Friday, January 22, 2010

The questions they ask!

Although I had been extensively briefed to lead a tour in Japan, and although I've read extensively about Japanese history, Japanese culture, Buddhism, Shinto, Japanese gardens, and although I had already visited and was familiar with many of the sites the tour group would be visiting, I was not prepared for the questions people asked.

They did not ask about the subjects on which I was prepared: What is a bodhisattva? When did Buddhism come to Japan? Why don't Japanese gardens have flowers?

They asked things like: Why are some Japanese license plates yellow and some white? Why are the Japanese so polite? And—an example I used in the book—what kind of flower is this? A friend who has led many, many more tours of Japan probably has more arcane knowledge about the country than most natives because he's been asked so many off-the-wall questions...and has taken the time to find the answers.

I was talking about this with a tour guide in Italy, and she agreed that tour members could ask surprising questions. She once explained the Roman bus system to a group and said, "When you want to get off at your stop, push the red button to signal the driver."

A member of her group held up her hand and asked, "Can you describe the red button?"'s red...and it's round...and you push it.

1 comment:

  1. That is so funny...and true. People ask silly questions sometimes. Red and round, lol.

    Enjoying your blog, Wally