There are many differences between Japan and the U.S. For example, America has way more lawyers — 1 for every 276 citizens compared with just 1 for every 5500 people for Japan — but I’m sure the numbers are reversed if you analyze the number of talented artists and illustrators each country has. Another difference is the lack of tipping culture: no matter what kind of restaurant, hotel or other establishment you patronize in Japan, you never leave a gratuity. While this seems nice from the consumer’s point of view, it has its drawbacks, essentially making it impossible to reward someone for exceptional service with a tip. In Sapporo, my son and I encountered the nicest taxi driver in the world, who took us to see the statue of Professor William “Boys, Be Ambitious” Clark, explaining various points of interest we would have missed without him then taking us to a nearby ashi no onsen (a hot springs bath for your feet) and waiting with the meter off while we warmed our frozen toes. (The elderly taxi driver also asked us if we’d heard of “Hatsune Megumi,” which was so cute.) This being Sapporo, he gave us advice on the best place to find awesome ramen, which was the Sapporo Ramen Republic, a collection of Showa Era-themed shops on the 10th floor of the ESTA building next to Sapporo Station, if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Yet there was no way for me to thank for man for his expert advice since tipping doesn’t exist here…and attempting to tip would actually give offense in most cases.
I met the nicest taxi driver in all Sapporo.