OK where to start. First off, this keyboard (typical Japanese keyboard) is really slowing me down. The location of the keys on the keyboard are so ingrained within my head, that any change completely slows me down. Instead of a big space bar, it is shrunk down to the size of the rest of the other keys and shifted all the way to the left. Then, the rest of the space is used for three additional keys, one of which is to change from roman alphanumeric keys to Japanese, so every few keys I shift to Japanese writing. What a pain. OK, I have adjusted myself now through the practice of typing out that little rant. Nopes, there is goes again. I will keep trying.
Well, Japan is a BUG OUT. It is an emormous culture shock, even more so after experiencing the other countries of SE Asia. First off, NOBODY speaks English. It is what I had originally expected Asia to be. It is like dropping a Japanese person off in NYC. Actually, it is closer to the experience of a Mexican in NYC, without the hispanic neighborhoods or people. There is some key English language instructions in a few
places such as the subway. However, the subway is SOOOO damn complicated, the English language help does little to no good. To top it off, just like the rest of Tokyo, it is SOOO expensive. Unlike in the US, there are MANY different owners of the subway, each who manage their own respective sections. They call them "lines". There are at least 8 to 10 of these. So, each time you need to get to a different line, you must pay again. Again, unlike in the US, you don't pay per trip, but the length of such. Therefore, riding the subway necesitates much math. You can maybe stay on two lines (one if you're very lucky) to get to a location, but due to the winding nature of the subway suffer for over an hour. Or, you can transfer to another line at a certain point, pay again, but cut your trip in half or less. Most trips require the use of two lines, each leg or line costing the average of 250 yen (250 plus 2, plus coming back --- 110 yen per dollar --- you do the math).
OK, you get the point. Japan is unbelievably expensive.
Now, more of the city. It is an elitist, extremely homogenous, cartoon-land, pulsing with a sort of perverted sexuality (They have women only subway carts because.... you can use your imagination - perverts). About the perversion, they have these hotels all around that they call 'love hotels'. They actually look really nice both inside and out, unlike the dirty motels people in the US use. In fact, they are the best deals in the city and I think I may switch to one for my last two nights (I already paid for the hostel for tonight, night 3 of 5). There is one right next door to this hostel, so I walked over to see what the rates were (I didn't know it was a 'love hotel'; I didn't yet ever hear of such a thing). It was lit up with all these cool lights, looking somewhat like what the rest of Asia and the US call 'boutique' hotels. Well, I walk in, and it's soo strange. There isn't a front desk, or anyone there for that matter. All you see is these lit of pictures, depicting all the rooms that they have. The ones that are available are still
The subways are soo clean!
lit, and the ones that are taken aren't. Then, there's two buttons, one labeled 'rest' the other 'stay'. You're supposed to just push the button, pay the fee, then it releases the key to the respective room. So weird. The Japanese are so shy and proper on the outside; this, coupled with their fear of embarassment, makes it so they can't bear having even a random hotel employee have a small glimpse into their perversions. Well, I decided to just stick with my hostel; the rest of Japan has already weirded me out enough, minus the 'love hotel'. However, they looked real nice in the pictures, the bathrooms are inside the rooms, and the costs are low (lower than a single room will cost me here, which I have reserved for my last two nights). About 7500 yen for a night, which is about 70 dollars.
OK, the hostel. It is the highest rated hostel in Tokyo on hostelworld.com; however, it is total crap. Hostels in SE Asia are SOO much nicer. Also, it costs 28 bucks a night, which isn't cheap (I was paying that for really nice hotels in SE Asia). First off, there are 8 people
Womens only cart
They have women's only carts in Japan since they have a problem with dirty Japanese men rubbing against girls, aided by the rumbling of the subway, to get their rocks off.
on bunk beds in a tiny room. There is no heat, and it isn't warm in Tokyo this time of year (high 40's low 50's). To make things worse, you have to walk outside to get to the bathrooms/showers. Not just outside the room; outside outside. You actually have to walk out onto an uncovered fire escape like plank completely exposed to the elements if you want to shower, etc.. I definitely want to move; however, it's not that bad being that I'm hardly ever back at the hostel. Most the past two days have been spent wandering around, being weirded out, and not spending any money (since everything is so expensive, which isn't helped by the terrible exchange rate) while seeking out cheap places to eat.
