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Announcements in Japan

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the shinkansen. This is the Nozomi Superexpress bound for Tokyo."

One of the strangest things I’ve had to get used to now that I no longer live in Japan is the lack of announcements. Don’t get me wrong, there’s more than enough information overload in the states, but few statements of actions being taken. In Japan, no matter where you go or what you do, foreigner or Japanese, people are paying attention to you. Enter a store, and the staff will acknowledge your presence. Board a train, and an automated announcement will provide the name, type of train, destination, and stops along the way. I have a feeling if I walked into a restaurant in the states and asked the hostesses to shout "WELCOME!", I might get a few stares.

What are some of the more common announcements you’ll hear in Japan?

1. Irrasshaimase! (いっらっしゃいませ)

"Welcome!" is a greeting you’ll encounter upon entering convenience stores, supermarkets, sometimes even private English schools. The most memorable time, however, is surely in restaurants, when all members of the wait and kitchen staff are informed of your arrival and scream "irrasshaimase" at the top of their lungs in a joyous celebration of your presence. Make a guy feel special, that’s for sure.

2. Trains

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we will soon make a brief stop at Shin-Kobe. The exits are on the left side of the train. Passengers going to the subway line, please change trains here at Shin-Kobe."

Believe me, I rode the Kyushu Shinkansen so often I had the timing of the chimes and stop announcements memorized. Expect the speakers to blare when you depart, when you’re about to arrive, and when you’re making your final approach. Don’t expect anything announcing when drinks will be served or tickets checked, though.

3. Elevators

I didn’t think it was possible until I wandered into one of the larger department stores. Although plenty of elevators are unmanned, there are a few with automated announcements for each floor, and, in some cases, an operator who will bow at your entry and call off the floors as they are passed.