When I booked the flight to japan to stay for a couple weeks, I envisioned a country with advanced, futuristic everything! From ultra hi-tech houses, to sophisticated malls and even futuristic “back to the future” cars!
When I got there, I didn’t experience any of that. Instead I learned how the simplest, most situational things can make everything look so advanced if you look at it as a whole.
I loved and embraced the culture of japan. From Kobe to Tokyo to Osaka to Kyoto to the small town of Kawaguchiko and the people you meet during the trek up Mt. Fuji, you will certainly feel the same way as I did.
Here are some things I noticed and learned during my stay in Japan and some of these are tips which you could hopefully use on your eventual visit to the land of the rising sun.
Why people look tired and repressed
This is mainly for the men you meet at the start and end of the day. They are quiet, always sleepy. The main reason is that they work really really hard. They go to work really early and they work overtime most of the time. I heard they don’t have overtime pay as well. But when they are in their working environment they suddenly change and become energetic and cheerful!
In most towns, you’ll notice that it’s pretty deserted during night time. When it hits 8pm, the streets are virtually empty. I’m guessing they are all resting.
The bigger cities will have more people but most shops close early and you will either see pimps, teenagers hanging out, older men getting a drink in a traditional japanese bar or tourists.
Free Wifi Signal : Virtually NON Existent
I left my blackberry. I didn’t want to get charged extreme 3G prices by my local provider. So I instead brought along an iPad 3G without a sim card assuming I could leech a signal and do some work. Good thing I was able to instruct a full month of work to my VA’s because leeching anywhere is a pain. Everything is locked. If it’s not, it’s either a psp connection or a paid service. I was backpacking most of the trip so finding a good signal was almost impossible. The only place i could get a signal would be in residential areas but you need to be persistent. Your best bet would be hotel lobbies for wifi (bring a laptop if you really have to, most hotels only have LAN connections in the room) and cafes (you have to ask for a password)
If you get lucky, you will get some temporary access to their citywide wifi but that’s it. If you really need only email, I suggest buying a prepaid card where you can send unlimited e-mails and local SMS for 2 weeks.
For the span of my stay here, I could clearly say that the government allows people to do whatever they want on the Internet, even though they are strict. Unlike in China where even Multiply.com is banned, I couldn’t find a single website that was banned. I could definitely recommend this place to Internet marketers, bloggers and Four Hour work week people looking for a place to visit next or to stay for the next 6 months. You won’t lose much time too, because the Internet connection speed will make up for everything. The gas, water and electricity bills are cheap as well. 20 bucks for 1 month electricity is good in my book, similar to my stay in Beijing.
I’ve been used to seeing obese people when traveling around the world, don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way insulting people, just want to point out something I noticed. In my stay in japan, I never even once saw an obese person. I was moving non stop under the blazing sun, moving across the flood of people but I really didn’t see even one overweight person. It boggles my mind because their serving per meal is Pretty BIG!
I might just be in the wrong area at the wrong time so don’t crucify me for this.
Subway and Train Station Logic
Lots of people get lost everyday riding their trains. You have to understand the logic of their railway systems if you want to make wise use of your time. They have bar none, the most efficient system I have ever seen anywhere in the world. Their bus system ain’t half bad as well! Taxis are too expensive if you want to travel around. Let the locals and ultra rich handle that. 15 thousand yen? No thank you.
Anyways, the trains are always on time. They would rather be In an accident rather than be late! For two weeks of non stop traveling, I have never encountered a train that was late.
Note to self, never be late on japanese appointments!
There are 3 main types. The first one is the Shinkansen. This is the bullet train. I think this one runs at around 250 km/hr or so. This thing will take you to most big cities. If you will be staying in Osaka, just take this train in the airport and you’ll be there in no time. Price is expensive for residents, about 20000 yen PER ride. For tourists, it will be really cheap, about 30000 yen unlimited riding for a whole week. Great for getting you around the country!
The second kind of train is the JR train. There’s a local one which makes a gazillion stops. There’s a rapid train which will skip some lesser populated areas, and the special rapid train which virtually only stops at the main stations.
Third type are the subway trains of the cities. Yup each city will have different subways but the JR trains are connected to them. Which means if you have the JR pass I mentioned above, you will be able to ride for free except on the subways. This will cost you a lot if you plan to go back and forth. Be sure to plan ahead so you don’t waste money and time.
Be Prepared To Speak Japanese
You will be forced to. Trust me. I brought along my iPad to help me study some phrases on the plane. A crash course But it’s really not the same. It’s a good thing I watched some anime so I got a feel of the accent. Btw, The uber cute voices in the anime are actually the real voices of most people there.
So what do you need to learn?
