Anybody wondering exactly how far Japan is ahead of the West should ride the Shinkansen, the bullet train, remembering –soberingly – that it has been in operation for nearly 40 years.
Everything is, without saying, immaculate; the trains shiny white, silent and polished to a gleam. The ticketing operation is flawless, with not just easy and helpful reserved seating, but with conductors who bow, dressed in creamy beige uniforms with gold trim and matching beige shiny patent-leather shoes – the whole snazzy outfit in male and female versions. They know exactly which seats to approach after people have got on and off at the various stops along the line. No, “Tickets, please,” while lurching blindly from seat to seat as they do in the West. Nothing lurches in Japan, even at 200 miles per hour.