Thoughts from Japan

So I’m on the airplane back from Japan to Korea, where I’ll be staying the night before heading back out to Hong Kong.  The days have just been flying by now at this point, so it’s hard to sit down and write my thoughts down.

Japan was a pretty awesome place, though!  When I get around to posting pictures (either on Facebook or here), I’ll do a more thorough play-by-play breakdown of the things I’ve done.  But, in the vein of my last post, here’s a list of some of my thoughts on Japan.

1) What Do Japanese People Look Like? – So one interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that, in my opinion, the Japanese are much more diverse in their appearance than most other Asian countries I’ve been to.  I’ve seen some Japanese people that look nearly Caucasian, some that definitely look Korean, some that look Chinese, some middle eastern Japanese people, some Hispanic-appearing Japanese people, and some that look super Japanese (the one that I always pictured in my mind).   I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there seems to be much more mixing of bloodlines here, as Tokyo is more of a Global city than Korea.

2) EXPENSIVE! – The Yen is really deceiving because the smallest Japanese bill (as in piece of paper) is 1,000 yen (roughly equivalent to $10).  For you Korean folk, that’s one digit removed from the won (where 10,000 won is roughly equivalent to $10).  But anyways, so if you have 9 US dollars worth of yen, it’s just change in your pocket!  There’s even a 500 yen coin (~$5), and it’s commonly used, like a quarter in the US (and NOT like the dollar coin or half dollar coins).  This valuable change kinda blocks your awareness to the fact that you are just constantly bleeding money.  Sodas are 100-150 yen (1-1.50 dollars), cheap fast food meals are like 600 yen (~$6.50), subway rides are like 200-500 yen (2-5 dollars).  The cost itself isn’t so bad relative to the US, but it’s just the fact that you feel like you’re not spending a lot because you pay with coins.  I constantly found myself checking my wallet to find that I was out of money, and needed to exchange more.  Where does it all GO?

3) Food! – To be honest, some people that had previously gone to Japan told me that the food was unremarkable.  But I loved the food!  I think I might have lucked out, though, because my host, Leonard (an old college suitemate), has been living there for the past 4 years, so he knew his way around and showed me to really good restaurants (the cheaper, but tasty ones).  Since I was only there for 4 days and he worked during the day, we’d eat 2 dinners every night!  And then, for lunches, I got my fill of cheaper but yummy food (yoshinoya, McDonalds, and Lotteria – a Korean version of McD’s).  But yeah, I’m typically not a huge fan of Japanese ramen (at least at that one place on Convoy that supposedly tastes very “authentic.”  I think it “authentically” tastes bland!), but the 2 ramen places I went to here were very flavorful and very filling.  They gave free refills of noodles too! Also, we went to this sushi place where the pieces of fish they put on the sushi were tasty and huge (think like a blanket on top of you, sleeping.  You = rice, blanket = fish).

4) Walk the Walk – So, everybody knows that in Japan, the cars all drive on the left side of the roads and that the steering wheels are on the right side of the car.  And some people have deduced that this means that oncoming traffic comes from the opposite side, meaning that buses come from what seems like in front of you (but they are coming from behind, from their perspective).  (side note: young choi told me also that the windshield wipers are on the right and the turn signals are on the left of the steering wheel, so when he drove in Japan, he kept on turning on the windshield wipers when he wanted to turn).  On top of this, everybody walks on the left side of the street, and the slow people on the escalator are on the left side (I later found out this not the case in all of Japan).  So everything is reversed, and I kept on getting confused/lost. It really threw my man-compass off quite a bit, and I found myself getting lost more than normal (because I guess I subconsciously use the flow of traffic and people to know where I am).

5) Subway/Railway System – Confusing!!!  The subway system in Seoul is pretty genius (some say, the BEST, in fact…), and anybody can pick it up in a matter of hours.  It’s colored and numbered, the signs are all very easy to read and written in Korean, Japanese, and English.  In Japan, however, it’s a whole different story.  The subways are given names (which all sound like video game or car companies), rather than numbers, which makes it hard because the syllables are all hard to remember.  And although there are colors, there are so many colors that it goes into Crayola-type differentiation (midnight blue vs navy blue vs dark blue vs etc).   And on top of that, in Tokyo, the railroads are NOT listed on the subway maps (that took me a day or two to figure out) and the bigger transfer stations are ginormous, some with 4 or 5 lines meeting.  Even by the end of my trip, my knowledge of the subway system was only novice at best.

6)  The Tower of Babel – I realized quickly in Japan how awesome my Korean is, how awesome my Spanish is, and how HORRIBLE my Japanese is.  I still (and now I’ve left Japan) don’t know a single word in Japan except Hai, and definitely can’t read a single letter (or syllable, or character?  What is it?!) I thought there’d be tons of English written everywhere, but this was not the case.  While there were some in places like subways and airports, many stores and restaurants had absolutely no English on them.  (I did learn that the trick is to ask for a separate English menu, which some places have).  Thankfully, I feel like people were able to speak English better than Koreans (but not well, by any means.)  This was the first time I’ve been in a country where I didn’t know a lick of the language.  It gave me more appreciation for God’s infinite wisdom in creating different languages, because it really makes it hard to communicate and interact with other people.   Makes me really think that the most important class I took in college was Korean.

don’t worry, i got lots of other good stories to tell from Japan… like my experience at a maid cafe and capsule hotel!

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4 Responses to Thoughts from Japan

  1. Tia says:

    maybe the japanese look more diverse because more ppl travel there for business? and maybe they’re not all japanese?

  2. edyip says:

    I’ve been on both korea’s and hong kong’s MTRs and as humbly as I can put it, I think HK absolutely destroys Korea’s subway station. Your eyes will be open soon, my friend.

  3. moonchoi says:

    You went to a maid cafe?! Haha… hopefully not by yourself…?

  4. dtahn says:

    ed: the hong kong MTR is better than the korean ones…. but, ialso think the korean subway system looks much better than when you were last there. (the subways aren’t open where the tracks are anymore).

    tia: that’s true, but they seemed native…

    moon: not by myself! and let the record show that your very own guide recommended that i go. if an innocent bystander were to read your comment, it would seem as if i was just some weirdo.

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