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Random Observations

Tokyo Travel Blog

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No stories from yesterday, so here are random observations I've been jotting down in my journal over the last 10 days.

 

NON-CAR TRANSPORTATION

 

Motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles are very common here. We're just north of the neighborhood/town of Kawasaki and, yes, we see a lot of Kawasaki motorcycles!  No Harley's, no Triumphs. Virtually every place I've been has had bicycle-specific parking areas, which were very full. The sidewalks are often lined with parked motorcycles, scooters, and bikes (ON the sidewalk).

 

VENDING MACHINES

 

Tokyo has a rep for more vending machines than practically anywhere else. They are omnipresent. They contain beverages of just about every variety, including canned coffee drinks and beer sometimes. There are also tons of cigarette vending machines. I have yet to see a vending machine for snacks.

 

7-11

 

7-11 is here!  Where the 7-11s at home are part small grocery store, they are also at least half candy and junk food. Here, they seem to be about 90% little grocery stores and very little candy and junk food. And no slurpees, sorry to report!

 

CLOTHING

 

It's kind of a fun game to spot a westerner and see if you can determine their continent-of-origin (EuropeAustraliaNorth America?) by their clothing. The biggest tip-off is usually shoes and socks. Men will wear things on their feet in Europe that an American man never would (not sure about Canada) and vice versa.

 

TRASH CANS

 

For a very tidy country (and it really is), I've been frustrated by the lack of public trash cans. When I find cans, they are usually recycling cans -- bottles, cans, paper. But just trash cans are really really hard to find. It turns out it's because of ... terrorism. After the sarin (sp?) gas attack on the Tokyo subway in the 90s, most public trash cans were removed.

 

Gee, it feels just like home. <sigh>

 

SLEEP DEPRIVATION

 

This city may be even more sleep-deprived than DC. It's impressive how many people fall asleep on the subway, even in the middle of the day, even when they're only going one or two stops. From what I've heard about their work hours and commutes, I guess I'm not surprised. Maybe that's why the canned coffee drinks in the vending machines are so popular?

 

SUGAR WITHDRAWL

 

Given that candy is smaller than I'm used to in the US and not as available (see:  vending machines and 7-11, above), I'm going through a little bit of sugar withdrawal. Oh, there are plenty of pastries but it's not the same as the super-sized Snickers!  :)

 

PORTION SIZES

 

In general, we are eating more sensibly here. Portion sizes are smaller than in the US. Much closer to what the USDA (and Weight Watchers) tells us is actually a normal portion size (which bears no resemblance to what you get at a restaurant in the US).

 

We had a fantastic Italian meal last night at a nice restaurant. 5 courses but I wasn't stuffed. In part, the food was incredibly well-prepared. Also, the portion sizes were far more sane than you would get at, say, Maggiano's.

 

I've actually dropped some weight since I've been here. In part because of all the walking but I think even more of it is because of (1) we don't have any junk food in the apartment and (2) the portion sizes when we eat out are more sane.

 

Maybe that's part of the reason I haven't seen too many overweight people here?

 

BREAKFAST

 

As near as I can tell, the Japanese do not make a lot of distinction between "breakfast" food and food for other meals. I get the impression that it's not unrealistic to have sushi for breakfast. The McDonalds up the street has the usual American breakfast menu. In addition, they have a 'breakfast special' that is a bagel with tomato and cheese and salad with dressing. For breakfast. I've also seen people order the salad shakers for breakfast.

 

EGGS

 

The Japanese eat eggs in places we don't. If you order a hamburger steak in a restaurant, there's a very good chance there will be a fried egg on top. If you order pasta that should have egg mixed in, it may be in there as a hard-boiled egg. Jeff has ordered a plain bowl of noodles, only to have a soft-boiled egg cracked into it. No big deal, except he doesn't like eggs any way except scrambled.

