Friday, May 4, 2012

Japan: Random Observations

A small collection of random observations and random photographs from our Japan trip that has been accumulated as I was writing the rest of the posts about Japan.

Prayer plaques at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.The end of November in Japan is a great time to visit. We expected to see naked trees, but instead we saw plenty of autumn colors and a lot of green.

Street vendor wares at Ueno Market.There are a lot of people all over the place wearing face masks — in subway, on the streets, at work. Pretty much at any time in any public place you will see somebody doing this. People are courteous enough to keep their colds and flu to themselves. Too bad it is so uncommon where we live.

Tsukiji fish market. Yummy?When we first decided to buy something from a vending machine (which are everywhere) we were surprised that a hot bottle fell out of the machine. Turns out that vending machines sell hot drinks as well as cold ones. You can tell the hot drinks by a red label under the bottle and a cold by a blue ones.

Painter at Nara Park.You can buy a real unsweetened hot or cold, green or black tea from a vending machine.

We often had a hard time finding a trash can on the street, yet all the streets and subway stations are impeccably clean. Every train station has a very clean public restroom.

Stairs to one of Nara shrines.Everything except for the food costs obscene amounts of money. A Nikon — Japanese made — lens that I can get from B&H for $1,999 costs $3,000. Casio Pathfinder watch that I bought here for under $400 costs over $600. A compact flash card that I bought from Amazon for $55 costs $125 there. Dollar is extremely weak these days.

Kasuga Shrine.You are better off using your credit and debit cards while paying 3% for every transaction than exchanging money. The going exchange rate is going to end being worse than your credit card company will give you with that 3% charge included.

Prayer boards at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.While the spoken English of most Japanese is better than my Japanese — it’s not far off. They can handle a very basic English sentence, yet anything slightly more complex causes them to keep repeating what you first basic sentence was and laugh uncontrollably. It appears to us that when they are embarrassed they laugh.

JR Station in Osaka.In all our time in Japan I have seen many Japanese and many European cars and only one American car — some GMC truck. Japanese people seem to be quite a bit more patriotic with respect to their car choices than American people are.

Houses on Miyajima Island.People are extremely polite, but you will never know what they are really thinking about you. It’s as if everyone has a dual personality there. That somehow made us somewhat uncomfortable.

In Japan it is not customary to tip and could even be considered rude. That felt quite liberating actually.

Bicycles in Osaka.Japanese people dress very stylishly. Women wear super sexy skirts, stockings and boots. Man wear western suits with ties during the weekdays. I don’t think I have seen these kind of seas of suits even in Manhattan.
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