Sunday, June 17, 2012

I love Japan!

I know that I say this about every country I visit, but- I love Japan! I loved how they manage to turn even the most boring everyday things such as toasters into something cute and adorable. I love how friendly and polite the people are and even if they don't know English they will run around an entire supermarket collecting English speaking people just to help you find udon cooking sauce (true story).

I love how every public space looks exactly like it would on the architects illustrated drawing of the streetscape with perfect people, clean roads and not a piece of rubbish in sight. The streets look exactly as the architect had planned when he drew the sketched proposal. 

Perfect streets with not a single piece of litter in sight, which I found rather odd as finding a bin around is quite a task, probably why so many guys carry man bags, purely to store their rubbish. It is also odd as the Japanese just love packaging so anything you buy you are bound to get at least two layers of packaging as well as chopsticks and serviettes that you have to carry round with you until you reach your destination. The streets are perfect, the street smarts are impeccable everyone walking on the right side of the footpath, waiting at the pedestrian crossings for the “walking man” light to change, even if the street is only a one way. When queuing for the train there are also lines and rules you have to follow,  on the track there are different coloured lines and symbols for where guys and girls both line up and wait in order for the train to arrive. A well structured and obedient society.

I love how much they do with so little space. With so many people and a limited amount of space its not surprising at how great the Japanese are at saving space. Capsule hotels for example are a great way to save space. The one below is a very high class capsule hotel. 

Compare that to my capsule bed, which to me reminds me more of a pantry.

Even the cars and the car and bike parking spaces are well organised.

Walking the streets of any major city whether it be Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, the streets are perfect. Perfect people who look like they spent the whole week planning their outfits and had to get up 2 hours earlier that morning to style their hair and apply their make-up (both girls and boys). Perfect streets with not a crack in the pavement, a splash of graffiti, cigarette buds on the ground or chewy stains. Streets lined with beautifully manicured trees and sculptures. 

Clean roads to match the roofs of the houses in a palette of grey, with a burst of colour from the blushing pink cherry blossoms. People all decorate their houses and make the most of the space they have with as many pot plants as they can fit outside their house showing off patiently manicured bonsai pot plants and colourful flowers (or Hana in Japanese).

I love how almost everytime you use the toilet you discover a new button to perform another "cleaning function" and it always takes you an extra minute to discover where the flush button is hidden.

I love the food. I love the local standing udon noodle places where you order your food from a vending machine. I love how food is treated as so much more than a necessity to survive. Food is celebrated with different rituals and ways to eat and the presentation always impeccable. Small portions of delicate ginger, sushi, tofu and more turn a boring meal into a taste bud roller coaster. 

My bad attempt at rolling the seaweed on a nori roll

I loved the how crazy was simply normal. You visit a cafe to get a coffee but you are welcomed by girls in costumes bouncing on trampolines speaking in high pitched voices, and forcing you to sing a special song and do a dance before you are allowed your order. Or you could be welcomed by a room of needy cats wanting your attention, or a cafe where you can watch gamers battle out in the cyber world. One thing is for sure, things are not predictable in Japan and you are constantly surprised. The video below is a perfect example. 

There are these posters scattered all over town and even in areas where you would not expect them, like guest houses and public toilets.  
I love being lost in translation. Having to navigate my way around the city with no watch, no phone, no map and quite often no clue. The amount of friendly local people I met just through being completely hopeless on a train. Almost every second subway ride someone would offer to help, I must always look lost! 

I love the sake. Traditional Japanese rice wine can be drunk either hot or cold and is sure to warm you up either way. The best thing about sake is it's price. One 75ml bottle is around $1AUD and they come in different containers including milk cartons and cute little juice boxes like the one below. 

I loved the convenience. Around ever corner there is a vending machine waiting for you with bread, noodle cups, hot meals, hot coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, batteries, whatever you can sell they put it in a vending machine! I had even heard of vending machines selling used panties in the more seedy areas of town and even one where you can catch live lobster. This website has a great range of random vending machines in Japan.

Vending machine to get your meal. Simply buy the ticket then pick up your food from the restaurant.

Japanese sweets
Girl figurines
Jars of ginger
Ice cream
I loved every part of Japan and would go back there in a heartbeat. 

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