1. Japan is old... As you probably already know, from a cultural standpoint Japan has a rich heritage and a long history but I'm talking about the demographics! Old people probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Japan but the population distribution here looks a little something like this...
2. You aren’t eating unless you're snacking... I've said this before in a prior post so I'm going to keep this one short! Food here is like eating any Asian food. You'll literally go from full to famished in about 1.5-2 hours. Wash, rinse, repeat through out the day! I’ll probably be hungry by the time I’m done writing this.
3. Homogenous society?!? Kinda but not really... Do people kinda look similar, yeah in the same way that green vegetables look like grass if you zoom out or in far enough. Of course there are some general societal norms, just like anywhere else, but this place is far from homogenous. So there's a saying in Japan that "the nail that sticks out gets hammered in" and as much as people try to live by this ideal people are literally bursting at the seams to be theirselves! I compare japan's society to wearing a uniform at school but doing everything in your power to twist it into something unique. Like wearing the jacket inside out (Fresh Prince), choosing the loudest pair of socks, wearing florescent shoes, wild accessories or purple hair and doing anything else just to fall right outside the "code". The underlying rebellion is real but see #1…
4. The Worlds Most Advance Technology... Ummm... Not so much!!! Aside from an abundance of widely available smartphones, the most used technology in Japan is a pen & paper, cash and google translate (expats)/maps (locals). You will however see an abundance of Pepper and CRINGEY humanoid robots behind display counters but they get as much use as the dishes in your grandmothers china cabinet (they're just for SHOW). Want to transfer some money between your accounts or internationally? That requires a trip to the bank! Need to get a service established? Take this application, file it out in Japanese, hope you got a pen.
5. Never be Thirsty! Japan's got you with the Drinks and Drinks and Drinks and Drinks and Drinks and Drinks and Drinks!!! So there’s an ever revolving variety of drinks to choose from at the grocery, convenient stores and drink machines. Like the idea of having your own personal happy-hour while in route to your location? NO PROBLEM! % Alcohol by volume drinks are sold pretty much Everywhere including the vending machines! (No ID required) Oh, and not to worry, partaking on the trains isn’t as taboo as one may think! But a few baseline rules. 1) Drink as much as you’d like just make sure to clean up after yourself, 2) Don’t throw up in the train! 3) Loud’ish with friends OK, Loud on the phone NOT ok!, 4) be courteous to those around you, 5) don’t get drunk enough where you think it’s ok to play on the tracks. They have a special bag for that! (See #9)
6. Trains are efficient until… The cosmopolitan “city” of Tokyo has a top notch metro system that is ranked as one of the most efficient in the world. It’s Achilles heel is that the system stops running around midnight! ? NYC metro 24/7, Paris metro 2:15a, London Tube 24-hour service on Fridays and Saturdays, I figured a city that is frequently mentioned with the previous would run trains deep into the night! I was wrong! #NoPartying if you #LiveInTheBurbs unless you plan on taking the first morning (5am) train home from your night out! I think I’m a little old for that venture… #TBD
7. Tokyo isn't a city…. Tokyo is a Metropolis comprised of 23 special wards and municipalities, kind of like boroughs in NYC.
8. Vintage is in style - Have you ever wondered where all the old record players/records, DVD's, CD players, Zunes, Point & Shoot Cameras, and old game systems went to retire? They are here hanging out in Japan and they are being used like they were released in the 2017 Sears Christmas catalog! If you’re looking for vintage anything you’ll likely find it here without too much trouble. Speaking of vintage, second hand shops called “hard-offs” are abundant and sell everything from High-end electronics and fashion to random cords and transistors.
9. Japan and Trash have an interesting relationship…. Trash isn’t something you typically think about, Right? When your finished with something you just toss it in a bin and don’t tend to give it any additional thought! Well not here! Trash is color coded (for ease of use)! There are about 7ish different trash cans to properly dispose of your waste. This wouldn’t be inherently bad if you just had to make sure to separate out things you used but say you drink a coke out of a PET bottle… The bottle goes in 1 bag, the lid & wrapper goes in another. (Easy enough right?) How about a new something that has a box containing Styrofoam, Plastics, Cardboard, and some metal twist ties…. Yeah, there’s a separate bag for each! Oh the fun! How about this, Not at home to throw things in your colorful bins? When you’re out an about trash cans are NOT in abundance so you wind up having to carry around empty containers and random pieces of paper until you get home to dispose of them. Despite the lack of public trash cans the city is amazingly clean but you always have random wrappers and bottles on your person. My J-Bag looks like the backseat of a car of someone who frequently transports children! How’d that French fry get in my pocket?
10. So what’s a J-Bag? A Japan bag or J-Bag comes in multiple forms but typically it’s either a large purse, back pack, waist pack or messenger bag! The only requirement is that it can hold everything you might need when you go on a “quick outing”. Most J-bags have an umbrella, charging pack + cord(s), headphones, tissues, wet wipes (don’t get me started on Japan bathrooms), seasonal clothing, and what every you purchased while you were out + any trash you’ll need to throw away once you make it home!
