Recently, I spent 10 days in Japan with my good friend Chris Rothstein, to visit another good friend – Austin Wang. It was an amazing trip, less of what I expected, and a lot of different and non-expected things. I saw a lot, reflect a bit, took some notes, and made enough pictures.
To check the trip pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/cargomor/JapanMay2011. The following are some random comments/ideas about Japan, Japanese people and the stuff that happened during our trip to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto:
1$ = 83¥. Easy rule: divide yen prices by 100 and add 15%.
Tokyo is a huge city; Osaka and Kyoto are quite big too.
Japan is not a cheap country, but it’s not as expensive as people usually think it is. Real estate (renting & buying) is crazily expensive, but the rest is as pricey as San Francisco (assuming SF tips as a fixed cost).
Some survival words (to mix wisely):
– arigato goizimas: thanks a lot
– samumasen: excuse me/ sorry
– konichiwa: hello
– watashi was Carlos des: my name is Carlos
– ja ne: see u later; sayonara: good bye;
– hei: si
– gaijin= extranjero; spainjin: Spanish
Interesting Areas in Tokyo: rappongi, shibuka, ueno, akihabara, akushaka, Omotesando,
Osak’sa dotombori neighborhood is very special, looks like Bangkok’s kao shan road, with loads of people in the streets selling all kinds of things.
Kyoto is not as magical or green, or village-like as one would imagine. It’s a big city, with lots of buddhist temples and some parks.
Onsen are great, a truly japanese experience. If u can, go to odeno onset in Tokyo, to find a great spa, within a fake but very nice Japanese traditional city. From local food, to desserts, games, foot bath (with little fish eating your feet), massage, Sand bath,…
Japanese don’t look to the eyes or around when they walk in the street
Japanese are hiper-nice, very helpful, and always will make sure they help you as much as they can (even walking with you for 7 mins to the door of the bus you asked about)
Japanese service is excellent always, and no need for tipping
The level of English of Japanese people is really really poor.
Japanese people never ask questions, if they don’t understand something they think it’s their fault, not the speakers’. Even if they don’t understand something, they won’t tell you; they will nod as if they did understand.
Lots of people fall sleep in the train, at anytime of the day (probably cause they don’t sleep much at home).
There’re school kids traveling all over the country at every time. they love talking in English to foreigners.
Tokyo women are really beautiful, and very very trendy. They are all very skinny, and seem to be proud of their legs, so they show them all the time (mini-pants, mini-skirts…).
Smoking is allowed in almost everywhere, and lots of people smoke a lot.
People get drunk very easily (with just a few beers). Thus, one can see drunk teens in the subway very often.
Tokyans love going out for dinner, which is the main reason reastaurants are way more expensive at dinner than at lunch time.
In stores, when they give you the spare change, they gently touch your hands (so nice!)
The influence of manga (comics) and anime (tv cartoon) is huge; not just between kids or teenagers, but mainly between adults of all types.
Japan is not more technologically advanced than the USA or Europe: many motorola razor-like phones, no iPads, wifi coverage is not great, cars are not very very modern either. It’s as advanced as any other modern country.
Play station portable was a real hit here
Some cool examples of technology: toilets, umbrella dryers in stores, video games in pachinkos,
Food in Japan is probably the best and most surprising experience: there are lots of types of food (sushi is just one of dozens), all very tasty and different to western food, plus the way it’s cooked/eaten is also very special. Some of the best things: okonimiyaki, teppanyaki, izakaya, japanese barbecue, Korean BBQs, Udon ramen.
Cooking your own food is part of the dinner experience in many restaurants.
Sake is very strong, not my thing.
they’re not very good in breakfast or desserts in general.
There are vending machines all over the country, everywhere, with lots (15-30) of types of drinks available, and very cheap. From ginseng, to red bull-likes, to iced coffee, beer, water or coke.
Pornography in manga/anime is very spread, and it’s socially accepted.
There are male “prostitutes” in the streets, and women go get them. They’re indeed “hostess”, that accompany women to do stuff.
There’re lots of hostess clubs, strip clubs, massage places and sex shops in the main and side streets of every city.
There’s a high level of “perversion” (in western standards) in all sex related things: child porn, dolls, sadomasochism
Japanese (as asians in general) are Gambling fanatics (addicts?).
Pachinkos (slot machine stores; some also have arcade games) are incredibly popular, and have lots of people at any time of the day. The noise and music in these places is unbearable.
The arcade games in pachinkos are incredibly interesting and original. People really dedicate a lot of time to them, so it’s their hobby to come and play. Examples: horse races, transformers 4player battles, rol games, all-kinds of music & dancing games (drums, guitar, karaoke, dancing,…).
Nobody speaks in the trains, subway, etc, including talking on the phone.
The bullet train is fast and semi-modern; the AVE (in spain) is way better though.
The subway is also quite good, very well connected, easy to use, and semi modern, but nothing impressive, just as good as London, Paris, … Not as good as the Madrid Metro though.
It’s very expensive in general: 1 subway ticket= 2.25 dollars. And if you change lines, pay again. Same for the bus
Taxis are also very expensive (starts at 710¥).
Talking on Mobile phone is not allowed in any means of transportation; They’re respectful, and nobody uses it.
From the bullet train Kyoto-Tokyo. May 27th, 2011.
PS: if you really want to learn more about the Japanese culture and Japan in general, I highly recommend you buying the book: A geek in Japan, from Hector Garcia. It’s very easy and entertaining to read, and Hector’s perspective and knowledge of Japan is just great.