Thursday, June 20, 2013

Japanese Random Thoughts

It has been fun seeing things that I read about in tour books. This section will be updated as our trip progresses. Pictures to be added once we get home. 

Electric Outlets and Plugs

The Japanese use the same outlets as ours, but a different currency. We brought electronic gadgets that can handle both and have been fine so far. The only issue was that three pronged outlets are not common, so Hiroko picked up a three to two prong converter from us from a hardware store. The shame of it is we have a converter like that in NJ. Oh well. I really do want to charge up my mini laptop so I can keep updating the blog easily.

Gas Stations

When we filled up the rental car today we noticed the gas pump nozzles were suspended from a wire, rather than attached to pumps that are on the ground. Much better use of space, though we could not see the amount ticking away.

Phone Booths

Really shocked by the vast quantity of telephone booths, especially given how hard they are to find in NYC. There was even one in our hotel lobby in Nikko. We saw one in a train station that had unattached phone books with it.

Hotel Room Light

You have to put your card key in the slot in order for the lights to turn on in the room. Someone had told me about this, but it was still fun to see in person.


Every hotel we have stayed in included slippers for us to wear while in the room. 


Japan is famous for their toilets. We've encountered the basic hole in the
ground to toilets with way too many whistles and bells, including a music button to make it sound like the toilet is flushing if you are taking too long. Based on what I've read about toilets in Japan, I was not taking a chance on pushing too many buttons. I do love the heated toilet seats and wish we had included that when we remodeled our bathroom last summer. I keep finding it odd to see phones in bathrooms -- both in hotels and out in public. Ashley now makes sure she finds "Western" toilets rather than "Japanese" ones. Can't say that I blame her.

Most bathrooms we have gone to include a seat for a baby (5 m - 2 1/2 years old). Wish more of those existed in NJ when Ashley was a baby. Seriously, what do they expect us to do with tiny babies when new moms go to the bathroom? Let them crawl around on the dirty bathroom floor? Hold them while also trying to take care of business?


I'm struggling with the concept of staying LEFT since it is ingrained in me to stay RIGHT. I just keep looking both ways, and looking again and again before crossing the street. I kept my eyes closed in the rental car.

American-style Food

Our forays into American-style food (such as burgers) still includes a side of


We were becoming experts in pantomiming while at Tokyo Disneyland. That game was not played in Nikko where they expected us to speak more Japanese. We'll see what happens in Nara, Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo.


When it rains in California, the locals stay home and wait for a nicer day. When it rains in Japan, the locals pop open umbrellas (often non-compact ones so they can add them to the ever-present umbrella racks) or wear rain ponchos. Our Americanism stands out because we just wear sweatshirts with hoods and tough it out. We just are not fans of umbrellas. 

Tipping at Shows

We noticed at Tokyo Disney that the map said Cast Members cannot accept gifts. That statement made more sense when we went to EdoWonderland and learned the custom is to tip the performers, if you want. Each time we went into a show, we were handed a square piece of wax paper. We were invited to put some coins in the wax paper, twist it, and toss it on the stage at the end of the show. We had no idea how much to toss, and our friends were not doing it, so we skipped it.

Tipping at Restaurants

It just isn’t done. As a result, the servers are not extremely attentive. If you need something, there is often a bell (like a doorbell) on the table to use to flag them down. There are times I wished this existed back home! It is also nice that the final bill is figured out by adding up the items since sales tax is wrapped into the bill.

More on Rain

We saw a bicyclist riding his bike while carrying an open umbrella. Mind you,
only 5 drops of rain had fallen so far, but we were still impressed by his dexterity. Don saw an umbrella case attached to a bicycle. If it keeps raining, we hope to take a picture of this feat. Ideally, though, the rain will stop. (Update: it rained again and we snapped a picture this time.)


There are women only cars during rush hour. We are hoping to avoid rush hour on the subways since we’ve heard about the gropers and the white gloved train attendants who squeeze you into the train.


So far we’ve seen some pretty neat bike gadgets. We’ve seen to bikes fitted with front and rear baby seats. Don hopes to visit at least one bike shop while in Tokyo.

Hotel room accoutrements

In the United States many hotel rooms come with a coffee maker. In Japanese hotel rooms there is always a way to make tea. Yes, I should have been smart enough to realize this before we left NJ, but I wasn’t. Don packed his giant mug and a bunch of tea bags, but I didn’t. Honestly we haven’t slowed down enough on this trip for me to buy more tea bags, so we’ve been sharing the tea bag.

The other new to us kind of thing they have in hotel rooms is a nightdress.
I’m used to towels, sheets, blankets, and pillows, but before this trip we never stayed in a hotel that included pajamas for our use.

Plastic Bags

Being on the Sustainable Lawrence committee to push to ban plastic bags I am probably more aware of the issue than most others. The amount of plastic bags is shocking! We bought danishes for breakfast. The danish came wrapped in a plastic bag, then the plastic bag was wrapped in a bigger / nicer plastic bag. When we bought bananas, they, too were put in a plastic bag. We tried to say no bag ("sono mama"). The comment that was told to us was that there are hardly any trash containers, so you need something to hold your banana peel until you find one. The lack of trash cans dates back to a bombing that took place in Japan over 20 years ago.

Trash containers

The reason for so few trash containers stems back to an act of biological warfare that took place in 1995. Someone put a gas explosive in a trash can. The reaction was to take away most public trash containers. This is similar to the reaction the US had when the shoe bomber was detected, and now we all have to take off our shoes when we pass through airport security.


Even with so few trash containers, there is still very little litter. Remarkable!

Vending machines

We have seen vending machines for ice cream, cigarettes, beer, and hot drinks in cans, as well as Coke and water. Later we found a camera equipment vending machine, too.


Yes, I know the first A in ADA is Americans, but bear with me here. For a country that has lots of sidewalks with lanes in them for blind people to use with a white cane, they have a lot of unnecessary steps. Our goal is to survive the trip without visiting a Japanese hospital. However, if we do, it should be covered by our trip insurance.


I noticed at Disney that strollers are a lot smaller, and that kids are out of the stroller age at a much earlier age than in the States. 


There is bike-friendly and bike-dominant. While Don is having fun like at the bicycle gadgets (and contemplating buying at least one), I am playing dodge the bicycle. We've only noticed three people wearing helmets -- and one was a small child. They mostly ride on the sidewalk along with the pedestrians. so far so good.

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