Even eating is no small task, since it is nearly impossible to order from a menu with no English. Either I have to point things out, stick with what I know (gyoza, sushi number 3), eat Indian or Italian (after trying to decipher Japanese writing, Italian is a cinch), or go to McDonalds or Starbucks. The Starbucks is actually very good here, just like back home.
For accomodation, I'm also thinking about
Smoking area on the street.
You can smoke in restaurants, but not on the streets. I think this makes more sense in terms of government reach, being that restaurants are privately owned while the streets are public property. Therefore, the government has more of a right to dictate what one does or doesn't do on the streets than they do inside a privately owned restaurant.
checking out one of the "Pod" hotels. They are just as the name says. You rent a little pod that is fit with a tv, radio, individual lighting, etc, and then you have access to an INDOOR bathroom with showers, and get provided with a robe, towels, even toothbrush and razors. The pictures look real weird; the pods are stacked three or four high, and you need to climb a ladder to get into them. Then you close the pod while you sleep. It actually looked perfect for me; however, you HAVE to be out between 10AM and 5PM, which is fine with me. But, I wonder about my stuff. It says that they will store your things for you in the downstairs area, but it isn't a locker or anything. The other things is, is that you can't get in until 5PM. Therefore, if I switch, which I wanted to do today, I'd have to carry around my stuff from 11AM (check out time at the hostel) all the way until 5 PM (check in time at the pod hotel). Whatever.
The Japanese people. So weird. It seems like they have something to prove. It's as if we
The Japanese women are VERY stylish. They all wear designer clothing, but they only wear monochrome colors.
dropped an A bomb or two on them (OK, but still). They are NOT friendly, especially after my experience in the other countries of SE Asia. Nobody speaks English, and if you speak in English to them they will try to ignore you. The only time I started getting a better reception from them would be when I would speak in Japanese (street names, subway stations, thank you, please, etc.). Actually, it seems as if only the old Japanese are cranky; the young ones are cool. Today, I wanted to get a haircut. The first two places just showed me the door while making x's with their hands (most hair places won't cut the hair of foreigners or young people), the third one was 4400 yen for a barber shop (40 US Dollars), the fourth again showed me the X, then the fifth finally took me. I pretty much ended up with a crew cut (not a big deal, it's better than longer hair). This no foreigner thing is actually pretty prevalent. I've been ushered out of two restaurants, and have heard of it being prevalent in MANY other areas such as bars, clubs, even some stores. That wouldn't fly
Cameron Diaz - the face of Softbank
It's funny. There are pictures of Western stars all over Japan as the face of Japanese companies.
in the US; however, there's no Al Sharpton for foreigners in Japan. Thank god I'm not black in Japan; I would probably be forced to crawl in the gutter. Asians do not like black people. This kid I met in the hostel was telling me how he can barely get by there; he even gets ushered out of stores. I think that it definitely comes from what they see on TV or the movies; they are scared I think.
All around, they have these Pachinko/Slots places. I don't see why they are so packed. I walked into one of them, and it was SOOOO loud, much louder than any casino in the States. I could understand if they were playing for money; however, they were playing for CHIPS!!!! What weirdos. Like Dave N Busters. Then, the chips could be exchanged for PRIZES... what weirdos. Filled with adults; you have to be over 21 to go in. OK, I think I'm going to get off. I only have an hour on the computer, and I need to do some other things.
PS. I know there aren't many pictures. I had enough trouble in Japan just
They have huge pictures of her all over each Softbank, and she stars in their numerous gigantic billboards.
getting around, without having a camera slow me down.
UPDATE: Afterward, at the hostel I met a kid from Chicago who spoke Japanese. This definitely helped a lot, and he showed me around the city. I was able to master the subway system and began to get comfortable making my way around. Too bad I didn't have more time. It is very important to learn at least a minimal amount of Japanese to actually manage your way in the city. It helps a LOT to learn the language, which I did to a small degree due to necessity. It's amazing how quickly you can pick up a language if you are forced to.
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