© 2008 Catherine. All rights reserved.

Japan – the good

So what’s good about Japan?

– Everyone here is SO polite. Just ridiculously polite.

People smile when they talk to you, they apologize profusely over nothing and if they see you stopped looking at a map with a puzzled look on their face they’ll come over and do their best to help you.

The foreshadowing I experience for how polite Japanese people are was when our plane was about to take off from Taipei. The plane was backing out of its parking space (sorry I don’t know the technical terms) and all of the ground workers who prepare the plane for take-off were waving. At first I thought “wow, the pilot must be a really nice man, all the workers are waving goodbye to him” but then as the plane moved away more I realized, “hey they’re not waving at the pilot, they’re waving to us!!!”. I guess I’m a big mushy dork but that made me melt a little and I waved enthusiastically back. Then on landing the same type of workers bowed upon or landing. It gave me an instant love of Japan.

A few times I’ve been taking pictures in the wrong place of things I haven’t been allowed to take pictures of. Of course it’s embarrassing to do something wrong and potentially culturally “incorrect” but every time this has happened I’ve been approached by a big genuine smile and a little bow telling me that pictures aren’t allowed or where I am allowed to take pictures from.

– Transportation is futuristic.

As much of a nightmare as the subway/train system is, it is also awesome. I can leave from Uken’s little area of Hashimoto and go all the way to the other end of Japan without ever having to leave the train system. The tickets are a bit pricey but if you enter Japan with a JR pass it’s really convenient.

– Capsule machines are everywhere.

The capsule machines that we had growing up would pop out little plastic happy face rings that would break as soon as you put them on your finger but Japanese capsule machines are small toy stores. Everything you can imagine from small guns that fire little pellets, scantly dressed women, poop themed toys, and lots of nostalgia. These have been my biggest souvenir so far and even though we have a lot of these in Taiwan, Japan is the land of capsule machines. Everywhere we go they have them… Han even got a boat capsule on the boat tour we where on. There will definitely be more pictures of these to come.

– The food is amazing.

This is no surprise. I’ve always loved Japanese food. I think Han and I eat Japanese at least once a week but of course, in Japan, the Japanese food is SO much better. I’d been warned so many times before I left and heard SO many people complain about how expensive everything is and how expensive the food is but what a co-worker told me is true, if you eat like a local the food is not expensive at all. Of course Taiwan is much cheaper and it’s possible to eat a huge meal in Taiwan for only a couple of dollars but still Japan is much better than I expected.

One kind of place we’ve really enjoyed in Japan has been the restaurants where you buy a ticket for your food from a machine that has pictures of all the food on buttons. These are great because most of the time it’s fairly easy to figure out what the food is and avoids us having to deal with the language barrier, plus the food is usually cheap and yummy!!

– There is SO much to do here.

It takes no imagination to find something to do here. While we’re in Japan we’re going to spend one week traveling outside of Japan and about 2 weeks in Tokyo. I thought 2 weeks in Tokyo was going to be way too much but so far we haven’t even been here a week and we’ve seen such a small amount of what can be seen.

As much as I whine and complain about having to do some of the things that Han wants to do like baseball games, wrestling matches, motorcycle races…. I have to admit that it’s given me a much fuller experience of Japan. Usually I travel alone and do what I want to do but it ends up being the same kinds of things (temples, beaches, anything with animals) but I kind of burn out on it and feel a bit bored. Even though it felt like a waste of time at first it has been a great way to experience a different part of Japanese culture to go and people watch at some of these sporting events. Although I’ll never admit it to him one of the most fun things I’ve done so far was spend an evening at Toyota City. There were all kinds of simulators, cars to sit in, things to play with, and all free!!!

I guess I’ll buy that opposites attract since doing things I didn’t want to do and would’ve never done if I had come alone have given me a much fuller and rewarding experience in Japan.

-Japan loves Nintendo.

I see people playing DS in Taiwan and some back home but PSP still seems to be the winner. In Japan Nintendo is EVERYWHERE. We’ve walked into game stores that had more DS games than I could’ve ever imagined existed and probably half of which will never exist in the western world. Games that haven’t even come out yet in the west. Then of course weird stuff. They have DS “games” that teach parenting and how to cook, no not mama’s cooking, actually cooking instructions and recipes. My favorite so far and I think I’ll buy it for the novelty alone if I see it again was “ENGLISH OF DEATH”! There are a plethora of English teaching games here but this one had a very goth horror theme. Hilarious.

– Japanese is easy.

I can say a word for the first time from my phrase book and Japanese people will instantly understand what I am saying. Mandarin I can say something I know how to say and repeat it 10 times without the Taiwanese person I’m speaking to understanding what I’m saying. Unlike Chinese Japanese doesn’t have different tones to worry about and Japanese words seem to roll off the tongue easily. A co-worker explained that the actual amount of sounds in the Japanese language is very few so it is less complicated to learn compared to other Asian languages.

– Japanese women look “healthier” than most Taiwanese women.

Since Japan is a fashion capital and so many Taiwanese seem to want to “look” Japanese I kind of thought the weight obsession had come from Japan but mostly Japanese women seem to have a healthier weight and shape. Han and I were eating in one of the ticket machine restaurants I mentioned above and saw a girl walk in who had legs thinner than my arms and I thought “wow, ok, finally I’ve seen an overly thin Japanese girl” then she started speaking and Han said “she’s from Taiwan, I can tell from her Mandarin”. I’m not generalizing and saying Taiwanese women are unhealthy. There are just a large number of weight obsessed young girls and women.

– Japanese people do this at baseball games:

– I think I’m going to lose 10lbs here.

I walk a fair amount in Taipei but Han and I have been walking almost 12 hours a day. Transportation is very good here but sometimes even making it from the place where you bought your ticket for the subway to the actual train is a 15 minute walk. Then walking around outside and going anywhere takes a long long time. I’m sure I’d complain if I lived here but as a tourist it’s great. I’m really getting to see a lot of the city. I’m not skipping any meals. Who would want to here?? but I think my pants are getting looser already.

One Comment

  1. Taintus

    Glad to see your enthusiasm for Japan.

    If you get a chance come check out some of the quieter parts of the country.

    Otaki Village, where I live, is in the mountains of southern Nagano surrounded by some of the best forests in Japan.

    You can read more at my blog, In the Pines.

    Have fun on the rest of your trip.

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