After a crazy three weeks in what I can officially call my favourite country on this trip so far, I’d like to reflect on our experience in Japan and share some thoughts with you all:
– Tokyo is a surprisingly clean city, considering 1) the city’s population (as of 2015, it was sitting at almost 9.3 million) and 2) there are no garbage bins anywhere on the streets. I think the reason they’re able to do this is that the transit system is so extensive that people don’t actually spend that much time on the streets while they’re trying to get from point A to point B. And there are garbage bins everywhere in the stations.
– There are also washrooms and lockers everywhere in the stations. These are two things that Toronto could greatly use more of. I think I read that only one station on the new subway line in Toronto has washrooms. That’s messed up. And the storage lockers here are reasonably priced (about $5 for the day). They are so damn convenient.
– I love the game show-type music that the trains play while passengers are getting on/off. It lets you know how much more time you have before the doors close.
– One time I got on a subway car that had temporarily shut down for one reason or another. However I initially didn’t realize this when I ran on to the subway. I thought it was odd that there was only one other guy sitting in the whole car. Then I realized it was going to be out of service for a good 25 minutes and started getting off the train, but I stopped short, when I noticed a particular noise. It sounded like somebody was having sex. I looked at the other passenger, and I realized that the reason he hadn’t gotten off the train yet was because he was watching something on his phone–with headphones on. I thought he might be watching porn–on the subway! But then he got off (no pun intended), and the noise lingered. That’s when I realized it was coming from the train itself. And then I started hearing it on other trains! Trains in Tokyo make porno-like sounds!
– Trains really are as punctual as everybody says they are in Tokyo.
– As impressive as the transit system is in Tokyo and Japan, I find it very frustrating that there are a hundred different transit companies that run the various transit lines. I paid a small fortune for my Japan Rail pass before I got here, and I assumed that it would get me anywhere I needed to go. Yet, one day, I had to pay almost $30 to go a couple hours from Tokyo to Hakone. Granted, the pass is still a great deal for foreigners, but I don’t see why they can’t consolidate all the transit companies.
– While you can’t always expect to have signs translated into English here, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who speak English. They may not be able to converse with you, but they are at least able to speak enough to answer your questions.
– I find it interesting that HMV Records and Tower Records continue to thrive in Tokyo of all places. In a place where the future is now, we have a beautifully archaic tradition of record buying still going strong.
– One of my few frustrations with this place is how difficult it is to find anything. Sometimes the place you’re looking for is on the 7th floor, so you have to walk with your neck craned upwards in order to find where you’re going. For example, the other day I was hoping to find an arcade called 8bit Cafe. Google Maps said it was between a dart shop and a store called Space. I was standing right in between those two establishments, and looking in every possible direction. There was literally one building in between the two of them. Yet, I was never able to find 8bit. And it’s not like the place had shut down or anything; Google said it was open for another hour or so. And all of my favourite places that I visited in Tokyo were either on the 7th floor or higher, or down some back alley road. I honestly don’t know how this city functioned before people gained the ability to search for things on the Internet.
– I’d heard about how magical Japanese toilets are and how they have dozens of buttons that do everything from spray you to play music, but I wasn’t sold on them until I experienced one for myself. The flashy buttons don’t do anything for me though; it’s the seat itself that won me over. Canada, listen up! We need heated toilet seats in all of our washrooms! It’s like a warm hug for your butt! After coming in from the cold, a warm butt hug is exactly what the doctor ordered.
– After living in the UAE for two years, where people don’t follow the basic rules of the road and every time you sit behind the steering wheel you’re risking your life, it was blissful to visit a place like Japan. Both countries are an example of “Do as the Romans do.” In the UAE, locals drive twice the speed limit, they have no problem reversing on the highway because they missed their exit, they don’t understand how turn signals work–and then the foreigners adopt these driving habits. In Japan, there could be no cars coming for miles, but pedestrians will wait until that little green man comes on before crossing the street. And as a result, foreigners do the same. It was brilliant.
I had several more thoughts, but I stupidly forgot to write them down.