Mixed Japanese stuff

I’m writing this from our posh hotel room in Shiodome, abusing enjoying the 100Mb Internet connection and still somewhat fighting with a bad jet lag. We spent three full days in Tokyo (well, actually we slept in Tokyo but we spent just one day over here, as we’ve been busy going to Mt. Fuji/Hakone and Kamakura), tomorrow, when we return fron Nikko, it will be our last night before we move on to the Kyoto area for another 6 lavish days in this great place.

Writing travel blogs is not an easy task, as it takes a lot to recall every experience and make a coherent story out of it. I’d rather resort, again, to a few random notes:

  • Japan is clean. And I mean really clean. Road walks are spotless, every single piece of metal shines, and I bet there is more dust left in my library than in the whole Ginza main street. A swarm of cleaners sweeps, brushes and dusts (yes, dusts!) every single bit, and all that makes me wonder how should Japanese tourists feel when they come to our Western cities, which should look dumpsters to them. Even the fish market is tidier than most European cities. Unbelievable.
  • I’m done with sushi abroad. After a morning treat in the Tokyo fish market, I know that no other place outside of Japan will ever get close to the wonder I had the chance to eat over here. I’m serious, I can’t even begin to tell you the difference between the Real Thing and the “fish with rice” we’re having back home. You’ve really got to come here and see for yourself, and I solemnly swear I will never ever enter a Sushi restaurant outside of Japan unless I’m forced to. God knows how I will miss that.
  • Japan is silent. Even in crowded places, people either are quiet or speak in a soft tone of voice. All you can hear are the funny jingles at metro/train stations, and the casual vendor shouting about their goods.
  • English is, well, an option over here. Even though I feel that a sizable chunk of the self-proclaimed non-English speakers were able to understand what I was telling them, be prepared to a lot of polite smiles and Japanese responses when you try to ask for something. For some weird reason, they don’t even try to slow down or spare the words, so you’ll get a deluge of native speaking which won’t help you much. Point your finger on the menu, read the counter for the price, and throw a few “onegaishimasu/arigato” here and there: eventually, your food/beverage will be served to you almost according to your intentions, but don’t settle for more unless you really grok Japanese.
  • Maybe it’s just me having great expectations, but I found Akihabara quite overrated. I was eagerly looking for electronics and gadgets to bring home, but at the end of the day I was just able to snatch an Empower Magsafe connector (which will be handy as I will be crossing the ocean quite a few times in the near future), and the obligatory Canon 50mm 1.8f for my EOS. Good deals, but nothing to die for.
  • If you want to see some weird Tokyo stuff, look no further than Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon. Apart from the somewhat famous cosplay, a long stretch of youngsters dressed in Rockabilly style, playing in small bands, singing along, painting, skateboarding or juggling will make you understand the push for creativity the new generations feel over here.
  • Japan is dirt cheap, notwithstanding the legend of being and expensive place. My lavish sushi breakfast, which was more than I usually had for dinner, was a mere 840 Yen (that’s 7$ or 5€), and you can get to posh restaurants and eat some real food for less than 10€, which would be barely enough to get you a less-than-average pizza back in Italy. Just stay away from Starbucks, which for some unknown reason rips you off 330 Yen for a cup of coffee: that’s not much in itself, but it’s more than double the ordinary street price.
  • Tonkatsu rocks, and I just can’t get enough of it. Next on my “must try” list is Ramen, Tempura, possibly Kobe beef and some nice ekiben as we start traveling more on trains.
  • At least once in a lifetime, everyone should try a fully equipped Toto toilet.