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Travel Journal

tokyoWhat I See in Tokyoites
by Tiffany; September 19, 2010




Following the direction into the immigration in the bright and clean arrival path, “Yokoso,” the bold red Hirakana, showing on the white board hanging high down from the top of ceiling is a greeting, “Welcome!”

Beside the baggage claim area, airport workers in black peaked caps and uniforms are helping to check the baggage claim receipts on the luggage to ensure no mistakes for everyone.

Going more ahead, the customs officer shows passengers a cardboard with many items in multiple languages. I can just point to each question and simply reply yes or no, so it doesn’t matter if I neither understand Japanese nor English (although I can). They’re always very courteous—much more than Southeast Asia or North America—even in the Customs.

Travelling in Tokyo is as easy as a pie. 24-hour convenience stores are all over. I can easily purchase stuff from a machine anywhere and anytime—traffic tickets, drinks, cigarettes, disposable cameras, tissues, snacks, ice cream, instant noodles, rice, and meal tickets, and even condoms. Anything is thinkable! Japan probably has the highest density of vending machines on earth. To live a convenient life seems important for Tokyoites.

Public transportation in Tokyo is just like a complex cobweb, busy but easy. And, the traffic fee is set by distances (like most Asian countries) rather than by zones (such as Canada, UK, and Australia) that seem more reasonable.

I usually take Keisei SkyLine from airport to Ueno eki (station) and then transfer to JR Yamate line instead of JR Narita Express. It’ll save me almost one half of the difference on the fee; moreover, Yamate line is the only route running in a loop, which allows me to see the clouds and skyscrapers, the signboards and office workers in the building. It’s better than being jammed into the cars of Metro.

Following the people in neat formal suits (one hardly sees sport shirts and sneakers) the orderly crowd into the carriage fully decorated with advertisements showing a well-know businessman, famous endorsers with new sets of cosmetics, and fresh beverages. No noisy music or loud talking! Some are reading their books (covered with plant paper cover to keep the book secret) or newspapers; some are listening to their Ipods with earphones or working on their laptops.

Often, near the door, a couple of teen girls in sailor outfits, black mini plait skirts, and black leather shoes with white loose socks, lean by the window looking at the pictures on their pink cell phones decorated elaborately with sparkling jewels and Hello Kitty phone straps. “Ne~ ne,” titters for something about boys.

Japanese men seem to have a special taste for high school girls that is obviously found in magazines, manga (comics) and ningyo (dolls). Gravure idols have been one of the most impressive modern cultural symbols of Japan, and Japan has been the biggest shashinshū (photobook) markets.

Also, Tokyoites diligently devour knowledge. Myriads of publications are everywhere. I always enjoy hanging out at the department-store-like bookstores, such as Junkudo and Kinokuniya (they resemble but are bigger than the “Chapters” in Vancouver’s downtown.)

Most Tokyoites, children and adults, take extra lessons or continuing education after school or work in cram schools or from the language programs on TV at nights. Except business courses, they seem eager to learn English, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and so on. But, if you expect to chat with them in those languages, you might be disappointed.

My first time at Shijuku, the maziest station in Tokyo, I asked directions in English to a young smart-looking office lady. She just blushingly shook her head, waved her hands, and then rushed away to meet her coworkers, probably for a drink. The drink culture is also Japanese tradition. I enjoy sitting on a bench, having a beer and kabob, and overhear their conversation about  work, love or family.   

Courtesy, carefulness, neatness, energy, and diligence are the typical image of Tokyoites. In my traveling experiences, I feel that Tokyoites pursue fashion and new things, they don’t want to be behind or different than their fellows, and they are quite repressed about showing their behaviour, habits and interest.


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