October 4, 2008: “Day #1: Greetings from Japan”

Saturday, October 4, 2008: “Day #1: Greetings from Japan

It is currently 5:50AM in Tokyo.  On the bus ride back to my friend’s car (to retain anonymity, my friend shall be referred to as Lisa) on base I became incredibly nauseous and the long day really hit me.  Fortunately the bus stopped and Tokyo has vending machines on nearly every single corner – warm drinks, cold drinks, the latest diet fad drinks (the Japanese are obsessed with diets – the latest craze is the banana diet), and snacks.  I was able to get some ginger ale, which helped calm my stomach, and allowed me to get home to Lisa’s and eat dinner.  I woke up at 4:00AM as though a light bulb went off in my head – that’s noon PST so my body immediately wanted lunch.

We also stopped at a small food store.  Wow, what an Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) experience!  Bags of dried octopus jerky were among the items for sale.  Needless to say, I passed.

Everyone in Japan is so incredibly friendly and helpful.  They don’t believe in tipping because they take great pride in their work.  The deeper they “bow” the more thankful they are.  That was one of the first things Lisa taught me – bow and say “arigato” (thank you).  Lisa also taught me that you stand on the left and walk on the right as that is the Japanese custom.  I also have to admit that I’m skeptical of every Starbucks outside the greater Seattle area, but in Japan they believe in following directions accurately so their Starbucks coffee tasted like I was home.

Tokyo is insanely busy!  It’s a city that never sleeps and they have managed to make incredible use of their space.  Lisa told me that Japan is roughly the size of California but due to its terrain, only 17% of Japan is habitable.  They are incredibly resourceful.  Everything is miniature.  The stairs are extremely steep and made for tiny feet.  Lisa lives in a 1,000 square foot two-story house, which is considered somewhat large by Japanese standards.  Their cars are tiny, too.  It’s strange driving on the other side of the road (even though I was just a passenger in Lisa’s car).  I’m glad I’m not driving because their street signs are beyond confusing and overwhelming.

Their toilets are out of this world!  They have heated seats, the option to wash the behind, the option to make musical fake “flushing” noises so no one hears you, etc.  It’s strange because there is this little electronic panel built into the “armrest” on the toilet with buttons to select one of those options.  The Japanese don’t believe in insulating their homes, so the heated toilet seat is really nice in the middle of the night.

The Japanese also believe in having the toilet area completely separate from the shower/bath/sink area.  There is a small sink (for washing hands) located on top of the toilet tank that automatically comes on after you flush.  However, if you want to take a shower, there is an actual shower room that closes off.  The shower is HUGE and next to the shower is the bathtub.  Traditionally, the Japanese shower and then take a bath, but using any soap is prohibited in the bathtub and reserved solely for the shower.  Outside the closed off shower area there is an actual traditional bathroom sink, too.

The Japanese also don’t believe in junk mail – only “real” mail.  Their mail carriers ride small mopeds to deliver the mail and they were delivering mail after 8:30PM last night, too!  In Japan, there are no street names like we are accustom to in the US.  There are just areas, which obviously makes navigating quite an adventure.

Driving through Tokyo last night was quite an experience (they love BRIGHT lights in Japan), but I can’t wait to get out and walk around Tokyo.  Not to mention, I really want to try their delicious soups for lunch today!

Vending Machines

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