11. Feeling accomplished about your 10K daily steps? Don’t…. Being in these Tokyo streets a 30K day isn’t outside the norm! All the walking sucks but remember #1 on this list? There is literally a sizable group of Congress aged people putting up 15-20k daily steps just getting around and handling life. Japanese Grandma and them put up numbers!
12. If you no see, you no get… Man… Talk about an adjustment! In the UAE if you can dream it up someone will bend over backwards to make it happen for you!
Dubai: Not on the menu but the ingredients are reasonably close (even at a neighboring store), it’s yours! Not on the shelf, we’ll check the entire Country for it and have it sent to your house by tomorrow! Want a custom (inserts here) ? Sure, how’s the end of the week sound?
Japan: If it’s not explicitly on a menu, visually in stock or currently in existence, the response comes in the form of “sucking their teeth for an extended period of time” then hold up the X sign with pointer fingers… Basically it’s not meant for you to have! Even if it’s something simple! Oh you want a 3rd patty on a double cheese burger and are willing to pay extra? Sorry a triple cheese burger isn’t on the menu, the button doesn’t exist on the computer and no one including the manager has the power to make this happen! CEO level decisions, I guess… Regardless, don’t bring that Gaijin foolishness around here!
13. Gaijin = Anyone that doesn’t fit into #3…. Or all NON-Japanese passport holders… They don’t care how long you been here or how well you speak the language if you’re not born Japanese you’re forever Gaijin.
14. Japan Healthy? You’d think with all the walking, the abundance of green tea, and ZEN lifestyle Japan would be an easy place to be a health nut! ???
Nah, not so much! See #2 & #5 then factor in the tempura fried EVERYTHING (Japan, the world’s biggest carnival food stand), prepackaged everything, the fact that each “meal” could qualify as carb loading for Triathlon participants, the price of fruit and veggies (everything is airfreighted or shipped in, and that produce isn’t going to fly itself) and the love of the hog and you have a picture of the culinary landscape! I’ve always wondered why island nations love the pig so much! It seems like it would just be easier to eat out of the ocean…. I guess I need to get those #GaijinThoughts outta here! LOL!
15. Où est la boulangerie? - If you’re in the mood for a good pastry go no further than your closest train station! Oddly the Japanese seem to have a thing for French bakeries! All of the little bakeries seem to be self contained, bake on location and feature a variety of classic French offerings along side a number of Japanese inspired French’ish hybrids. I’ve come to appreciate the wasabi mayo concoctions they’ve dreamed up and the cheese + mayo bun has a special place in my heart. Hopefully just not to the point where it decides to attack.
16. The “What are those?” capital of the developed world! Don’t have a reference point to what I’m referring to? Watch the 16 second video below
Go ahead, don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back!
Walk by any store front in Tokyo and you’ll quickly realize that Japan is all about the fashion! However where the fashion game struggles is in the shoe department! We all know, the easiest way to ruin a nice outfit is a pair of bad shoes! Terrible shoe choice is so prevalent there must be a mandatory class on the topic! Or maybe it’s a cultural right of passage! Or maybe there’s some sort of incentive for wearing bad shoes? That’s it!!! There must be an incentive! Like every time you wear bad shoes you get a discount on train fair! To qualify for the bad shoe transit discount your shoes can’t fit correctly (too big seems to be the norm), Clunky/Clunky (think Bruce Banner with the Hulk’s feet), feature an array of zippers, laces and Velcro that all serve as the way to fasten the shoes or if they’re completely mismatch as it pertains to your outfit (color or style).
That has to be it! I mean, there has to be something to justify the tone death use of terrible footwear!
Ok, I think that’s it for now plus I’m getting hungry so... Here are a few honorable mentions that didn’t make this list.
17. Alcohol flavored kit Kats with % alcohol warning on package… #Yummy
18. Kei cars, power wheels for adults…
19. Got a TV? Ummm No… ? but there’s a door to door tax man asking… #WhatTV
20. The Japanese Matryoshka doll plastic bag strategy for things already in plastic bags… #ChallengeAccepted
21. There’s no such thing as a quick outing! I’ll be right back #5hoursLater
22. Played where’s Waldo on the JR and I was Waldo… #LostWithGoogleMaps
23. Seen the movie The Terminal with Tom Hanks, welcome to Shinjuku Station
24. XL in the US = 4XL in Japan but it’s #ImportedFromCanada
25. Is Walmart still Walmart without the trailer trash #TheSEIYUExperience
26. The JR Line Hillbillies… (cue song here)
27. Hip-hop + Faux Locs/Corn rows + Street Wear + Skin Whitening products = Confused
28. Japan menus why no pictures?!? 99% #LiteracyRate #LearnToRead
29. This is a test of the emergency broadcast system, Daily @ 5pm! Oh and BTW Go Home!
30. Al Pachinko, Japan “You want to play games?”
Food & Beverage