April 8 to 9 - Japan
Japan is a fascinating country and the people are very friendly. As any major city Tokyo has similarities to other capital cities across the world but I found some interesting little things that made Tokyo stand out:
I made a very short trip to Japan, just 24 hours. The Narita airport where I arrived is about an 90 minutes from Tokyo. The photo above is from some houses on the outsets of Tokyo. I figured they represent average Japanese homes.
Most people in Japan use trains and the Subway. It can get pretty crowded, the people here are purchasing tickets for the trains. Fortunately the ticket computers also have an English interface.
The underground train stations double as underground malls. You can get all kind of food here. I purchased a pretty good bento lunch box at this store for about 1,200 yen or about 10 Euro. I always wanted to try a real Japanese lunch box after seeing them so often on Mangas.
This is the bento box up close. It was pretty good actually and comes in a nice wooden box. I felt bad throwing the container away afterwards. The yellow part on the top left is made of egg, Then there is dried tuna, crab cake and a fish ball. Top right are vegetables and the white green ball is a red bean dessert. The lower half is sticky rice that tastes slightly sweet.
This is Tokyo when coming out of the main train station. They really love bunnies.
I moved on to the Akihabara district which is famous for electronics and Mangas. As expected it is full of people, places to eat, Manga stores and computer shops.
Bunnies and other cuddly Manga figures will always be found in Akihabara.
Japanese love to immerse themselves into video games. I have never seen so many people play games as intently. They also play a weird kind of slot machine that uses metal balls instead of coins. The photo above (which was impolite to make but I did it anyhow) shows people playing these weird slots. The longer they play there more balls they have (see the boxes of balls on the floor). This place is INCREDIBLY loud as thousands of metal balls fall and bump around the machines. These people will need hearing aids later in their lives.
Ever heard of a "Kapsul" hotel ? Well I was determined to stay in such a hotel after I saw a documentary on it. Basically you get to sleep in a 2 m x 1m x 1m box complete with television, radio and alarm clock. It costs about $30 for a night and they even throw in a set of PJs and shaving tools. I was the first foreigner there is a long long time and nobody spoke any English but I made friends with the managers and used my hands to communicate.
This is what a kapsul looks like from inside. My understanding is that a lot of (not too well paid) Japanese business men use these hotels during the work week. A lot of Japanese workers will work long days and then go to bars in the evening with colleagues and bosses, leaving too little time to get back to their home which is often far away.
Japan might be expensive but Sushi does not have to be. I had some of the best sushi ever for a third of the typical US price. For $10 you get a full sushi meal - 12 very good, fresh made pieces - that also includes ice cream a pudding and Miso soup.