Let me tell you a little story about Japan.
So, soon (in about a Month) I start my third journey to Japan, more precisely to Tokyo! I will Blog about Japan and the Journey and now, I will tell you some outlooks to what you can expect to see. Or read.
So far I have only been in and around Tokyo, though the plan for the next trip would be visit some other prefectures. And of course, Tokyo Game Show!
What do I think of Japan so far? I have only been there for 4 Weeks, and that split into two vacations of each 2 weeks.
My experience so far…
…is freaking awesome!
The first steps into this very special country take a lot of courage. You can’t talk Japanese, they can’t really talk English even though they say they can! Most of the people I encountered can not talk the English we know, they talk a very japanized version of English. You could try and say some words known in the English vocabulary in a Japanese way and they might understand it. The issue here is that they learn to pronounce it very differently than we do – which leads to a hard to understand English.
So, lets have a look at the few barriers I had and how I countered them:
DISCLAIMER: This is my personal experience and might not be like the view of other people.
As mentioned, they can’t really talk English next to a very few words like “Thank you” or “My name is…”. One thing I realized in Japan is that as a foreigner you often need to engage People and try with sign language, pointing, hand and feet or a translator. There are several agencies that rent out Mobile WiFi routers so you can connect your devices to it. More to that later thought!
People are always willing to help you if you ask them for help. Often, pointing and dancing really did it for me. You can also count on their curiosity! Foreigners are a rarity, even in a city like Tokyo. You will most likely experience something like this:
Be open and talk freely, they are friendly as well =)!
2) Credit card or money in general
I took money in cash with me, though have to say while Japan is not that expensive (For someone coming from Zurich, Switzerland), If you immerse into their culture and experience it, you will most certainly use all of it. So what to do when you run out of cash?
Most ATM’s won’t work with foreign cards and thus, you can’t take any money.
There are ATM’s that take international cards, you just need to find them. The most common place to find them is at post offices or some convenient stores (Family Mart has them, as far as I remember).
Before I was in Japan, I was kinda worried about food. Sure, I looked into all those YouTube videos to see how the food looks and people react to it.
Sadly I have a delicate stomach.
Luckily, Japan is stuffed with restaurants! Streets are filled with little food stores with all kind of different flavors of japan.
I needed about 3-5 Days to get used to the complete different style of food. So! Here is what I did: Next to all those native restaurants, a lot of restaurants are for example Italian or French. Not to forget American kitchen. I naturally ate Japanese food and when I reached a certain point I ate a western meal. This helped me to adjust to the foreign kitchen while still being able to enjoy the really delicious Japanese food.
4) Public Transportation
The first time I went to Tokyo, I stayed in Nishi-Kasai in Edogawa-Ku (Ku means district). Asking in Izakayas around and while out, I quickly got the mentality of the people in Tokyo: Traveling with the metro more than 10 minutes is considered very, very long. All this results in really efficient metro lines and convenience for a person like me, who doesn’t know this experience of a metro.
Now, the issue I encountered – And I think most of tourists will have – is the complexity of their metro. Let me show you a map:
All these colors are obviously different lines. One big difference is though that they are privately owned and not by the state. This leads into a big complication and with a map like that, you can’t really not get lost. While all of them have a different ticket system and prices, you can rely on one genius little card that is available basically every where. You can even pay the vending machines, restaurants and small shops that are around metro stations and airports.
The solution is called the Suica Card:
With this card, you can enter all the metro lines, pay for your drinks and weekly Shonen Jumps and get a fresh Banana!
But most importantly: Once you are some days in Tokyo, you’ll figure the Metro system out and you’ll wish you’d have it at home.
There might be a thousand more difficulties, but I just couldn’t come up with them and took some of the most obvious ones. The people are really friendly and you’ll just get used to it really fast. I had the best time ever in Japan, especially the people are just great!
On the last day, the Izakaya we visited close to daily, gave us this with the whole team coming over our place and thanking us for the great time and fun we had:
Looking into my future experience
I will definitely write about it, share it on my blog. I’m looking forward to it! Also, Tokyo Game Show! And all that godly ramen!
See you =)!