­es­sary, you can take your own refuse to the ecodome, which is like a gi­ant ware­house, beau­ti­fully run and clean. There are no rub­bish bins in streets – peo­ple take their lit­ter home and dis­pose of it there.

If you’re work­ing in the kitchen you can press a but­ton and your bath wa­ter will run, with an in­ter­com telling you when it’s ready. Even though there is an abun­dance of wa­ter, if the bath has cooled by the time you get there, you just press a but­ton and the wa­ter will re­heat.

Karen said they were amazed by the toi­lets. The seats are heated, pow­der and warm air are avail­able at the push of a but­ton and they flush them­selves . . . and pub­lic toi­lets are ex­actly the same and al­ways spot­less.

She said the peo­ple had adopted the con­cept of “har­mo­nious liv­ing” – every­one is re­spect­ful of oth­ers, con­sid­er­ate, dis­ci­plined and po­lite. Ev­ery­thing works as it should, the streets and sta­tions are in­cred­i­bly busy but there is no hoot­ing, ag­gres­sion or swear­ing.

“Lionel chal­lenged us to find a grumpy per­son and in four weeks we hon­estly did not see one. It is re­ally first world – on es­ca­la­tors you stay on the left so that any­one in a hurry can get past on the right. – it’s like Johannesburg on steroids,” she said.

The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple use trains (which in­cludes the many bul­let trains at 380km/h), sub­ways and sky­trains, all of which run ex­actly on time. “They are so punc­tual that if a train is one minute off sched­ule, it is re­ported in news head­lines and pas­sen­gers are is­sued with let­ters of apol­ogy and ex­pla­na­tion in case it makes them late for work.”

Karen said there was con­struc­tion in progress near the Cron­jes’ home (“not that we no­ticed”) and ev­ery week, for the du­ra­tion of the work, they re­ceive a let­ter and a gift to apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience.

“Even with a pop­u­la­tion of 127 mil­lion peo­ple, there is very lit­tle un­em­ploy­ment and every­one, re­gard­less of what they do, does it with pride. Even car guards wear smart uni­forms and take pride in their jobs and help mo­torists,” Karen said.

In­ci­den­tally, you an­gle park in re­verse to­wards the gut­ter so that you can come out for­ward.

Lionel plays pro­fes­sional rugby for a top league club, Toy­ota Verblitz, after be­ing re­cruited by coach Jake White. Many peo­ple are fa­nat­i­cal about rugby so they recog­nise Tea­gan and of­ten give Lionel gifts. Spec­ta­tors are very re­spect­ful of both sides and when there’s a kick for posts, there is ab­so­lute si­lence. Both sides are ap­plauded and at the end the play­ers line up and bow to the The No­tice Board is in­tended to help peo­ple ad­ver­tise events and avoid clashes.

The date, event and venue may ap­pear free of charge for three months, but these de­tails must reach The Rep by mid­day on Mon­days, to ap­pear in that Fri­day’s edi­tion. E-mail [email protected]­soblack­star.co.za or call

045- 839-4040.

Mon­day – Thurs­day Novem­ber 19 –

29: Step­ping Stone fi­nal sum­ma­tive assess­ment.

Fri­day Novem­ber 23: Black Fri­day, spec­ta­tors. In­ci­den­tally, Lionel played against the team with All Black Dan Carter as fly­half, so they got to see him play too.

Tea­gan teaches mostly English at an in­ter­na­tional school to Ja­pa­nese chil­dren and other sec­ond-lan­guage pupils.The Ja­pa­nese gen­er­ally re­gard ed­u­ca­tion as im­por­tant and it is not un­usual to see lit­tle ones go­ing home from school at

7pm.

Are there any draw­backs?

“Well, com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a huge chal­lenge. The peo­ple bend over back­wards to help, but pack­ag­ing is so dif­fer­ent you are never sure what you are buy­ing. The fish is won­der­ful, but most foods are ex­pen­sive – a small­ish melon was

R575.

“The whole trip was spe­cial and such a priv­i­lege and we could ex­pe­ri­ence it to the full thanks to Lionel and Tea­gan. The coun­try is quite con­tra­dic­tory be­cause they still em­brace their an­cient cul­ture and tra­di­tions, yet it is so eco­nom­i­cally and tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced. There are hun­dreds of tem­ples and shrines, yet even the fields and rice pad­dies are well or­dered and struc­tured.

“It was un­for­get­table.” with dis­counted prices at stores through­out SA

Sun­day Novem­ber 25: Daily Dis­patch/SPAR Sum­mer Fun Run and walk, Ori­ent Pool, 9am.

Mon­day Novem­ber 26: Ma­tric ex­ams end; QCOBA tie and badge cer­e­mony, Queen’s Hall, mid­day; Bal­moral ex­ams start.

Thurs­day Novem­ber 29: Step­ping Stone grade 7 farewell as­sem­bly; auc­tion of re­dun­dant mu­nic­i­pal as­sets, mu­nic­i­pal stores, New Street, 9am; Pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion meet­ing on air qual­ity man­age­ment plan, Pub­lic Works Hall, Ko­mani Hos­pi­tal of­fice block, 8.30am.

Fri­day Novem­ber 30: as­sem­bly, 11.15am.

Satur­day De­cem­ber 1: Bal­moral fi­nal Bal­moral Christ­mas mar­ket. Wed­nes­day De­cem­ber 12: close.

Sun­day De­cem­ber 16: Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Tues­day De­cem­ber 25: Day.

Wed­nes­day De­cem­ber 26: Good­will.

Thurs­day Jan­uary 1: Schools Day of Christ­mas Day of New Year’s Day.

JOHANNESBURG ON STEROIDS: Gavin and Karen Coet­zer and Tea­gan and Lionel Cronje at the Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios in Osaka – some­thing like Dis­ney World – which they toured, en­joy­ing all the rides

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