When Traveling In Europe, Follow the Rising Sun by Robert A. Kendrick

The Japanese are an ingenious and industrious people – worthy of admiration. We can’t help but recognize their accomplishments in auto manufacturing and electronics, in which they currently appear to have outdistanced the rest of the world. But, TRAVEL is where the Japanese are truly in a league of their own – they have no equal! Each mega tour group company in Japan duels with the other to uncover the Best of Europe. Every inch of Western Europe, in particular, has been scoured and dissected. And don’t think that the Japanese tour buses are parked only at the most touristy and tackiest of places. If the Japanese are looking for the genuine article, they will find it – guaranteed.

If you happen to be touring a sight and the all too familiar buses pull up, any possibility of tranquility will be lost. But, don’t be annoyed. Recall that the mere presence of Japanese tourists indicates that you are at a sight worth seeing. Your travel planning expertise has been instantly confirmed.

Not surprisingly, Japanese society and predispositions come along for the ride. The Japanese are conspicuously different from the rest of us as evidenced by their intensely inquisitive nature, more formalized dress, and proliferation of cameras.

Japanese tourists are incredibly curious about Western civilization. In museums, palaces and the other great structures of Europe, Japanese tour groups move about like tightly-knit squadrons, with children and grandparents in tow, always led by a lecturer. They mean business and are eager to learn. Quite dissimilar from most non-Japanese visitors who quickly shuffle from room to room, content in many cases to be without an audio guide, let alone a lecturer, only faintly aware of what they are seeing, mouth open with a blank stare. Yes, we can learn a thing or two from these Japanese!
The Japanese are never purposefully rude but are almost always wholly indifferent to everyone else. This can lead to some frustration. Take note that if you are hoping to view the same object in a museum or enjoy the identical spectacular outside scene, it’s best to steer a clear path away.

Regardless of the place being visited, Japanese tourists never venture far from their tour bus. Always wearing stylish clothes, looking as if planning to attend a concert or other public event, and without proper footwear for a good hike, they appear particularly ill-equipped in the mountains or any place which is both outdoors and outside of the city. Nevertheless, the Japanese present a refreshing contrast to the Western informality of gaudy tee shirts and thread-worn jeans.
Cameras are, of course, always present and their use by each and every Japanese tourist is agonizingly predictable. The normally famous and recognizable European sight is forever in the background of the photograph, decidedly less important than the foreground where the Japanese place themselves. Cameras are traded with each other in a ritualistic fashion so that each individual has a personal digital memory of the visit. Every traveler must return to Japan with photograph after photograph proving that “I was there”.
Don’t be concerned about being in the way when photographs are taken. Proceed ahead because your polite waiting will not be acknowledged. You see, the typical Japanese tourist is so used to the presence of crowds that from their perspective a photograph is unlikely to be ruined merely because an unknown person appears in view.

Why then do the Japanese segregate themselves from the European population by insisting upon group tour sightseeing? The answer lies undoubtedly in the fact that the islands of Japan were for centuries remarkably isolated from the rest of the world – geographically and culturally. Consider also that the rather obscure Japanese language contains fundamental differences from its Western counterparts.

English is the world’s “second” language. Tourists who are able to speak rudimentary English can confidently travel throughout Europe, knowing that English will be spoken by those who serve and greet them in almost every public place and circumstance. This is not so with the Japanese, where English is spoken by only a small fraction of the population. Those of us whose native language just happens to be Englishare are fortunate, not because we are more clever, but for the simple reason that we can be more lazy about trying to communicate.

And here is where these very formidable Japanese tourists stumble. Because they are unable to speak either English, or the language of the country being visited, they are forced to travel Europe shackled together and secluded from everyone else. So it appears that regardless of all their incredible skills in determining where to travel, the Japanese haven’t developed skills of how to travel. Collectively imprisoned in a rolling metal box, they are doomed to experience Europe and other continents solely by group tour.
If only more Japanese could speak English, certainly they would abandon their tour groups, travel independently in Europe , and not only communicate with the indigenous population but free themselves to visit places and do things chosen by themselves, rather than through the consensus of mega tour promoters.

The Chinese are said to be energetically learning English. English is the common language of India. Is it possible that the two most populous countries in the world will soon be able to value travel as much as the Japanese do? If so, you had better plan a trip to Europe soon – while there’s still room.