Being German I naturally pride myself of belonging to a nation that can organise things. In fact, in line with German modesty, I always thought we were the world champion in getting things done. Not necessarily the best in everything (just most things), but the best overall. Now, Japan puts a serious dent into my patriotic pride. Let’s play a little competition encompassing three disciplines: airport arrival process, train travel, hotel check-out (very appropriate to the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics).

Shinkansen – a valuable player in the Japanese team.

Let’s start with our arrival process in Tokyo’s Narita airport: my expectation was to see millions of little, hectic people running around nervously, an hour wait at immigration and some more thirty minutes at the baggage claim. Very far from the truth: everything was super relaxed, there was no wait at the approximately 20 open immigration counters and when we reached the baggage claim our bags trundled already on the conveyor belt. I don’t even want to compare this experience with Munich’s airport. Certainly a 1:0 Japan. In fact, even better: I don’t know how you feel about people’s behaviour around the baggage claims. I for myself am always surprised why people think that standing as close to the conveyor belt as possible, ideally with a trolley between themselves and the conveyor belt, is a good idea. If I am honest, it is usually one of these situations where I wish that Q had equipped myself with a vaporising wrist watch that I could point at these idiots and turn them into dust. No need for that in Narita: people waited calmly a couple of meters away from the claims area – this, unfortunately, puts Japan in the lead 2:0. Only 60 minutes into the game.

Next part: train travel. Step one: ticket acquisition. When we arrived at the railway ticket office I thought: bugger! There were at least 15 people ahead of me. Despite the fact that the single queue was served by 6 counters (this could be the 3:0 for Japan: I have a really hard time with these individual queues in Germany where just the queue selection process requires supernatural abilities to detect whether the dork factor in a queue might lead to an extended processing time and thus to a longer wait. But I make this a near miss – Germany should have a chance in the game) I expected at least a 30 minute wait time. Boy, was I surprised when just a few minutes later I talked to a clerk sorting out our seat reservations for our two journeys consisting of 2 legs each. And my surprise increased when the chap, with just a few clicks on this screen, handed me the tickets in virtually no time without a typing orgy. Deadly. Japan scores again: 3:0.

That the Shinkansen is a superb train is not really a surprise. I would see the Shinkansen, the French TGV and the German ICE as THE trains in the world. So I expected no advantage for Japan here. Wrong, unfortunately. A lethal counterattack of the Japanese strikers led to another goal for Japan: 4:0. See for yourself:

Row after row
It would be so nice if our family of four could sit facing each other.
What hey – wait: what’s this?
Family seating
Bingo. No chance for the German keeper. They’ve done it again.


Annotation: the air conditioning in the Shinkansen works. Outside temperature approximately 34° Celsius. But I’m sure they fixed that in the ICE. Didn’t they?

Final discipline: hotel check-out. Not necessarily Germany’s strength, admittedly. But, they’re still doing okay compared to Great Britain or the US, where receptionists usually take about 25 minutes to get the bill printed displaying obvious signs of cluelessness when operating the reception computer (they’re doing ok on the smart phone typing messages to their mates, though). This morning it took me less than 2 minutes to get the bill (correct) printed and pay. Sneaky bastards. That’s the 5:0 in the last minute of the game.

Pooh. That’s a tough nut to crack. But we still have the better pretzels in Germany. Take that. (Even the beer is good in Japan).