Tokyo, been there done that

Actually, I did very little in Tokyo. It’s now the last day, and I really didn’t get to see that much. Well, I saw a lot of the back streets yesterday while I was lost trying to get to Hama Rikyu Garden. Note to self: turn left at Monorail station, not right.

Anyway, am staying at a YMCA, I won’t do the hand actions … this time ;-) The Western Style breakfast I’ve been eating was okay, except for the salad with mayonnaise next to the runny fried egg and sausage. Okay, it was a re-interpretation of Western Style breakfast. At ¥200 (that’s a Yen symbol, I hope) I can’t complain.

Impressions? Well, where do I start …

I’m getting the hang of the language. Except the other day when I went into a little sandwich store and asked if the sandwich was egg. Except I said “tomodachi,” instead of “tamago.” I was asking if the sandwich was my friend (tomodachi). Thankfully the old woman behind the counter said it was egg and ham. It surprised me that she said that in English … or my $2.95 Star Trek Universal Translator was working.

There are a few things I noticed straight away. Bicycles and face masks. I think the bikes are free to use, if you see one that doesn’t look like anyone owns it, then just pick it up and ride away. They all look the same, as through some factory in 1960 closed down because the style of bike suddenly became unpopular. As a public service they might have just left the remaining stock all over Japan. Somehow I don’t think that’s true, but it sounds good.

Every now and then I come across a Japanese person wearing this thick face mask that covers their nose and mouth, sort of like a surgical mask. It’s for their hay-fever, to stop pollen getting into their system, and for them to not sneeze onto other people. I think flu sufferers might wear them as well. So they are not for the pollution (which doesn’t seem any worse then Sydney,) and not for the neuroticly clean and hygienic people to stay healthy.

Most Japanese speak English it seems. But only a little. Well actually, no matter how much they speak they’ll either say “a little” or just “no.” Even with no English, some minor communication can be made.

There also seems to be an extreme contrast between the old and the new. I’ve got some photos of really old buildings next to games stores, and temples surrounded by technology shops. Some buildings look like they survived WWII bombing, and some don’t. It reminds me mostly of Surry Hills.

All the stereo types are here. Sarari men falling asleep over their food, or on the train seat next to a beautiful woman, who has to lean away to stop the man snoozing on her shoulder. Mountain Witches, Schools kids, suits, Kimono wearing older women. I could spend a whole day just catching the train photographing people. Everyone here has style.

If I had a cat to swing around my hotel room, it wouldn’t last 2pi radians (that’s 360 degrees for you Luddites.) Even the door was lower then a Western door. I thought I had arrived on the 7 1/2 floor from Being John Malkovitch.

A few of the Westerners I’ve spoken too have been really good. One or two mention craving to have an English conversation (even the French bloke! Well, he just wanted to talk about Tokyo, which was really good.) The American, Steve, at breakfast this morning, met all my expectations of an American, except he was better travelled than most. One or two didn’t speak any English, or Japanese – I wish them luck. One English bloke got me first, when I asked him if he spoke English, he said “No, I don’t.”

Yesterday morning, there was this strange man with a wooden trolley walking around the back streets. He had a loud speaker on it calling out something, my initial impression was that it was a Muslim call to Prayer. When I found him, I had no idea what he was doing. I think he was selling something from this rickety old trolley but I don’t know. I was in a hurry to get to the post office, and when I came back he had moved on. Perhaps it didn’t happen. Maybe it was a lack of sleep.

Even nerds here look the same, but stylish.

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