Saturday, August 3, 2013

Final Thoughts On My Tokyo Experience

So the trip is over. I made it home fine. I can now say I've been to Tokyo. You've most likely read my blow-by-blows of each day, but what about the other, littler things? And what about that whole Scavenger Hunt list? And what were my favorite and least favorite experiences? That's what this post is about.

Also, here's a quick link area if you want to go back and read about all my experiences:

Anyway, first up, I wanted to make a few random comments about random things I noticed while in Japan.

Ten Random Things

1) Tokyo really is very expensive. I kept forgetting just how much I was spending on stuff because I would continually get my mindset confused with Korea. Both countries are very similar in their number systems, where they use more hundreds and thousands for smaller numbers. For example, in Korea, 1,000 Won is basically a dollar. But in Japan, 1,000 Yen is 10 bucks. Because my brain has been wired to Korean Currency for so long now, I'd forget that pretty big difference. A good example in price differences? Water. In Korea, I could get a huge bottle of water for like 50 cents. In Tokyo, I could get that same size, maybe even a little smaller, and pay close to 2 bucks. It also doesn't help that a lot of their smaller currencies (anything below 1,000) is in coins, not paper. And I'm really used to coins not being 1-5 bucks.

2) Anyone in customer service is almost creepily happy and helpful. They don't even hint that they are unhappy with their positions or don't want to be there that day or are frustrated with you or anyone else. They are there to serve you in the best way possible, and they will be happy about it. And they can't even take tips!

3) Money exchange from hand to hand seems to be a no-no. They have money trays that you put your payment on, and then the cashier will pick it up from there. And then they'll place the change down there for you to pick up, as well. I did do hand-to-hand exchanges sometimes, but I don't think I was supposed to.

4) It's funny just how different fashion is between Korea and Japan. For the men in Tokyo, the most common thing you saw was black or dark blue slacks with a white button-down shirt. That was like every single man in Tokyo. There were, of course, exceptions... but a sea of black and white was insanely common. The real noticeable differences was with the women, though. In Korea, looks are all about the body--plastic surgery; fresh, pale skin; hair color (usually red); all legs, no visible chest/shoulders. For Korean girls/women (not in business-wear), it's all about looking as sexy as possible, and that starts with the body. But for Japanese girls/women, it's about the fashion and looking kawaii (cute/adorable). You will see females in outfits almost nobody else in any other country would wear (or could even pull off). But they have to look as cute as they can, because that's just how the fashion works there.

5) There was a crazy amount of Europeans in Tokyo. In Korea, if you see a white person (generally in Seoul), they are most likely either American, Canadian, or Australian. But in Tokyo, the most common accents I heard were French and German (lots of French). And a bit of Italian, too. In fact, while there were far more white people in Tokyo than in Seoul, it seemed very few were actually American.

6) Thirsty? You can find vending machines everywhere in Tokyo. And I mean everywhere. You can't turn a corner without seeing one or two. Of course Japan is also famous for having vending machines for random things inside--anything from cigarettes to panties--but I only saw cigarette machines out of the weird ones.

7) The Tokyo JR train system is good, but I prefer the Seoul Subway system. Once you figure out the Tokyo system, it's super easy to find your way around, but it's not as extensive as the Seoul one. The JR system doesn't take you everywhere, and sometimes you would have to take an actual train or a different system altogether (though I never went anywhere that required me to do that). Or buses. But in Korea, the trains will literally take you basically anywhere you need to go, and you don't have to worry about having the right metro card or what have you.

8) Oddly enough, I found the Japanese people stare at you more than Koreans, which is funny to me considering I saw far more foreigners in Japan than in Korea.

9) The Japanese really do not like you to film or take pictures in a lot of places. I noticed this quite a bit while wanting to take pictures. There were signs everywhere telling you photography was not allowed.

10) Finally, a little about my hotel. It was pretty nice. The room was small, but that didn't bother me whatsoever. It had everything I needed. And I actually got pretty used to the weird buckwheat/bean-filled pillows. They were actually kinda nice. And it was so awesome to have such great air conditioning. The hotel also had pretty much anything I needed, and a Family Mart convenience store within the building was super helpful. And as we all know by now, it wasn't too far from Shinjuku Station, which was nice, but it still wasn't the easiest to get back from (until I finally learned how to work it near the end).

The Scavenger Hunt

OK, so I was challenged with a Scavenger Hunt of things to get pictures of while in Japan. I did this to the best of my abilities. I wasn't able to do it all, but I got what I could. I've posted most of these pictures already, but here they are in one easy location:

1) A Shinto Shrine

2) A PokeMon Center

3) A Hello Kitty Statue

4) A Totoro Statue

(Note: I couldn't go to the Ghibli Museum, so I couldn't get this one. But I did get some Totoro plushies?)

