A friend told me before I left that there were no trash bins in the city and this is true. When we get snacks along the way, we carefully put all the waste in the plastic bag usually provided, or we just take one with us, and carry it around until we get back to the hotel. A pleasant consequence is that so far we have seen practically no litter in the city.
Eating while walking or generally on the street is considered ill-bred. We don’t see much of it here, but a few cases have been spotted, for example in Harajuku, although ice cream or those creative desserts from Angel Crepes don’t seem to be an issue. What we did today was simply pick a bench and quietly eat with our backs to the street. Clever!
The Japanese are very good at recognizing which things will lead to questions from foreign tourists, as is clear by some English translations we’ve seen around. Just when you start wondering, voila, there it is, the crucial point. “Please don’t touch the puppies and ask for assistance” in a very expensive pet shop in the Daikanyama district.
Wearing socks with shoes is very popular among ladies, and oh, what socks they are. The shoes alone are worth several articles of ecstatic description, but the socks are not far behind, in every color imaginable, with ribbons, pearls, feathers etc etc. Feet are taken seriously here. As is everything else, it seems? I saw a woman with pearls lining the hems of her jeans and generally being “dressed” is certainly filled with a new meaning over here, at all times of the day.
In contrast to hotels in other countries I’ve stayed in, we have not heard or seen the housekeeping staff in our hotel, but when we come back from walking, everything is comfortable and pristine, and the robes (yes, we get robes, unexpected) are folded on the beds like I never could fold myself. Only it doesn’t button all the way down, because, once again, I’m too big for Japan.
Some of the talking does sound like what you may have heard during your childhood anime watching. It’s generally a melodious, sometimes even sing-song language, and you understand why the Japanese have a reputation of being musical and good at singing.
Long lines outside of Western eating places are a very common sight, often made up of mostly teenage school students or young people, none of them looking bored, but either doing something on their phones or chatting to each other. Dessert places are frequented especially heavily and the excitement about what’s on offer is palpable. The Disney theme regularly pops up among sweet food and seems to be at home among the poppy brightness that is one part of what we connect with Japanese culture.
Nobody stares at me when I think I’m being awkward with my chopsticks. They just enjoy their own meal and let others eat in peace.
And while locals do of course talk and laugh among themselves in the city, even in Shibuya I get the impression that if it weren’t for the traffic, it would generally be pretty quiet. It might be an inner quality, maybe that’s why it’s always possible to sit down and think here.
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