japanese brain dump

today is day 9 of adventuring in japan, but within the first day of exploration, i'd already fallen in love with tokyo. it amazes me that there are so many things that just make sense and align with my own values and quirks.

safety. there's pretty much no crime here. i could walk around at 3am by myself if i wanted and not have to worry about being raped and murdered.

 out for a morning stroll at 5am

out for a morning stroll at 5am

design with intent. it seems like nothing here is designed without some sort of purpose. seems like everything's got superb ux (user experience). ridge in the middle of your water bottle? a place to grip when unscrewing the cap. not sure how to navigate the train station? don't worry -- there are a billion signs pointing you in the right direction starting a billion meters away. no sink in the bathroom? look again! it's on top of the toilet and automatically starts running as soon as your flush. need a quick meal but don't wanna leave your hotel? get one from the vending machine and instantly heat it (without a microwave) when you're ready.

IMG_20140304_133504.jpg
IMG_20140303_225246.jpg

pay what you see. no need to mentally tack on an extra ~30% to your bill to account for tax and tip before ordering. you know exactly what you're going to pay when you order.

efficiency. everyone walks quickly to their destination (at least in tokyo). restaurant checks are given to you immediately after you receive your food so you can pay at the cashier when you're ready. half the cars on the shinkansen (bullet train) are for reserved seats (for planners who want to guarantee their seat) and the other half is for folks who just want to hop on (for spontaneous folks or those who need more flexibility). i guess this section could also be lumped into the ux category.

 no strolling here. everyone walks quickly to their destination.

no strolling here. everyone walks quickly to their destination.

service workers are awesome. they're helpful and efficient. they don't screw up. they don't get mad at you (at least visibly) when you misunderstand. they actually seem to care about their customers and their jobs. one of the cashiers said arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much) at least three times during a quick transaction.

brilliant public transit. average wait time for a train (in tokyo) has been about 45 seconds. maybe faster. train stations are everywhere. subway cards are easy to use and aren't just for train rides; you can use them at vending machines, convenience stores, and even starbucks! the shinkansen goes all over the country, which is why we're able to hit multiple cities on this trip pretty easily. dear bart+caltrain, please get your act together already.

 how many arrows can you spot?

how many arrows can you spot?

respect for others. people aren't selfish douchebags who think only of themselves. they're aware of the people around them and act accordingly. people say things like thank you and sorry. people wear face masks to protect others (and themselves) from germs. people speak quietly (often times not at all) on trains and no one forces their loud music on you (side note: it's amazing how much sound can come out of people's earphones on bart and caltrain. how are they not deaf yet??). people check with the people sitting behind them before reclining their seats. people apologize and bow when you're walking on the street and accidentally get in each other's way. so nice to experience life where people actually follow the golden rule.

streets are clean. there aren't garbage cans on every corner, yet there's no garbage in the streets. people are courteous and unlazy enough to clean up after themselves. why is this so difficult to teach everywhere else?

 i can't read this sign, but i imagine it has to do with littering.

i can't read this sign, but i imagine it has to do with littering.

hygiene. sort of. at the beginning of every meal, we receive a wet nap to clean our hands (and without the sterile cleaning product smell that makes me lose my appetite). the only time you'll see this in the us is at bbq restaurants -- to be used after your meal. almost every toilet i've used has a heated seat and bidet. the little trash cans in the stalls of public bathrooms are hands-free and automatic. the "sort of" comes from the not-so-clean hygienic parts, which include no napkins during your meal and (sometimes) no soap in the restrooms.

dining on a low table. i almost always sit crosslegged, even when i'm in a proper chair. these seats are perfect for me!

 my room in yudanaka (near nagano) comes with a little tea set and dining table.

my room in yudanaka (near nagano) comes with a little tea set and dining table.

 stefan sitting (uncomfortably) on the floor

stefan sitting (uncomfortably) on the floor

fashion. shopping for dresses is always super difficult for me. after you weed out all the ones with plunging necklines and upper thigh high hems, the only things left are super uggos. the department stores here are the opposite, filled with tons of dresses i wouldn't mind wearing.


and of course there are things that don't make sense. but in an amusing way. :) (except for the first item listed below.)

smoking. it's illegal to smoke outdoors but legal inside (??????), so they've created smoking lounges for people who need a quick smoke. many restaurants and shops have non-smoking sections, but it's not like you can really partition the two completely.

robot restaurant. the robot restaurant is neither restaurant, nor robot (okay there may have been a few robots, but the food was definitively not restaurant quality). for $50, you get to be the live studio audience for a wacky japanese tv show... except that it's not broadcast on tv. it's just 60 minutes plain bizarreness. despite being a tourist trap, we thought it was totally worth it.

 live band in the lobby.

live band in the lobby.

 while we waited for the show, we played with this cool robot dinosaur.

while we waited for the show, we played with this cool robot dinosaur.

 pleo reacted to various sights, sounds, and touches (feels?).

pleo reacted to various sights, sounds, and touches (feels?).

snow monkeys. these little guys are sooo cute. i don't understand how they survive in the mountains where it's freezing cold. luckily there are a few hot springs around the area where they spend their mornings lazying around and picking through each other's fur for food and snuggling.

 snow monkeys don't care about the weird humans who come visit everyday.

snow monkeys don't care about the weird humans who come visit everyday.

 keeping warm! (...and making out a little bit? O_o)

keeping warm! (...and making out a little bit? O_o)

 foraging for seeds and bugs in the dirt.

foraging for seeds and bugs in the dirt.

raw meat. why bother cooking when you can just butcher the animal and start plating? so far i've eaten raw fish, raw oyster, raw chicken, and raw horse. who knows what's next.

 raw chicken: liver, heart, and breast. yum!

raw chicken: liver, heart, and breast. yum!

 raw horse (basashi). double yum!!

raw horse (basashi). double yum!!

 freakin' delicious street food: fresh oyster and steamed scallop.

freakin' delicious street food: fresh oyster and steamed scallop.

fruit. stef and i were puzzled by the high fruit prices and the perfectly shaped strawberries for sale. we were later told that only the prettiest fruits are allowed to be sold in the market. cherries are separated by hand by size and, again, only the perfect-looking ones are sold.

 perfectly shaped white strawberries with red seeds.

perfectly shaped white strawberries with red seeds.

 humungo bananas!!!!!!

humungo bananas!!!!!!