5) A Japanese McDonald's

6) A Cigarette Vending Machine

7) A Dance Dance Revolution Machine

8) A Ramen Shop

(As close as I was gonna get)

9) Mt. Fuji

(Lots of Fuji pictures... here's one looking down it)

10) A Maid Cafe

11) Shibuya Crossing

12) Tokyo Tower

(Note: I'm pretty sure this was Tokyo Tower. I couldn't make it to the tower itself, but I think this was it in the distance--taken from the bus to DisneySea.)

There was also a bonus for a random Sumo wrestler, but I knew that wasn't gonna happen. Sumo is currently out of season, I believe. And I would have had to go to a specific place within Tokyo to see training or a show, even if it were in season. But anyway, that's the list! I think I got everything the best I could.

Favorites/Least Favorites

Now that it's all said and done, what did I end up liking the most? And what did I not care for? Here's a list, ranked from Least Favorite to Favorite, of everything I did/everywhere I went while in Japan. You can read in more detail about each of these things, if you haven't already, in the last week's worth of posts.

13) Climbing Mt. Fuji

I can't say enough that this was the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life. 

12) Shinjuku (Traveling/Navigating)

I grew a special new kind of hatred for Shinjuku over the week I was there. It's like every time I thought I got something down, it threw something new at me to screw me up. I did eventually figure out how to navigate Shinjuku Station how I needed to. But as soon as I did that, I was pretty much done needing the trains and started needing buses. And the bus stations in Shinjuku are more difficult to find/get to than navigating Shinjuku Station itself. And because I seemed to spend quite a bit of time in Shinjuku (as that's where my hotel was), I came to really dislike the area for its confusing layout.

11) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Shinjuku)

On the other hand, this is the first real thing I visited in Tokyo, besides my hotel. It's nothing special, but I did get to see a nice night view of the city from the Observation Deck.

10) Takeshita Street (Harajuku)

It's a colorful and fascinating place, and I would have liked to see it on a Sunday as you're really meant to. But a lot of the shops were geared for girls, and the foreigner salesmen were really pushy and bothersome. But the crepes are a definite must.

9) Akihabara (Shops/Arcades)

Still in part due to the rain that day, but--with one exception--I felt this was quite the let down. I was super excited about Akihabara, but the experience wasn't really worth all those years of anticipation. It's neat, but not much more than that.

8) Shibuya Crossing

This was more of a "See Before You Die" thing. There's not much more to it than sitting in a Starbucks and watching people cross the street--then going down and doing it yourself. It's almost anticlimactic, since there's not much to it. But, like seeing Times Square in New York City, it's just that one thing you have to do while in Tokyo.

7) PokeMon Center

A PokeMon fan paradise. I imagined it being a little bigger than it was, and a lot of the stuff was geared towards the newer games than the original ones, but it was still really nifty and had a fun atmosphere to it all. And like a handful of other things in Tokyo, it really made me feel like a little kid again.

6) Meiji Shrine (Harajuku)

Super peaceful and beautiful. I actually preferred the garden path over the shrine itself, but it's a definite must-see if you're in the area. 

5) Maid Cafe

Yes, it was awkward and embarrassing. But I can't deny that it's also something I'm never going to forget.

4) Nakano Broadway

Now this was more what I was expecting out of Akihabara. This mall was awesome, and I probably could have blown all my money here if I hadn't restrained myself (I still somewhat regret not buying those Dragonball Z sketches from the original artists). But I'm glad I didn't, because as you know... money got tight near the end.

3) Fuji Sunrise

I might have hated my Fuji climb, but the sunrise itself was quite an experience. I'm not sure if it was 100% worth it, but I'm definitely happy I saw it.

2) Ueno Park/Zoo

Sure there are zoos all over the world, but this one was just so much fun with every kind of animal you can think of. I had a blast over the 3 hours I was there. I probably could have spent my entire day in Ueno Park, too, with all the other museums and stuff they had there. If I ever go back to Tokyo, I'm setting aside a whole day just for Ueno Park.

1) DisneySea

Hands down the best day in Tokyo. Yeah, it's the least cultural thing I did, but DisneySea can also only be experienced in Tokyo, so I don't regret it whatsoever. You can't hate being at a Disney theme park, even if you're waiting in queues for hours by yourself. I totally want to go back already.


And that's it! Those are my final thoughts on my Tokyo experience. It was incredibly exhausting, but I don't regret like 90% of it. Maybe some years down the road I can go back and hit the areas I missed out on (and even some places outside of Tokyo, like Kyoto). I hope you enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures/videos of my experiences there, as well!

1 comment:

  1. Well, at least I didn't steer you wrong on Ueno Park...

    (and yes, that is Tokyo Tower out the train window)