On this episode Scott and Trevor discuss the Land of the Rising Sun. They compare their thoughts on the Asian island nation prior to traveling there and discuss their experiences traveling to Japan. The following is a general outline of their discussion.
Introduction: Some people that haven’t traveled much of Asia can be mistaken and think it’s very similar from country to country in the region. While some countries and their respective peoples have similarities, there are some nations that are completely unique. There’s Asia, SE Asia, then there’s Japan. No country in the continent is remotely like it. Steeped in history, rich traditions, deep culture, and turned slightly inward, few places in Asia dazzle like Japan does. A teeming population that’s preserved natural surroundings, are exceptionally civilized, maintain a safe society, embrace modernity, while celebrating tradition, Japan is a world unto itself and should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Today we’ll chat about our experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun and what it means to us.
Trevor explains his first impressions, which were based on popular media and my exposure to Japanese visitors in Hawaii, where he lived for many years. He then talks about his initial impressions after his first visit and how they differed (in a nutshell) from what he thought before he visited. As he has only spent time in Tokyo, he explains that there’s no place where the stereotypes he had beforehand were more true, though in almost no way were these bad things, it just brought every impression into vivid color to him.
Scott then talks about his impression before having gone and then his first trip to Tokyo as a 20-year-old backpacker, embarking on a one-year trip, with this being his first stop on the trip. He spent one-week there and was intrigued, amazed, and wanted more.
Trevor then talks about the first time, when he stayed in a hostel in Asakusa. It was winter and it was the first time he sat on a heated toilet seat. He was instantly in love with Japan. He went to an onsen and when he walked out it was snowing. Second trip he stayed in one of those mini hotel rooms and describes it like living inside a transformer or a swiss army knife: everything was there, just tucked away and folded out. That trip he partied all night; what a fun town. Third time he did more of the touristy things: Tsujiki fish market, cherry blossoms, etc.
Scott gives a quick overview of the trips I’ve done there and then the two start to chat about some various aspects of the country that they have experienced.
The Japanese People
Trevor: Very professionally polite from a service perspective: they always smile when you are looking at them. Loved the organization. No pushy cutting in line like most of Asia. Not overtly friendly, but once I told anyone I was from Hawaii, I made instant friends.
Scott: Japanese are a really interesting people. They don’t look you in the eye, seem a bit shy, but will help you out and chat if you instigate it. Perhaps this has something to do with a general lack of English skills, but I think has more to do with their reserved and respectful culture.
Scott then tells the story about “The Thank God it’s Friday guy”, and “The toilet joke guy” on his first visit.
Scott: I saw a story on the news about a theft at an electronics store in Tokyo -hardly something that would make the news in a major Canadian city. In fact, people left video cameras in strollers at Disneyland while on the rides!
Trevor: I felt that it was incredibly safe
Trevor: To me, Japan is a very eclectic culture that obsesses about thing such as cosplay, Elvis, whiskey — you name it someone is obsessed with it. Crazy video games: the typing/kill zombie game, the walking the dog game. Freaky fetish clubs like Alcatraz ER.
Scott: I’ve seen shows about love hotels where you can meet a professional who in their off-time ‘service’ men. There are rumours of vending machines that sell used women’s’ panties, there’s the questionable porn, they in many ways are the Germans of Asia – extremely efficient, design cutting edge things, and love their sex.
Being a Tourist
Trevor: Tiny hotel rooms equipped with amazing modernities. Immaculately clean public toilets: self cleaning! Bizarre vending machines: at least beer ones were useful to me. Incredibly professional but robotically friendly waitstaff. Impressive history: old town tokyo Asakusa, with the temples, the onsen. I totally got lost in the subway and almost missed my flight
Scott: Everything is clean, on time, works, and people seem to take great pride in their jobs whether it’s a menial one or top of the company. The subways and trains are awesome but can be a challenge navigating. You can see a UNESCO World Heritage Site – ancient temple, then walk down the block and see cutting edge technology. It’s all available. I love that Japanese love the outdoors, have lots of trees, hiking, riding bikes is easy and accessible and they’re very happy to assist.
Trevor: Amazing food: sushi and sashimi by the Tsujiki market.
Scott: The food is worth going for on its own. There are few countries on earth that can compete with Japanese food. From bowls of Ramen, to cold Udon, sushi and sashimi, rice bowls with beef, gyoza, tepanyaki, hot pots, okanamayaki – wow – there’s so much incredible stuff to try. And if you eat at the equivalent of ‘chain’ restaurants and around train stations, you can get a pretty tasty and healthy meal for about $10US. Proper restaurants can break the bank but if you have a look around for ones mentioned, you can do quite well. And ones with plastic models of the food are a life saver.
Trevor: I stayed in a variety of hotels and enjoyed each of them for their differences. One thing I was surprised about was that it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be.
Scott: I’ve stayed at business-man hotels, ryokan, Air BnB and even a couple capsule hotels. While proper hotels can be very expensive, all of the above can be arranged for under US$100/night. The Air BnB experience was very good.
Favorite Trip Things
Scott: Hiroshima for a night was really interesting, Kyoto for a few days is a must – biking around there, incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the historical community district in Nara is worth an afternoon stroll and evening. Then of course Tokyo for a few days. Eat, eat, eat, try some beer out of vending machines, pop into Izakaya bars, hit an onsen and ride a Shinkansen train.
Trevor: Try to experience the very eclectic culture that I mentioned earlier. If you wander around and look out for them, you can find the coolest little shops and scenes.
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