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Day Two, my observations

As thedreadpilot implied in my last entry, we did a lot of walking today. Tokyo has some very pleasant parks. We went to Starbucks for breakfast, where thedreadpilot found that the coffee here is actually better than in American Starbucks. My understanding is that coffee is newly popular here, and that several years ago you would have had a hard time finding a decent cup. Not anymore. I'm happy that tea continues to be ubiquitous here, though.

There are vending machines everywhere here. The average one offers water, iced tea (green or black, with or without milk), chilled coffee drinks, maybe one type of soda, and some fruity drinks with cartoon characters on the label. But other vending machines sell cigarettes, beer, hot Cup Noodles (our lunch today), milk, Pocky, vitaminy "health" drinks, ice cream treats, and heated frozen food like hot dogs and french fries. It's all very convenient. Fascinatingly, public garbage bins are almost nonexistent, we've found. There's very little litter; people just take their trash home to dispose of it. That would so not happen in America.

Now that we've gotten the hang of the subways and light rail, we've found they're pretty user-friendly. Sure they're crowded, but they're also punctual and informative, with little displays in each rail car showing where you are in the system and how long 'til you next reach each stop on the line, along with which side the doors will open on at the next stop. The escalators work, and the ticket-selling machines are numerous and multi-featured. Oh, if only we had such a rail system at home.

In the lobby of one of Sony's buildings were an array of Playstations for people to try. thedreadpilot had to drive a couple laps in Gran Turismo on the course we were walking; it was a bit surreal to wave to ourselves as we zipped past. Other interesting games we saw were Enthusia, a racing sim with the provocative tagline Change Your “Real” (Gran Turismo calls itself The Real Driving Simulator), and a fun Sims-like game called Bokura no Kazoku (“Our Family”). Alas, we'd need a Japanese PlayStation2 to play the latter, which I'd likely buy if that weren't the case.

In the Honda building's showroom, Asimo was the star. It (he? she?) moves with uncanny smoothness. As thedreadpilot remarked, you can tell it has a sense of balance, and it seems to position itself using visual references. I expect we'll see some similar technology at the World Expo.

For dinner we stopped in a kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) place. Even the tea was self serve; take a mug and tea bag from the shelf in front of you and hold it under the hot water tap, also in front of you. The sushi itself tasted different than I'm used to. Being warmer, it had a fishier taste, which I didn't like so much.

Walking the streets at night is fun. The lighted signs outdo New York and even rival Las Vegas. We passed a Haagen-Dazs shop advertising, among other things, Cabernet Savignon sorbet. Fancy.

People went nuts when Japan won a World Cup berth in a soccer match against North Korea.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
thewronghands
Jun. 8th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)
Awesome. How are you finding your Japanese, now that you're immersed in native speaker?
radhardened
Jun. 8th, 2005 09:42 pm (UTC)
So far so good. :) I don't feel like I've really had to speak Japanese at any point so far, between the widespread knowledge of English here and our glaring gaijin-ness. I haven't had any involved conversations with anyone here, just transactions. Not that it isn't helpful to know the language here—just not absolutely necessary. I'm pretty sure that changes with distance from Tokyo. Today we're venturing to Saitama prefecture to the north, and I expect more challenges.

One thing I have to watch out for is concentrating so much on forming a request in Japanese that I miss the response I get. This happened soon after I got here; I asked, 「LAN ケーブルを 買いたい です。 幾ら ですか。」 And I completely missed the answer, so I was all, “Oh, um, I'm sorry, how much did you say?”
fireba11
Jun. 9th, 2005 01:51 am (UTC)
the coffee here is actually better than in American Starbucks. My understanding is that coffee is newly popular here


Interesting that the coffee tastes better over there -- I wouldn't be surprised if the staff are trained a little better (or are more train-able) than some of our high school graduates here at home. Not to knock anyone working at Starbucks (I've slung my share of cappuccino at other places) but a little attention to detail goes a long way.

I noticed some years back, traveling across Canada, that McDonalds up there tastes much better than it does in the States. Burgers, fries, pizza (yes, pizza), all tasted quite good. I can't say the same of McD's down here. Strange, that.

There are vending machines everywhere here. The average one offers water, iced tea (green or black, with or without milk), chilled coffee drinks, maybe one type of soda, and some fruity drinks with cartoon characters on the label. But other vending machines sell cigarettes, beer, hot Cup Noodles (our lunch today), milk, Pocky, vitaminy "health" drinks, ice cream treats, and heated frozen food like hot dogs and french fries. It's all very convenient.


Somehow I doubt that they have the same problems with vandalism that we have here [snide grin]. Either that, or the snack industry in the US is just that lame. We can now rent DVDs from a vending machine and get a sugary snack loaded with preservatives or a Coke, but not much else. Bah.

I wanna' see beer vending machines like they have in other countries, but we'd have to grow up a hell of a lot as a country before that'd ever happen.

Fascinatingly, public garbage bins are almost nonexistent, we've found. There's very little litter; people just take their trash home to dispose of it. That would so not happen in America.


*bangs head on desk* Why, why, why can't we do that here? In public parks around here, they decided to experiment with a new rule: They removed all of the (overflowing) trash cans that they were spending millions of dollars to empty every so-often, and substituted signs saying "please take all of your trash out with you." As anyone might expect, that was quite the miserable failure. Why, in a country with so much wide-open space, do we insist on leaving so much trash all over it? [/rant]

The escalators work, and the ticket-selling machines are numerous and multi-featured. Oh, if only we had such a rail system at home.


Ride the SkyTrain in Vancouver some time, if you can. It's quite a beautiful ride, very clean, and... at least when I was there, seemed to operate on the honor system -- Passengers are required to buy a ticket prior to boarding, but there's no security checkpoint to go through, or even a turnstile. You just walk right in. Super-cool. (And yes, I happily bought a ticket.) As car-oriented as we are (and this is a life-long gear-head racer sayin' this), we're way behind the curve when it comes to the concept of moving people around.

thedreadpilot had to drive a couple laps in Gran Turismo on the course we were walking; it was a bit surreal to wave to ourselves as we zipped past. Other interesting games we saw were Enthusia, a racing sim with the provocative tagline Change Your “Real” (Gran Turismo calls itself The Real Driving Simulator),


Oooohhhhhhh... thank you so much for the r@c3r pr0n! ;) I hadn't heard of Enthusia, but I simply must try it out. As much as I love Gran Turismo (from the first edition to version 4), I'm always looking for the next incredible racer game.

In the Honda building's showroom, Asimo was the star. It (he? she?) moves with uncanny smoothness.


Every time I see ASIMO, it always reminds me of when South Park spoofed it with Awesome-O.

I've been enjoying reading up on this so far... keep the posts coming!

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )