Ten Days in Japan, Part 1: Konnichiwa to Awesome

So first off, the bad news. It turns out that, despite all indications to the contrary, being in Japan is not, in fact, like being in the future. In fact, I did not see one robot the entire time I was there & I was pretty disappointed, if you want to know the truth, but that’s beside the point. The point is, due to the shocking lack of readily available wi-fi, you may have noticed that I didn’t actually blog at all during my ten days in Japan. But I’m here now, so I’m going to try to write what I can remember. I’m sure I’ll miss a great many things, since, as my traveling buddy Gen put it, being in Japan for ten days was a lot like being in the multi-level dream sequence in Inception. Time moves differently, you’re in an entirely different reality & when you wake up, you don’t quite know what to do with yourself.

The first thing you should know about Japan is: if you’re thinking about going there in late July/early August like we did…don’t. Because wow, I thought I knew humidity. Summer humidity in Japan makes summer humidity in Taiwan seem like a pleasant mist. Yes, it turns out, we were extremely stupid for deciding to go to this place during the summer, not to mention we also missed both cherry blossom season AND sumo wrestling season. (Seriously, it’s so sad, I can’t even talk about it.)

First impressions of Tokyo:

  • Everything is very clean. Which is remarkable because there are no trash cans anywhere in sight. Apparently, the Japanese did a study that showed that having trash cans readily available in the streets actually causes more trash & littering. If you’ve been to New York, you’ll realize this kind of makes sense. So instead, everybody carries their trash around & their eyes light up like Christmas trees when they finally do spot a trash can because that means they can finally unload like 10 items from their purses, or at least that’s what happened with us. Actually, I don’t know that I saw any actual Japanese people throw any garbage away or create garbage of any kind, but I spent virtually the entire trip carrying around at least two items of trash on my person at all times.
  • There are vending machines everywhere, you are literally never out of visual contact with one. Contrary to reports, most of the machines just have drinks in them, not that the variety wasn’t impressive. Amy F & Gen & I quickly got addicted to Calpis, which is a yogurt drink. Various teas & sports drinks like the awesomely named Pocari Sweat are also very popular. And yes, there is beer in vending machines.
  • It is not at all difficult to get around & do stuff in Japan without knowing Japanese. Toward the end, Amy F started picking up important key phrases, such as “beer,” but I got by almost entirely on “arigatou” (thank you) &, more relevantly, “sumimasen” (excuse me/I’m sorry). The service pretty much everywhere is amazing. Basically, everyone in Japan is the nicest person you’ll ever personally meet. Also, Tokyo in particular is especially designed to deal with particularly stupid foreign tourists who didn’t bother to learn any Japanese. There are English signs everywhere on public transportation & in museums, you get “This Way, Stupid” signs, so you don’t get lost:
  • I got to check off one item off my “Things I Really Want to See in Japan” list, which also includes “geisha” & “complicated electronic gadget five years away from being available in the States,” which was “random American celebrity taking large sum of money to appear in otherwise humiliating Japan-only advertisement, a la Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.” I am including it here for your enjoyment:

In my next installment, which I will get to when I am next conscious, I’ll discuss our trip to the Tokyo Fish Market, during which we saw a tuna the size of my LA apartment.

-Amy Yen

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