I could fill seventeen pages about Tokyo, but nobody would read seventeen pages (and nor would I) so I’ll make this brief.
Think Japan, and think clean. It is so, so clean. I thought Taipei was clean, but Tokyo is a whole ‘nother level. Swept, straightened, sterilized. Everything aligned, everything at perfect angles. Weeds picked out of the moss, dust cleared from street corners. No litter anywhere, despite the fact THERE ARE NO BINS. Japan got rid of public rubbish bins in the ‘90s after some random terrorist thing, and they’ve never brought them back. People just take their rubbish home. That would never work in NZ.
Things I loved:
The clean. I don’t mind dirt, but scrubbed surfaces are also nice.
Canned alcoholic sodas. Lord, they’re everywhere. They’re in every convenience store and most vending machines, and they’re even cheaper than Taiwan: around $1-$4 a pop. I did not refrain.
The food! Obvs! Noodles are never so good as when they’re in a rich buttery ramen broth. I got right into sushi conveyor belt restaurants, oyakodon (chicken + egg over rice), Korean bibimbap (egg + fermented veg), pretty much every snack in the kombini stores (esp the eggy omelette thing) and, heck, everything else. You’ve seen my photos.
Japanese folk love to help. Especially if they speak a little English and they see a dumb blonde foreigner scrabbling with her useless Samsung in the middle of a metro station.
Japan is all about convenience. There are kombini stores every five steps, and they’re all selling a) instant meals b) snacks c) booze d) socks e) cosmetics f) every imaginable thing you could possibly need within a standard day.
The utterly nonsensical flavour combinations. Plum seaweed? Peach chocolate? Curry donuts? Chocolate and butter in a croissant? SUCH fun.
Things I found weird:
Dogs are not dogs but items that must be carried or pushed around in prams or bespoke wheelie devices. It’s very odd.
The enormous string of Japanese words that seem to mean, “do you want a bag?” at every store.
The insufferable number of tiny tiny coins that I absolutely could never manage to retrieve from the depths of my rubbish Taiwanese wallet at the crucial moment.
Canned alcoholic sodas. You *can* have too much of a good thing.
The salt! Ramen is the saltiest goddam meal on earth. You’ll wake up gasping for water at least four times in the night.
The blind respect for rules. Folks will stand at a pedestrian crossing all of two metres wide for five whole minutes when there’s nothing coming just because the crossing signal is red. As an Aucklander and a runner and a generally impatient person, I struggle with this.
The perfectly manicured parks. Not a stone or a leaf out of place.
I do love what I’ve seen of Japan, even if that’s bugger all so far. It’s a beautiful – and beautifully organised – place, and I need to scrub up my Japanese and get back there. (And no, not just for the vodka sodas.)