Our first stop here in Japan is Tokyo, and while we’ve got a couple more days to go before we head south to Nagoya, we’ve already fallen in love with these things about Tokyo.
- The train system is awesome and can take you anywhere you need to go. The JR and Tokyo metro subway systems here work a treat. We knew to look out for a Pasmo or Suica card when we arrived (the Opal / Go / Oyster card equivalents), and have been scanning our way through station gates with ease as we get around to all sorts of places in Tokyo. You can easily recharge these at any station (and the terminals have English options as well which has been super handy! The machine does announce quite loudly that it is changing to English though, so you do feel like you are being shamed publicly.).
The station announcement tones are so happy and musical; it sounds like you’ve just won the jackpot on a poker machine! How can you be tetchy about public transport when you feel like a winner?!
Bonus: You can use the Suica card at many vending machines and even in some shops and bars to make purchases. Just look for the little green kawaii penguin.
- There are lots of super stylish people here. From what we’ve seen so far, man what a stylish bunch the folks of Tokyo are! Sure, we’re staying where the Salarymen hang out (in Shimbashi), so there’s a disproportionate number of full suits getting around. Outside of Shimbashi though, there are smart pants, pleated skirts, well pressed shirts and sweet blouses with cardigans. Everyone’s clothes look brand new. Everyone’s shoes are FREAKISHLY clean. Seriously – business shoes are not scuffed in the slightest. There’s not a high heel (or kitten heel) which look worn. Sneakers are as bright as new. It’s odd, but awesome at the same time.
There are very few shorts around (which makes a couple of Aussies like us stand out like the pasty-white legs we have on show). Everybody’s hair is perfect (making the fuzzy-haired member of the Packlings feel a little extra unkempt).
- There’s always a park nearby when you need respite. As fun as it is, after 5 days of walking around some of the busiest streets in Tokyo, it can get pretty manic. While an area like Shinjuku has a bunch of great shops and buildings to see, there are 20,000 other people trying to do the same thing at the same time. Mental! So, it’s a blessing that there always seems to be a large park to step into and chill out for a bit in. Much like Central Park is sweet relief from the busyness of Manhattan, most areas in Tokyo have a similar retreat which, once you enter you magically forget you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world. Great for taking a breather and snapping some pretty pics as well.
4. You always keep left. Unless in instances you need to keep right. Coming from Australia keeping left is pretty inherent, so we thought we had it nailed. Until we encountered some stations (and in some cases, only certain sets of stairs or platforms within stations) which ask that you keep right. Luckily, they’re usually pretty well signed with arrows helping the masses of people along the way. Somehow, everybody seems to know which side to keep to and when… but we haven’t quite worked that one out yet…
5. There is kawaii everywhere! Every sign is so cute! If you don’t know, kawaii literally translates as ‘cute’, and it’s the adorable cartoon style synonymous with Japanese popular culture. You know, the characters with big, gleaming eyes and super happy smiles? They’re everywhere! Even the most serious of public service announcements have a cute character. Need to know where the fire hydrant is? Check for the trio of kawaii firefighters. Ads, posters, transport, construction sites – you name it. And we think it’s cute as.