Tokyo weekend!

     2300 yen ($27) is a good deal for a capsule hotel, which you can get a glimpse of in the bottom of the photo. A dorm bed in a youth hostel typically costs as much or more than this. Capsules are typically 2 x 1 x 1 meters, but are less claustrophobic than they appear. I slept in one in Kobe once. The facilities were excellent: big common rooms, nice showers, a TV inside the capsule, but the main drawback is that check-in isn’t until 9pm. This is because the most common customers are businessmen who have missed their last train home and need a place to crash for the night. Could something like this take off in America–or anywhere else?
     I hitchhiked from Ueda to Tokyo (200km) pretty easily, but I am always disappointed that the driver of the last ride didn’t use the midtown elevated expressway. It is the only chance I have to be on that system. Sometimes the expressway is elevated very high off the ground so you can get different perspectives of Tokyo. The shoehorned way it was built into the city seems very futuristic–in a depressing way, perhaps.

     That’s some pretty narrow slices of fruit, but they were doing a brisk business.

     A Japanese friend says this particular mushroom has a special aroma and that a fancy restaurant might pay 30,000 yen, which is about $360, but that is more than a round trip ticket to the Philippines with all the sliced fruit you can eat.

     These friendly rickshaw guys were waiting for rides outside Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. The one major part of town I had never been in Tokyo was Asukusa, so I went to check out it’s so-called traditional atmosphere and the “famous” Senso-ji.
     Horrible! It is nothing but tourist junk and the temple itself is awful, just commerce. Flanked on both sides by stands selling amulets and prayer supplies, you pay for your fortune, you pay for this, pay for that, and then the main thing people do is to throw coins in a large receptacle before a three-second prayer.
     There are two large receptacles where you can’t see all the money accumulated; someone is making a mint. So many people come and throw coins that the temple sounds like a more muted pachinko parlor. Poking your head into a pachinko parlor will have a more long-lasting effect on you than a temple, sad to say.
     I think most visitors to Japan would be blown away not by any temples or by the Tokyo Tower (a faux Eiffel Tower) but rather by everyday Japanese stuff. A supermarket never disappoints nor any place with a cashier. Cashiers have an intensity that is breathtaking. The incessant head nodding, bowing, and semi-bowing while constantly reciting aspects of the transaction–I don’t know how they can maintain the energy.
     How can Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world when they seem to be so wound up?

     Regarding the picture to the right, whenever I shake my head at first-time travelers in Japan going to McDonald’s or not trying local food, I have to remind myself that my first time here I found a Shakey’s Pizza in Shibuya that had an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $5 or something like that and I ate there every day. Shakey’s is still there. I don’t think Shakey’s is still in America, and when it did, it was always the poor cousin to any other pizza chain. It is amazing to think that brands like Shakey’s, Mister Donut and Keds might be more popular in Japan than home.
     I am in Tokyo for the weekend and then I think the end of the trip looks near.

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Tokyo weekend! — 2 Comments

  1. “How can Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world when they seem to be so wound up?” Yes, YES! THIS is the mystery! Honestly I think this is the biggest unsolved mystery in the modern world. Anyone who can solve this and explain it in a reasonable-seeming fashion will deserve international fame and fortune!
    My favorite Japanese restaurant is McDonalds. I want NO critisism from anyone who hasn’t lived in Japan, savvy? But it’s true, it’s a different restaurant, things actually taste like their pictures suggest. I think McD’s itself is more popular in Japan than America! And rightly so!!

  2. I had a layover for a day in Tokyo last year and I did stop by McDonald for breakfast (it was 6am in the morning and seem to be the only place open, first time I ever been to Japan). I slept in a capsule hotel smack in the middle of shinjuku! Going through the train station, I do believe you about the mad rush hour with throng of people. Wasnt what I expected since I thought japan is more laid back, maybe in the country side! Love reading your multiple articles on japan and jordan, seem like you enjoy these countries a lot too.

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