(Norwegian version: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, noen betraktninger etter reisen.)
Oh, what a wonderful vacation we had! What an Adventure! A week in Tokyo turned out to be perfect for our little family. This is one of the few places I wish to return to (as long as there are places I have not yet visited, I will normally choose somewhere new instead of returning to a place.) I want to see more of Japan, like the old capital Kyoto, and Hiroshima that had to be completely rebuilt after the Yanks dropped the bomb.
A vacation in Tokyo gets the highest grades and most heartfelt recommendations from Old Mamasan and the Doodz. We chose not to visit it, but there is a Disneyland in Tokyo if that is something you enjoy. I am sure kids will love it.
Old Mamasan prefer old dragons over ducks in hats
The Doodz also prefers antiques over Dolly and Goofy
Even though I am done with the travelogue from Tokyo, I’m still not ready to let go – so I write this addendum with a couple tips and observations that I did not find a natural way to include in the other posts in this series.
Kawaii desu ne?
Tokyo (which means «the eastern capital») is the biggest city, a Prefecture and capital of Japan. 10 per cent of Japans inhabitants live in Tokyo, cirka 12 million. Include Yokohama and Kawasaki, and you have the world’s largest metropole with 37 million people. That it, in this huge city, would be this quiet, came as a very pleasant surprise.
The exceptions were a mall, where they had sales, and in the One Piece Park (you can read about it here). In these two places there were noise. Irritating noice. Japanese females, of all ages, tend to change their voice into a baby voice, and they are even capable of yelling in this excruciatingly irritating voice. They call it Kawaii (cute); I call it “Stop That Crap or Imma Slap Ya Silly”! Why do they do this? To turn on Japanese men? Do Japanese men like this? I have not been able to understand why they do this über-annoying thing, but it has to be anchored deep in the Japanese culture, because everybody does it! Even the automated announcements on the Metro! Gaahhhh!
Even here, in the middle of a cross road, it was way quieter than I expected it to be!
Tokyo is a very clean city, and the locals are very orderly. You won’t see any litter lying about in the streets. And no cigarette butts. It is actually not allowed to smoke just anywhere, they have set up specific places where you can have your cig, and dispose of the butt in the correct place (i.e. not on the street.) Right by the entrance to the Metro at Shibuya Crossing there was even a guard thanking you for disposing the cig butt in the ashtray. Imagine that for a career!
Restaurants, cafes and bars often have a separate space where smoking is allowed, and this is marked by a sign on the outside. Even if you are a chain smoker, survival is entiredly possible in this city.
The Japanese have a strict honor codex, and despite the size of the city, Tokyo feels very safe. Even at night, we felt perfectly safe.
You do not tip in Tokyo. Good service is understood and not something you should pay for extra. The Japanese will be insulted if you try to tip them. It is not in their culture. If you – like me – have a problem with all the small coins that tend to fill up your wallet, then the best way to empty the coin compartment is to put the coins in one of the charity boxes you find on the counter at every 7-11. That way you don’t insult anyone by leaving a tip, you get to empty your wallet of those annoying small coins that tends to accumulate, and you contribute to charity. Win-win-win!
The underground transportation in Tokyo works really well. We picked up a Tokyo Metro Guide at our hotel, asked the Receptionist where the nearest underground station was – and then we went for it! We bought day passes in the ticket machine, cash or card. (We tried both) It was easy to figure out the trains; what train to take and in what direction, and where to change. Do not be afraid of the Japanese underground transportation, it is easy and effective.
Old Mamasan had read in the Tokyo Guide that it was rude to fiddle about on your smart phone onboard public transportation. Apparently someone forgot to tell the Japanese that, because businessmen in suits were reading, surfing and playing Candy Crush on the metro everywhere we looked. Either the Guide book is wrong, or things have changed. Those not fiddling about on their smartphone were actually sleeping.
In the Western world we use the word Sake 酒for the Japanese alcoholic drink that is brewed on polished rice. In Japan they use the word Sake for all alcoholic drinks. This Rice wine we wrongfully call Sake, is actually called Nihonshu 日本酒. It is also not correct to define it as a wine, as it is actually produced in a process that resembles brewing of beer.
The National drink Nihonshu, is often served in ceremonial rituals, gently heated in a ceramics bottle, tokkuri, and sipped from small ceramic glasses, guinomi.
Sake is often consumed as a part of Shinto cleansing rituals, and it is also served to the Gods, as offerings, before the Japanese drink it themselves (“Omiki” or “Miki“). They drink Omiki to communicate with the Gods, and to ask for a plentiful harvest the following year. Kamikaze pilots would drink Sake during WW2 before completing their missions.
They use a club to open wood barrels of Sake in the ceremony “Kagami biraki“. This ceremony takes place during Shinto festivals, weddings, store openings, sports events, elections and other celebrations. Celebratory Sake, iwai, is served to all to spread luck and good fortune.
The end is near (and often heated)
Japanese toilets are a topic I could fill several blog posts with. I choose not to, and instead share a video, as closure to this series from the world’s absolutely, totally, hands down, coolest city!
Here is a list over all the posts in this series:
Tokyo much? (day 1, travel and arrival)
Tokyo much? Harajuku and Meiji-jingu
Tokyo much? Manga-Mania
Tokyo much? Akihabara (something for the nerds)
Tokyo Much? Edo Castle, The Big Scramble and Roppongi
Tokyo much? Play Ball!
Tokyo much? The National Museum and (more) shopping
Tokyo much? Zōjō-ji
Tokyo much? Matcha Tea and Vintage Toys
Tokyo much? Odaiba and Tokyo Bay