28 August, 2009

The joy of hospitality and pondering parking habits

Today we have some friends coming over for dinner - actually it is 'bring and share', but this morning when I dropped into the grocery store, to buy a couple of extra things to help us through the weekend, I realised that I had guests coming (amazing, what you figure out!). That meant that I needed to cook something for them. Now this sounds like an imposition, but actually it has been ages since we've been settled enough to have visitors. The last visitors we had for a meal brought their own food! So, as I happen to love cooking (especially desserts), it was an exciting thought. So, I've made mini Pavlovas (like meringue for those non-Aussies who frequently this blog). And we're anticipating their arrival with joy. The other thing I've been meaning to write about is wide Australian roads and the habit we Aussies have of parking along the side of them. We just take it for granted. I remember my grandfather, who lived his whole working life on the farm, commenting about how inconvenient the town's new shopping centre was - that you couldn't get a park directly outside the exact shop you were patronising!
In Japan you definitely do not take it for granted. Putting your car some place when you go somewhere is something you often have to plan for before hand. One of the questions we answered for people who were coming over for a meal when we lived in Tokyo was, "Where shall we put our car?" (Or "How do we get there on foot from the railway station?") The majority of roads do not have room for a car to be parked as well as for cars to drive. This used to make me feel quite claustrophobic. When I went out driving, I couldn't just put my car wherever, I had to plan. For example, CAJ had a carpark, but occasionally there would be no park available (it is pretty small). What to do then? Park illegally on the side of a nearby road (where there was a little room) or use expensive paid-car park (20 minutes for $1.50)? Below you can see one particular road close to our house in Tokyo. The photo was taken from the passenger seat of our car. It is a two-way road and the car on the other side is as far over as it could be. Somehow we made it through this tight squeeze and many others! Thankfully the speed limits are low. There is no way to drive at more than 10 or 20 km/hr on these skinny roads. Buildings butt straight onto the road and there is no visibility at intersections until you are basically into the intersection unless the council put a useful traffic mirror up (and there are many of these - see the photo below). There are many more things I could write about Japanese roads. Like the lack of roundabouts and therefore many traffic lights. Like having to problem solve your way through situations when several cars meet in a place where only one car can pass at a time. But this post has gone on long enough. I'll save it for anther day.


Anonymous said...

This helps me to be thankful that I'm learning to drive in Australia, not Japan.

Melissa said...

Hi Wendy The mini pavolvas were excellent. I really enjoyed catching up with you again. Thanks for showing me the wedding photos too.