April 14, 2008

Observations from Japan #1

1. Damn. I really could use some lessons in manners. Everyone is SO SO SO SO SO nice here. Seriously. It's enough to make me re-evaluate how I treat strangers, my friends, and family. Definitely something to think about.

2. Cultural hegemony is the norm here. Even when people are trying to be different they do it in a way that fits in. It makes me, as a foreigner, feel very different, but also, amusingly, free, as if they know I couldn't possibly fit in because it's much too complicated for me to do it properly, so why should I try. In every other culture where I've been a tourist, I've always tried to fit in. Here, I feel very forgiven from the get go for my failure to do so and an encouragement to be myself.

3. Women often choose the non-pants option, even when it is freezing and/or raining outside, and the full separate leg-covering options would seem to make sense. Outside of the business districts, you see more women in pants, but they tend to be sturdy motherly types. Very few young women, or even professional women, wear pants. Instead, it's skirts and lots of hose and tights and sturdy, nurse-like, shoes. Younger women are quite fond of the knee socks and short skirts, or knee socks and short shorts options. This is surreal, if you are me, and freezing in your jeans. Why on earth would you choose to expose raw flesh between your hips and knees in this weather? And yet, they do. And they look at me and don't think, hey, those jeans look warm. Or if they do, they still wear the knee-highs, and you know I'm not the first women in jeans without a skirt over them (a popular option) they've ever seen.

3. For good cheap eats, head to the basement. At least in Shinjuku. Lucky_girl, her parents, E & I enjoyed drinks at the top of the hotel from Lost in Translation, but we didn't want to pay the Hyatt tax on meals. Lucky for us, the basement of the Park Hyatt tower was full of budget food, including the home-made udon shop where we ended up and had fabulous full set meals for under 1,000 yen each (approx $10). E's an addict and claims that he will only eat in the basement. We went on a tour of many local skyscraper basements today. We've scoped out some winners for the future.

4. Picture menus, like the kind I used to make fun of, at Denny's are about the greatest thing in the world when you don't speak much (or any) of the language. Speaking of which, Royal Host is one of the few places where you can find a Western breakfast in Tokyo that isn't priced well over 2,000 yen per person. We're fans.

5. Bacon in Japan is thinner than in the U.S. This also means it is easier to wrap around cherry tomatoes, stick on a skewer, and grill. Brilliant!!!! (As an aside, I Can't wait to get home and plant our summer foods!)

6. Asking for "fuel" in the Addidas Ginza store when you realize that you don't have Gu, or Cliff bars, or anything of that ilk is bound to get you into a hilarious Japan-glish confused conversation. I don't think this is much of a running town. Outside, we've seen all of one runner in Japan since we've been here, and we've spent most of our time walking, often on runnable trails. I will note, however, that when it rains, the walkways here are very slippery. Also, I was not thrilled to find myself fighting with the other jet-lagged early-rising westerners for the two treadmills in the exercise room at our very large hotel (2 skycrapers, 35+ floors each) -- for comparison, they have 3 err...equestrian exercise machines.

7. Today, we missed the entrance to the 6 story sex toy store because, as E said, I think we just missed the entrance because we were too busy discussing gender roles in Japan. Head. Exploding. From. Irony. Must. Seek. Ramen.

More to come.

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