In addition to being a reasonably upstanding tourist, I have been known to fall in with a crowd of international misfits and ne’er-do-wells usually referred by their vulgar name, “backpackers.” While sometimes thought of as an Australian phenomenon, they do in fact originate from points around the globe, including the US of A. In fact, I’ve met two other Americans in less than three weeks here in Japan. When trying to locate some backpackers, note that they tend to congregate in major cities where there is beer. The “A Bar” in Kyoto is a classic ex-pat sort of bar/restaurant, with a warm, friendly, laid-back atmosphere, Guinness, sake, and good, inexpensive food. If it had Beer Lao, I expect that some among us might never go home. They must have contacted the Lonely Planet to announce their existence, because they’re tucked away at the end of a long hallway on the second floor of a building on a very narrow side-street in Gion, and there’s no sign. Fortunately for us, the Irish among us sniffed them out.
Even though there’s hardly room to park, I expect that many Japanese people are no different from any other gear-heads in their love for the automobile. Here are a couple of home-grown, but clearly respectable examples. I don’t believe this should be referred to as simply a motorcycle. And this, even though it appears to have been manufactured by Mitsubishi, and has some very unorthodox, and not quite flat, “flat-fenders,” appears to be a post-war, occupation-era, Japanese CJ-3A Jeep, not that I would have thought such a thing existed.
Regardless of the ex-pat bars, the choppers, or the Mitsubishi flat-fender, I must constantly remind myself that I’m a guest in a foreign country. Even though people here are incredibly kind and helpful, not only when one hypothetically leaves his large backpack full of clothing and such on a train bound for some distant destination [the small one with the important stuff being of course glued to him], but also in normal every-day circumstances and confusion, it pays to be on the lookout and follow local protocols wherever possible. Because, as this sign so clearly states, if you run in the subway, they cut of your arms.