Note, some of these are things I already knew, but now have first-hand experience. If this is what I know from four days, imagine what I’ll know after three months.
- The gaijin zone/force-field. Oh yeah baby. No one will make eye contact, but they’ll stare at you. And few will talk to you. Luckily I’m only barely over the average male height, so I’m not the giant in the street.
- Police don’t patrol the streets, except in Akihabara (since the truck/knife attack last month), where they’re on every other street corner. At least two, usually three.
- If you’re in a department store, even if all the sections on a floor are the same company, you purchase things from a section in that section. No taking housewares over to appliances to try to buy say, a towel and a fan at the same time. No no no no no. Of course, if you want sales assistants to run after you to kindly inform you that you have to purchase things in the section you picked them up in before moving on, go right ahead.
- Figuring out the JR trains isn’t hard. But what is easier is just going and buying a Suica card. Put money on it, swipe and go. No figuring out how much a fare is to a specific stop, just swipe and go.
- The JR trains are only one method of transportation. There is also the Tokyo Metro (subway) which is its own system with separate fares and cards. There are also specialty trains such as the Tsukuba express, etc. that are on separate tracks and are again a completely separate system. I’ve only had reason to use the JR and the Metro thus far.
- Hoofing it a few kilometers through Tokyo with 60lbs. on your back is hot work, but just standing for 10 minutes on a train with 45lbs. on your back is murder. Oh my aching feet.
- You can go days without eating meat. I had a hamburger bento today for lunch. It’s the first meat I’ve had since I got here.
- When you do talk to someone (you usually have to initiate), people are very polite.
- The city is very clean, and smokers aren’t everywhere. In fact there are usually signs asking people not to smoke on the sidewalks. There are usually specific areas along the street or just off the street with standing ashtrays around with smokers can congregate. Of course, inside buildings is another story. Restaurants have smoking sections, pachinko/video game areas are smoking free-for-alls.
- Video games are expensive. Really expensive. I think the cheapest video game I’ve seen thus far is 200Yen a play, that’s almost $2. So my advice about video games here? Don’t.
- As long as you don’t want a lot of meat, you can eat for under $15 a day easy. It might be harder in the country, but in the city it’s super easy. Lots of noodle meals (Soba, Udon) for under 500 Yen.
- Beers are large. My first night here I ordered an Asahi with my Udon. It was 600 Yen and they brought out a bottle that was 633ml. That’s over half a liter of beer! A can of Asahi in the supermarket is bigger than the silver bullet Coors can. And it’s not like it’s low-quality either. Asahi is 5% alcohol by volume.
- I would kill, literally commit murder, for a big box store. Even a Walmart. Please send one over here. Pretty please?
So, I’ve moved into my new place in Asakusa. But I’ll go into that in another post. I’ll have plenty to say.