 

MARS ATTACKS

 

Did anyone else see this movie when it was in the theaters (for about 2 weeks) in 1996?  It was a profoundly awful movie, yet had a stunning cast -- Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, James Brown, Pam Grier, Sarah-Jessica Parker, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Natalie Portman, Jack Black, Paul Winfield....boy, somebody owed somebody a favor! 

 

I notice that none of these actors mention this movie when they're discussing their film careers. :)

 

Well, I can now tell you that it's much better to watch it the 2nd time around on satellite TV. You can laugh out loud at just how stupid it is.

 

OK, that has virtually nothing to do with Tokyo but I thought I'd mention it anyways.

 

CELL PHONES

 

Everyone and their grandmother seems to own a cell phone. However, you see very few people actually talking on them. Their use is strongly discouraged in public places like the subway, train, restaurants, etc. You'll see signs on the subway telling you to turn your phone to vibrate and (for some reason) to not use it at all near the priority seating for the elderly, handicapped, etc.

 

People have them out but I think they use them for everything else in these settings and I think text messaging is HUGE. And when they do talk on them in a public setting (like a train station) it's very common to see people covering their mouth to limit how much other people are hearing their conversations.

 

PIGEON TOES

 

For some reason, I've noticed a lot more pigeon-toed women here. If I notice people's feet at all, I rarely see a woman with her feet turning out (like mine do). But I see quite a lot of women who walk with their toes turned in (pigeon-toed). Far more than I've ever noticed anywhere else. Don't know what that's all about.

 

NAPKINS

 

It is pretty common when you sit down even in a fairly casual restaurant to be handed a small damp towelette. The idea is to wipe your hands and mouth before you start eating. Sometimes they're even warm.

 

What is much more uncommon is actual napkins. You learn to hang on to your towelette, especially if you're as sloppy an eater as I am. :)

 

LIGHT SWITCHES

 

Oh, my goodness, the Japanese are absolutely in love with light switches. In our bedroom, there are 2 -- count 'em, 2 -- lights that can be controlled by switches on the wall. We have 4 -- count 'em, 4 -- light switches.

 

The clothing rods in the closet have little lights in them that are controlled by a motion sensor. They don't add much actual illumination but they are pretty.

 

There's a light in the foyer to our apartment (which includes the door to the bathroom). It is motion activated. That's nice when you first enter the apartment. It's not so nice at 3 am when you just want a quick visit to the bathroom.

 

Jeff and I were out to dinner at a small local place Tuesday night. He went to the men’s room and when he came back he said it was a small men’s room -- 2 urinals, 1 stall, 1 sink. It had, maybe, 4 lightbubs ... and 4 light switches. I was disappointed that he didn't play with them to see how they all worked while he was in there.

 

Bad American tourist!

 

There's a small lavatory off the lobby of our building. Standard 1/2 bath kind of thing. Maybe 3 feet by 6 feet. With two lights operated by two separate switches. One of which is a spotlight that highlights the toilet (almost like a...throne) and the very nice piece of artwork hanging on the little alcove behind the toilet.

 

These people LOVE lights and light switches (and are awfully fond of their toilets).

 

SMOKING

 

Smoking is common here. Virtually every restaurant has a non-smoking section but smoking is still rampant.

 

AMERICAN INCURSIONS

 

Here are American restaurants we've seen here:

 

Starbucks

McDonalds

KFC

Wendy's

TGI Fridays

Outback Steakhouse

Denny's

Bob's Big Boy (with the requisite Big Boy out front)

 

The last two were not in Tokyo. They were in small/mid-size towns out near Mt. Fuji.

 

 

OK, that's all my pointless musings. I'm off now for my 90-minute massage -- 30 minutes of feet, 30 minutes of back, and 30 minutes of (believe it or not) "intestines". I presume that's a general abdominal massage, though I could, in fact, get my liver massaged for 30 minutes. I'll let you know.

 

Be well and I'll have more in about 12 hours.

 

Sayonara,

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photo by: maka77