Friday, August 15, 2008

Tokyo Day 2 a la Angie

Our second day in Tokyo was very full of sightseeing as you can see from Scott’s post. I won’t repeat his descriptions but just add some of my own insights.

I did have one adventure on my own. We needed some more cash and Scott wanted to spend time working on his photos so he wouldn’t fall behind, so I set out to find a bank or ATM with some instructions from the hotel’s information desk. I was very nervous and told Scott if I wasn’t back in 30 minutes to send out a search party. As it turned out, the “Post Office” which also had a bank branch in it was about two blocks from the hotel. Because I had a foreign debit card, I was required to use the ATM which only had prompts in Japanese. Fortunately for me, in true Japanese fashion, the clerk was more than willing to go with me to the ATM and interpret the prompts so I could withdraw funds. She was very nice and I couldn’t have managed without her.

I enjoyed going to the shrines and they were very beautiful, but it feels kind of weird basically sightseeing and taking pictures at a place of worship. It feels quite disrespectful. I suppose if they minded, they wouldn’t charge admission and let you in, but it still doesn’t feel right to me. While there, I did have one gentlemen tell me to take off my cap before giving my respects. There were many other Japanese people with hats, but apparently me wearing my hat was more offensive. I didn’t mind being told, but felt kind of stupid for forgetting I had it on. I would have taken it on at a Christian church. Doh!

I meant to post this yesterday, but today is good enough. I’ve been wearing my pedometer to track how many steps we take in our sightseeing. Yesterday, we walked 19,214 steps. Today, because of trains, taxis and subways, we only walked 9,033.

We’ve had a basic American breakfast all three mornings in Japan which usually includes scrambled eggs. I’m not sure what they do to the eggs, but they have a weird texture and are kind of slimy. Edible but very different from the way they are made in the U.S.

One thing I regret missing in our stay in Tokyo is that we never managed to try Ramen. I guess that means we will have to make another trip. I think it would be nice to try to learn at least a little Japanese before doing so. We managed without on this trip mostly due to the kindness of the Japanese people and Aiko, but without that it would have been very hard. I think it would be easier and I would be more comfortable if I could understand a little of what people were saying and/or be able to read some of the characters.

Something I think is awesome about Tokyo is that there are cold drink vending machines like every 3 to 4 blocks. They are ubiquitous as Starbucks in Seattle. You can get a variety of drinks: water, soda, tea, coffee, juice. The price is reasonable so there is no reason to stock up and pack your water as you are sightseeing. The machines aren’t just in the touristy areas either. They are all over the city. Unfortunately, they don’t have Diet Coke in them. I’ve had to make due to Coke Zero. Not quite the same, but it’s carbonated and has caffeine.

Another thing I really appreciate about Tokyo is how clean it is. Despite having a large number of people in such a small area, the streets are tidy and the alleys don’t smell. Now that may be that most of the alleys have shops in them and therefore can’t be used as they are in Seattle. I also never noticed any people I would have pegged as homeless and only a couple of spots of graffiti. Whatever they are doing in Tokyo, they need to share with Seattle to help them clean things up!

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