Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
This is, by far, the best 7 day vacation I have ever had!! We had a blast in Japan!! As much as we got lost and confused, it's ok! We still had a great time! The Frommer's and Fodor's Guide book did mention that streets were difficult to find and needing a compass would help out! Even locals don't know street names, they go by landmarks - so getting lost was expected!! :)
I don't think Japan is as expensive as people say it is as far as vacation goes (and I realize I'm comparing to USD). A vacation is only "expensive" if you make it expensive. I am so cheap, I will find ways to stay within my budget. I spent less than $50/nite at nice, clean twin PRIVATE hostels with own bathroom, found $5 or less meals, transportation is worth it with a JR Pass, etc. The only thing that we thought were expensive were souvenirs and clothes. But do you really need to buy those??? A lot of the souvenirs can be found in Chinatowns all over the U.S. Hey let's be honest here, a lot of these souvenirs are made in China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. But then again, the REALLY REALLY expensive souvenirs are obviously Japan-made (i.e. Japanese swords). The electronics in Akihabara are the same price as in U.S. You're better off looking for a sale in the U.S. Just be wise about your purchases and you'll be ok. Plus you won't be adding to your luggage weight on the way back home! :)
The friendly locals did it for us.. unbelievably friendly there. We have never met anyone willing to help a stranger find his way around the city. They are amazingly patient and kind to lost, dazed, and confused tourists. No one stares or looks at you with a "You are a dumb*ss tourist" look on their face, actually they pass you by like you are just any normal local roaming the city. Maybe it's because the city is so crowded that one face after another is just a blur!!! No matter who you pass or who you encounter for like 30 seconds (cashier, information desk person, stranger, etc.), they will bow at you and you'll receive a string of Japanese greetings. "Ohaiyo gozaimus, etc. etc. etc!" These greetings are not forced out of their months spoken as if they are lethargic walmart employees in Houston, nor are they rehearsed to say anything nice, the Japanese really are just that friendly!! You say Asakusa or Otsuki incorrectly and that doesn't even phase them. They know exactly what you're talking about and they don't look at you like you are an idiot. It's probably because there are so many different travellers that pass through, they'll just accept any accent they hear.
There are throngs of people everywhere you go. From Ueno, to Akihabara, to Shibuya, to Shinjuku, etc. - they are EVERYWHERE. It's as if they have the same destination as you, but it's not - people are just everywhere!!! They don't shove or push you in a crowd like in Beijing!!!
The technology there is awesome. I love the "hot" fast food order vending machine. You stick your money in, select which food you want, and the machine prints out a ticket. You had the ticket to the cook inside and the food will be in front of you in less than 30 seconds. These meals are $5 USD or less! When you go to a sit-down restaurant, the waiters take your order on a little handheld computer. They just press your order in, and I guess it is sent to the computer screen in the kitchen. How efficient is that!! The fancy toilets are just awesome. Even though we had NO idea what all those buttons, were for, I'm sure one of them is a self-cleaning function! I'm sure anyone would love to have that! They even have heated toilet seats!
Japan's transportation is amazing. This is the first time we've seen a country with so many people using different types of public transportation. From trains, subways, buses you are easily transported to any place in the city or anywhere within the country. It's so easy!!!! The reservation system for long distance trips on shinkansens are so efficient. Time table books look confusing but you don't need to master reading one, just go to JR desk and they will find the best time and train to take to your destination. If you need an earlier or later time, no problem, just go to the JR desk and make the changes.
* Bring a compass. You'll need it to figure out what direction you are facing when you leave the train station and when looking for destinations!
* Remember to walk on the right side of the street.
* Don't hand money to the cashier. Put it in the tray on the counter.
Anyway, please continue to read my blog. I will add more wonderful experiences throughout. I am still in progress, but feel free to come back and see more updates and pictures!