Archive for June 2005

Japan Recap

It’s been almost 4 weeks since we got back from Japan, so I figure I’d better write something before I forget it all. It’s already been so long that I don’t think I can string together coherent paragraphs describing the experience, so here comes the random stream of consciousness.

  • People in Japan have one of the world’s longest life expectancies, but you’d never know it if you just hung around Tokyo. It seemed like everyone there was young and immaculately dressed (Bonnie described the Tokyo-ite clothing as “fussy”). It wasn’t until we got to the hot spring resort town of Hakone and Expo Aichi 2005 that we found where all the old people were hiding.
  • Did I mention that I’m not a big fan of their old people? They’re rude and pushy, like they’ve got some gigantic chip on their respective shoulders. The most vivid memory I have is standing in line to buy tickets for the Linimo (a maglev train, which by the way is just one big money grab) to the Expo. So I’m next in line, about to walk up to the ticket booth and this old woman comes out of nowhere, cutting in front. Yeesh.
  • All of their non-alcoholic drinks (wouldn’t know about the alcohol-laced ones) seem to be watered down. The Kirin milk tea that Matt raves about? Tastes like they steeped the tea for maybe 10 seconds, then poured in a ton of milk. Fruit juices? Watered down to at most 30%. They have some “100% juice” ones, but they actually taste like the crappy “from concentrate” juices you get in Canada. I’ll stick with my Tropicana Orange and Apple, thank you.
  • Smoking is still considered cool there, which I have trouble dealing with. My two most vivid Japan-smoking traumas are: 1) A First Kitchen fast food place in Kyoto, we wanted to try their Bacon-Egg-Burger (B.E.B.) cause the picture looked tasty. The place is two floors, first floor is where you order and there’s maybe seating for like 20 people. It’s lunch time, so the first floor is completely full. Fine, so we go up to the second floor – we turn around before making it to the top because there’s so much smoke in the air it’s like a dense fog. We end up eating on the first floor by the garbage can. 2) On our last day, the “Friendly Airport Limousine” we took from our hotel to the airport manages to lose one of our pieces of luggage (actually ended up being the hotel’s fault). Regardless, we end up sitting in the airport limo office for a good half hour while they sort things out. They have four employees lounging around in this cramped little office, two of them are puffing away the whole time. When we finally get out of their our clothes reek of smoke and my eyes are watering.
  • When you’re a potential tourist outside of the country, they extoll the virtues of the several hundred dollar Japan Rail Pass. It sounds like a wonderous form of public transportation, spanning the county in a safe and punctual manner. What you don’t find out until you get there is that JR is really meant for inter-city transportation. “Public” transportation within the big cities is actually a fragmented mess of private subway lines, each belonging to different companies. JR does have sparse coverage in the most popular urban areas, but be prepared to do a lot of walking if you only stick to JR. I’d almost liken the JR Pass to an unlimited GO Transit pass in Ontario.
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