Sunday, June 30, 2013

Japan Final Thoughts

It seems whenever we go on vacation we talk about what it would be like to live there. The conversation tends to be a pipe dream, but still fun to think about. We both agreed there is no way we could live in Japan.

Ashley learned enough of the language that when eavesdropping on a conversation taking place in Japanese she knew they were saying something about right hand and left hand (I suspect the woman was giving directions to the man about right hand and left hand turns). Much better than I could do. Don and I were always happy to hear “that nice lady” on the metro repeat the name of the station nice and slow and tell us the station numbers in English.

Food was an issue. We were all willing to try new things, but still wanted the familiar. It is more than that, I wanted variety. At home we eat Chinese, Italian, American, Thai, and Indian food. Just as I don’t eat burgers every day in the US, I’m not fond of eating pig every day in Japan (ham, bacon, pork).
Every meal was a treasure hunt, often a long one. Most restaurants have pictures, or plastic models of the food, but even with the clues we didn’t have it all figured out. One night we went out for pizza and pasta. The picture showed chicken with a teriyaki sauce and some green stuff on top. I thought the green stuff would be basil or spinach. Imagine my surprise when it was dried seaweed! I guess I’d mellowed by that point in the trip because it didn’t bother me much. I miss vegetables – a common issue on vacation.
Despite trying at least 20 new foods (most in Nikko) we did not leave with a favorite fish. I finally tried salmon and tuna, but didn’t love them. I should have tried the shrimp when I had the chance.

We found the mass transportation system highly stressful. When on the bus,

we needed exact change, but didn’t always know what the amount would be until we were getting off. Fortunately I could point to the coins (often 550) and point to the three of us, rather than having 220 ready for Don and I and 110 ready for Ashley. All day transportation cards alleviated that stress for me. When we rode the metro, having to find the correct line (there are two different metro systems in Tokyo, plus the rail line, and they don’t talk to each other), then lining up the map with the name of the station we were stopping at (which might only be in Japanese) before I could then put in the coins with the proper amount as the line behind me grew, was also stressful. Figuring out which direction to take each train (especially when they were loops) was also a challenge. For Japanese friends, picture taking mass transit in Thailand or China.

From what I have seen of my pictures, I am loving the newcamera. It was a last minute purchase when I realized my regular camera was not as crisp as it had once been. Yes, I missed the zoom, but the clarity is stunning! Now that I have a DSLM, I can’t see going back to a regular digital camera. I had fun playing with it. When I came home, I discovered the other one was returned to me from the camera shop. I wonder how much I'll use it now.

We realized we can go in an airplane for a lot of hours and survive. The international flights treat you so much better than the ones in the US. As I type this I am sipping my complimentary wine, so that might have something to do with my feelings. Australia is no longer off of the dream list. We did decide that our next international trip will be to a country where we can at least recognize the letters – which means Spain, Italy, Germany, and Australia are in while China and Thailand are out.

I found I enjoyed wandering more than racing from site to site. While armchair traveling I thought I wanted to see everything, but while in Japan I realized I wanted to sit back and enjoy it. I also enjoyed the challenge of figuring out the transit system, but wished for a little more time to savor the comfort level before moving onto the next city and the next set of rules. We knew it was an ambitious agenda, just didn’t factor in how tired we would be struggling with the language, food and culture.

I normally do not sleep well in new places. I was happy that was not an issue on this trip since we changed hotels so often. I think I was so exhausted from walking that I slept well. Ashley often fell asleep before we made it back to the hotel. Don carried her for the remainder of that day’s adventures. Once we made it to our hotel I spent time gathering electronics to be recharged, checking emails (I know, I said I wouldn’t, but I did), upload pictures (except the last three nights) and write thoughts into a blog. I’m glad I blogged. The blog will help me match pictures to what we did, plus put the scrapbook together. Hope some of you are enjoying reading about our adventures. I look forward to editing the posts and adding pictures over the next couple of months.

The Japanese were friendly. Most tried to help us. We latched onto anyone who spoke English. I wondered how the non-English, non-Japanese speakers were managing.

I missed being able to make small talk with people from shop keepers to waiters. Our conversations were so child-like, and even those were draining. I latched onto times we could chat with Americans. This really stood out to me in the Canadian airport when I realized I could joke with the people as they tried to figure out why Don and I were cleared for customs, but not Ashley. We knew she didn't do anything wrong and that they would figure it out soon. 

Now we can say we’ve been to four out of five (soon six) Disney theme parks. Since we’ve ruled out visiting China because of the language, I suppose our experiences will end with four. After hearing about Tokyo Disney for so many years, I’m glad we went.

Favorite experiences:

Ashley: the Japanese art class at Tokyo Disney, and walking through a cloud at Mount Fuji

Don: seeing the bicycle piano player at Tokyo Disney

Jacquie: taking pictures at the top of the Floating Gardenin Osaka – first chance I had to pull out all the stops with it

Least favorite experiences:

Ashley: using a Japanese toilet, second least favorite was being kicked by a deer in Nara

Don: the flight home and lack of leg room, our flight out was a joy with much more leg room. The flight home was on a 777, hoping to keep that in mind when booking future flights.

Jacquie: being caught in downpours that even umbrellas would not keep us dry

No comments:

Post a Comment