Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tenchi's Tip for Surviving Japan

XD Are we tired of my Japan posts yet? Well after the crazy few weeks I have had back at home I find myself missing Japan more and more. Of course logically I miss being on vacation as if I lived in Japan I would have to work and so would my husband.

While I truly miss being in Japan there were some X__X moments and things that I were not use to. When you grow up for 27 years in one country it is a bit of shell shock when you experience a whole different culture. It wasn’t all cupcakes and rainbows. XD I had tons of fun but traveling can be work. So here I am with some helpful tips if you choose to go to Japan. Some of these are pretty common sense but I just want to cover the basics and a few things I learned along the way while they are still fresh in my mind.

You are going to get lost. You researched where you were going and have a train/subway map with you. That’s great. But you are still going to walk into a station and go X__X. You might know WHERE you are going but not all the station maps are in English. If you have the map with it is easy to buy a ticket since it goes by price and not actual destination. But then the actual getting to the right platform might be difficult. When it doubt always ask the attendant near the ticket buying station. It is better to be sure than to take a chance.

When you do get lost don’t always depend on a random person to help you out. We had people tell us where to go and they were wrong. Tokyo especially is a big place and not everything is known to everyone. Big places should be labeled on city maps but smaller unknown places might not be. So bring a MAP.

Getting lost is not the end of the world. You might be super tired at the end of the day but eventually you will find someone with the right directions, a city map, or stumble upon it yourself. And at the very least you will find a train station that can take you back home. Just do what we do and go “adventures”. That can be a great way to see things you otherwise might have missed.

On the same note remember that almost all the maps are different. It was hard getting used to the scale they used. Some maps were tiny in the area that they covered but how the map was set up made it look like we were walking for miles. Thus we would assume we hadn’t walked far enough. So as annoying as it sounds check a map every street (or whenever you see one). Just to make sure. You already look like a tourist, don’t be a lost tourist.

Also don't depend on other foreigners to help you out. We had a game that liked to call "Find the Whitey" (because finding a Black person was like bonus points and other minorities were basically nonexistent). The most White people we saw in one day was at Tokyo Disney and I think that day one because a bunch of people checked into our hotel that day. But any other day the number was well under 5. And they looked equally if not more lost than us. So in other words you probably aren't going to see many non Japanese people and if you do they either might not speak English or are lost too.

In an effort to cut back on waste there are no paper towels in the bathroom. To save power from the tsunami the hand dryers do not work. So how will you dry your hands in Japan? Why just go into any store and buy a small hand towel. Hand towels are EVERYWHERE. Get off the plane, go to a shop, and buy a hand towel. Yes even you men. The Japanese men have no problem with carrying around bags for their towel. But if you don’t have a bag enjoy having a towel in your back pocket. Or wiping your hands on your pants.

Japanese is the land of plastic food. Many restaurants have plastic sets of their food in windows, before you even walk in the store. And most of the menus have pictures next to every item. So while some of us (okay ME) might be picky eaters at least you know what you are ordering beforehand. Pictures are also helpful with the language barrier. Pointing is your friend.

Train stations can be a very busy place. There are trains every 3 minutes it seems but everyone needs to get on the next one or the world will end. At most stations there are places on the ground that tell you where to stand. Those are just suggestions. People will stand there until the train pulls up. Then everyone will rush the door despite the fact that people need to get off so there is room for people to get in. And while you need to be the polite tourist at all times when it comes to the train you need to act like a local and GENTLY push your way onto the train. Fast.

If you have big luggage with you at the time everyone will hate you. And they won’t wait for you to get on. They will cut you off and make no space for you because you are messing up the flow. So only travel with your huge luggage when absolutely necessary.

Men do not get up for women on trains. Whether they be little old ladies or young women it is first come first serve. When you get on the train people get preoccupied with anything to keep their eyes away from everyone else.

While many people battle for seats the best spots are actually standing up near the doors. There you can lead against the side of the seats. Lean in the direction the train is going of course. Because you won’t be guaranteed a seat so you want to have some stability rather than being stuck in the middle.

People are going to give you bags for everything. EVERYTHING. I went to Disney and bought three things at one store. I got a bag with all my purchases…and three other bags. Because the Japanese are big on presenting gifts nicely and if that fails at least you have a bag from the place you bought your stuff yes? So….you are going to have a lot of bags. Even if you tell them it is for you they will give you bags. Telling them it is not a gift will just stop them from wrapping the stuff in paper.

Don’t bring an umbrella with you. Umbrellas can be purchased anywhere. However if you don’t buy a clear one clearly you are a tourist. Also prepare to catch some umbrellas to the eye.

Most places will just bring you silverwear as you are not Japanese and clearly you can’t use chopsticks. But if you do use chopsticks the locals will be super impressed and cheer you on.

Tax is included in the price WOOHOO!!!

My husband and I do not use major banks. We use the local ones offered for the military people and their families. Thus we had a slight problem getting money from the ATM the first night. The ones at the Post Office worked though. So while there are ATMS at banks and 7/11’s if you have a lesser known bank you might want to check out the post office too.

Both of our hotels had great English speakers. And despite them offering food and laundry services themselves they had maps ready to show us where the grocery store and laundry mat were. Very helpful people so don’t be afraid to ask the front desk for help.

Don’t lose your hotel key. They make you pay for replacements.

Convenient stores have very decent prices on snacks and stuff. They also had great deals on water but while we were there many of the larger sizes were sold out due to water scares. But there were always plenty of noms.

A lot of places won’t let you take pictures inside. So either be very respectful or very sneaky. XD And take as many pictures where you are allowed to. Oh and if you get caught taking a picture in a no picture zone someone will tell you oh no no and look very sorry for having told you that…and not delete the picture. XD

I think me and my wall of text are going to go to bed now. But a month after leaving Japan my memories are still very fresh in my mind and I really miss being there. I am sure there are way more things I could say and give tips on but I tend to go on a little long…XD So I shall go to bed and pray work won’t kill me tomorrow! Thanks for reading!

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