Notes from Tokyo – 2003

Here are some unfinished notes from a trip to China and Japan back in 2003.

So…here is a brief synopsis of my experience and observations in Tokyo…

1. The most useful thing you can know before going to Japan is… wait for it… Japanese.

I’ve been to several other countries where English was not the predominant language and muddled my way through it but China and Japan are a totally different situation. With a Latin based language you can at least read and, however poorly, pronounce the words you are looking at and start to infer some meanings. Not so with character based languages. You can see the characters but you have no idea what kinds of sounds to put with them. The thing that this most hampers is the ability to feed oneself. There are lots of plastic food displays but there is no Romanized version of the Kanji so that you know what to ask for, the only thing you know is how much it costs (and that it looks tasty).

So far my answer for this is find places where you can just grab what you want and pay for it. Places with the sushi belt, sandwich stands, etc… I’ll keep trying new things while I’m here but making sure I stay fed is key.

2. I should have learned this in Germany but I guess I didn’t. There is no need to tell someone from the country you are visiting that you do not speak their language.

It is painfully obvious by the look on your face and your attempt to tell them. I did that once here and got a laugh and an announcement to the rest of the sushi bar that the waitress didn’t speak English. Lesson: You’re American, they get it…

It’s amazing how clean it is for as many people as there are. It’s actually very difficult to find a garbage can to get rid of something in. Even with that there is almost no trash on the ground.

The sheer number of people all the time is almost overwhelming. The lack of beggars and crazies is also pretty amazing. Given the population density the only place I can compare Tokyo to in the US is New York. And the per capita crazy bum for New York has to be about 50 or more there to 1 here. Why is that?

Consumerism is in full swing, and you have to have some serious money to play. Our exchange rate doesn’t help anything but even without that most everything is more expensive than it is in the States. I expected to find a gadget playground at very cheep prices. For many of the toys I brought with me on this trip this is their first time home in years. However, there are many varieties of the same technology, all very expensive. Same goes for clothes, if not more so. I was hoping to pick up a jacket or suit coat, since the one I brought with me has likely made for the best dressed taxi driver in Shenzhen. Yeah, I forget things, a lot.

So what else, the sushi has much bigger (better) cuts of fish and less variety than I’m used to. The sounds and smells of Tokyo make for as much of the experience as the sights. I’ve done some audio recording to go with the pictures. It should make for an interesting twist on the traditional slideshow.

Right now I’m waiting for the washer/dryer to finish my socks. I figured out how to make it work but didn’t anticipate how long it would take to dry, else I might not have washed all my socks… So since I’m being held hostage by Japanese technology, I’ll watch another episode of the West Wing Season II (thank you Chinese pirates) and have another coffee-in-a-can.

Still 48 hours to go, anything can happen.


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