Learn directions: You WILL get lost
Go Straight: Massugu itte kudasai
Left turn: hidari
Right turn: migi
Then turn Left/Right: Soshite, hidari / migi ni magatte kudasai
Say them correctly and each name is unique. Asakusabashi is not Asakusa. Even though they are just a couple stations away.
Chicken: toriniku or chikin
Phrase: Ocha Kudasai (Tea please)
Good morning: Ohayou gozaimasu
Good afternoon: Konnichiwa
Good evening: Konbanwa
Thank you: Arigatou
Excuse me: Sumimasen! (When you want to pass, or call a waiter, or whatever) <–Ultimate Word! LOL
Its ok/ no problem: Daijyoubu
Phrase: Sumimasen! Mizu Kudasai! (Excuse me! May I have some water please?)
I actually survived with those words only. I think I should study as soon as I get back home for my next trip there!
Btw, most people can understand English, especially the younger ones. They don’t want to speak though. Might be a nationalism thing. They love their country to death.
Respectful and Honest
Mark my words, leave your bag open the whole trip, you won’t lose anything! If you dropped something, people will return it to you. I know someone that left 20000 yen and the guy that found it searched for him the whole day just to return it.
Japanese are really respectful too. Majority will greet you, give you a bow or smile. They are so nice and help you a lot. I ask them all kinds of questions and they are more than willing to help you out….which brings me to the next topic….
Ultimate Customer Service
If only these guys work cheap, I’d hire them in an instant! I could always hire another VA. They are very customer oriented. Go to a store or restaurant, you’ll see what I mean. They will go the extra mile to help you out. This really made it very enjoyable. From city to city, I always got top notch customer service even on the smallest stores!
Don’t go on summers unless you will going up to Mt. Fuji since that’s the best time to go up there. It was freaking 40 degrees Celsius. The very humid atmosphere only made it worse. I got a really nice tan so i guess it’s fine! I just felt sorry for the girls that wore yukatas (summer kimono looking dress) they looked cute but the heat must’ve made it hard for them.
Why Women Have Bent Legs
For lack of a better term, I’ll just say bent. You have to see it to believe it. It’s not ultra noticeable but you can’t ignore it either. According to locals, it’s because of how the girls sit at home, like kneeling on both knees and sitting on the lower part of your legs. Since they were little, it has always been like that so that’s the reason why their legs are like that when they grow up.
Dressing up is cool/ Cosplaying in Japan
As a girl, Id like to be able to dress up and wear cute stuff (at least I think it’s cute) and not get ridiculed. Try going around with suspenders in the US, you will certainly never hear the end of it. Try wearing traditional clothes of your heritage, you will be crucified!
In japan, it’s cool to wear yukatas and jinbeis anywhere you go. You can dress up, wear anything you want and it will be cool. Go to akihabara or asakusa and you will feel like you are in anime land. If you want, just buy a school girl costume like I did, grab wig and walk around like an anime character. Noone will mind! Of course there are dress codes in your work areas, so dress up outside work
Gundams or Goliaths?
I refer to the generic American robot as goliaths. If you played Starcraft, you’d know what it is. If not, then you might remember Robocop’s first opponent (robocop 1) or the big robots in Avatar. Americans seem to like that design.
On the other side of the world, human looking robots are preferred. Voltron, Transformers, Gundams and a shit load of other cool robots are the norm. Here in Japan, everybody knows their robots, each person has their favorites.
If you missed my Twitter post, then here are a couple more pics. If you are visiting Japan before March next year, then you can still catch this wonderful sight in Shizuoka. Honestly, I am not a fan, but seeing this in front of you is awe-inspiring. The craftsmanship is top notch, you have to see it to believe it. If only they made the fingers move, then that would’ve been even cooler. People from all over Japan were flocking there and it didn’t seem to end. I was there on a weekday.
Stayed from 3pm till 8pm and more people were still showing up. Can’t believe how cool their local tourism is…..which is going to be part of my next post.
This ends part 1 of my post, part 2 will be up in a week. Hopefully, some tips could help you out in your next trip to japan.
As I type this, I am now currently on a plane towards the Philippines to enjoy the beach. Sadly, There was a stupid hostage thing that happened. Heard there were 4 that died. I saw a few videos in the news before the flight. Just wondering why they didn’t snipe the guy when he was near the window/door. By the time I publish this, I’m pretty sure they would have covered this story up. Hopefully many made it out alive.
Mind Boggler(is there such a word LOL): why would you take hostages just to get your job back? Do you expect that after you “officially” get your job back, you will just be set free? That’s pretty stupid. You’d get your ass handed to you right after you surrender.
Edit: Most died, they should’ve really killed the guy when he was near the door!