Cultural practices were on display in several ways. Men have the priority on seating when the train is crowded--often. Younger women didn't look for a seat in front of a man. One man immediately got up to give me his seat and another offered but I was only riding one stop and we were halfway there. Many times I stood while young men were seated near me. The benefit was that when I got home my balance had improved!
Japanese style inns--ryokans advertise the experience of sleeping on a mat on a tatami floor mat. We did that at my friend's home--very thin mats. The two places I stayed where we had them the bedding was similar. The photograph you may recognize is at the monastery. The bedding on our Japanese-style beds at our ryokan in Takayama in the mountains was similar. However, those beds were on low box springs making them very comfortable and easier to get in and out of. I was glad I chose a bunk bed in a guest house rather than a mat on a tatami floor in a Japanese-style hostel. Those were usually more expensive too.
No shoes are to be worn or even touch the tatami floor mats. My friends had to sign a lease that said that shoes would stay in the entry way. No shoes are to be worn in their home ever!
Some of the various snack shops on the train line waiting areas stock bento boxes--cold dinners of Japanese food. I saw business men in the train eating prepared dinners but didn't realize how easy they were to obtain at first. Larger shops in the big train stations--Nagoya, Kyoto, and bigger ones in Tokyo have them too, but they are easy to purchase just prior to boarding the train. Sometimes the train's drink and snack trolley got to my car in time to purchase something, but they didn't carry the box meals. In the photo below you can see the drink machine in the background and the snack shop is right there.
Most bento box meals featured rice. Usually there was raw fish--some recognizable, some not. The rest of what was in the box wasn't recognizable unless there was tofu. Lots of gelatin squares were in desserts and once I had what seemed to be raspberry gelatin squares that must have been meant to be dessert. My friend always had brown rice (much preferably to the globs of white), roasted veggies and other leftovers in the refrigerator but I often hadn't stopped mid-day to eat so eating on the train was my late lunch.
I found the Japanese to either ignore me or on a few occasions to be almost overly helpful. One such occasion was when I reached the train platform number where my train would arrive and a train had just pulled up. I was trying to be sure it was my Hikari before trying to reach the unreserved cars before it left. A middle-aged Japanese businessman, the only time this happened, asked what I needed. I'd determined it was my train but was standing in front of car 13. Cars 1 - 5 were those for people without reservations and many trains don't stop longer than for those getting off and those ready to get on. I said I was wondering whether I had time to reach the unreserved car. He motioned for me to follow him and led me down the platform to car five and watched me get in just before the train pulled away. While I could have done that without him and was uncomfortable that he took time to do this, he allowed me to get through various groups of people more quickly because they moved aside for him or he pushed on through. They wouldn't have moved aside for me so I likely caught that train with his help. In a couple of other similar situations, I walked through reserved cars to an unreserved one, once arriving at my car with the train beginning to move. I could always have a reserved seat but the time it took to find and stand in line in the JR ticket office wasn't always worth it. I'll end this for now and talk about clothing in another post.
Above, Nagoya from the train platform and to the left part of the daily walk to the subway station pictured at the beginning of this post.