Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Japan Impressions

Jenna and I just spent the weekend in Tokyo visiting friends. There will be pictures up later, but first, my initial impressions of Japan. These are the impressions of someone who is accustomed to living in Korea and Taiwan, but has never been to Japan before except for a single day spent in Osaka in 2003:

- Tokyo is pricey, but not as horrifically expensive as I'd expected. As far as food and other minor purchases go, it's a good deal cheaper than London. The mass transit system can be expensive, though - especially since you must buy a new ticket when transferring to a train run by a different company (and Tokyo light rail and subways seem to be divided between several transportation companies).

- The Japanese have raised the art of separating garbage to a very high level. I wandered around for hours holding an empty Pocari Sweat bottle because I couldn't find a suitable place to throw it away. There is no such thing as ordinary garbage - everything must be seperated into burnables, cans, bottles, PET bottles, and probably a couple more categories I can't remember. And leaving your garbage at a restaurant you've just eaten at for the waitstaff to throw away is apparently highly rude in Japan - though it's perfectly normal in Taiwan.

- I saw cigarette vending machines for the first time since I was a kid. Korea and Taiwan don't have 'em.

- One more thing that was new to me: the whole system of ordering food in a restaurant by buying tickets from a machine and giving the tickets to a server. It seems like it would be beneficial for people with little Japanese ability since you don't have to actually say anything to order, but you still have to be able to read the monolingual labels on the ticket machine.

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