SOCIAL MEDIA

24 July 2016

Surprises from our Trip to Tokyo, Japan

Angel and I spent the last week on a summer holiday, celebrating both of our birthdays in Tokyo! It was a first trip to Japan for the both of us, and before I write some more in-depth posts about our biggest adventures of the trip, I first wanted to do an overview, highlighting some of the things that surprised us along the way.

No matter how much research you do ahead of time, visiting a new country for the first time always brings a few surprises, because you never truly know what to expect when you haven't been there yet. And, it turns out, we always have our little preconceptions about a place, even if we try not to--and oftentimes those preconceptions are proven to be false when confronted by reality.


1. This looks like Godzilla. I completely did not expect to see him in Tokyo. This was quite a surprise, although perhaps it shouldn't have been. I mean, Tokyo is sort-of where he belongs, right?


2. I did not expect to see so many people wearing sensible shoes. I'm not sure why I had this idea, but I expected to see a lot more people walking around in highly fashionable, very impractical footwear. Maybe this impression came from the fact that I view Japan as a very fashion-forward country, and when we lived in ShenZhen, it was very normal to see people hiking trails, working out, and going to the beach in platforms, high heels, and ballet flats. So I was surprised by how few interesting shoes I saw in Tokyo. The vast majority of people were wearing sensible dress shoes or comfortable sneakers--like the sneakers I spent the whole trip in. Which Angel had to tie everyday because when I tie my own shoes they always come untied within 20 minutes....



3. I did not expect pets to be so expensive. I don't like pet stores, but Angel was magnetically drawn to one in Shibuya and I followed him in so as not to get lost. That man can't resist the charms of either a dog or a cat, in spite of being allergic to them. I don't understand Japanese well enough to know exactly which of those numbers is the the price, if any, but all of them are very, very large numbers, enough to make me think that there might be puppies in this world more valuable than my entire net worth, which is a thought I'd never considered before.


4. Payphones! They're everywhere! You guys, I was born in the 90s. I've never used a payphone, only have vague memories of seeing them in the USA when I was kid. But there were phone booths along a number of streets, and Angel actually attempted to use one to get in touch with the owner of our Airbnb apartment.





5. Flowers! This flower-lover was so impressed by all the beautiful and neatly-organized flowerbeds and gardens in all sorts of places. I'm used to the looks of Malaysia and the climate here--in dry season, everything dies, and even during the rainy season, our most beautiful green areas have more of a wild overgrown jungle beauty than that beauty of an orderly garden filled with exuberant flowers. I loved walking the flower-lined walkways in various parts of Tokyo.


6. So many people! Perhaps I was too arrogant. I thought--I've lived in a big city in China, I've traveled extensively in Hong Kong, I'm prepared for any kind of crowded areas that Tokyo can throw at me. Nope. Tokyo totally has Hong Kong and ShenZhen beat, that's for sure. Definitely some of the most crowded trains and streets I've been on in my life.



7. I liked the food!! I was surprised by this. I will admit that I'm a picky eater. I don't eat seafood at all, and all of my friends kept telling me that I had to eat sushi in Japan. This kind of put me in mind that I wouldn't like the food in Japan, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved everything I ate (none of which was sushi). Bagels seemed widely available (it's really, really hard to find good bagels where we live, so that was a welcome and surprising treat!). We stopped at many bakeries to enjoy fresh, delicious baked treats. Nearly every convenience store had bags of salty popcorn (popcorn is just about my all-time favorite food). I also at plenty of ramen and had various dishes of rice and beef or dumplings, and everything was delicious.


8. Free ice water at restaurants and food courts. Coming from a land where you always have to buy a drink, or at least order it (some restaurants give you water for free if you order it, but at plenty of places, you will still pay a small charge for ice water, or else you have to buy bottled mineral water)--this was a very pleasant surprise. We kept thinking we'd have to order a drink, only to find a station at the mall food court with cups and a cold water tap, or else we'd go into a little ramen shop and the table would already have a pitcher of ice water on it. This ice-cold water tap was at DisneySea--even there you could just walk into a food court and grab a cool drink in the middle of a hot day.


9. Street performers! I was surprised by how many street performers we saw--it's been a while since I've traveled or lived anywhere that really had street performers. Hanger-Man was the most exciting, with his act that involved jumping into a wire hanger while balancing on a board that balanced on top of a pipe. He also jumped over baby dolls while riding a unicycle. A thrilling performance!


10. I did not expect to see so many women wearing yukata. Again, I think I was influenced by what you see in Malaysia--for example, here, in the Indian community, you see plenty of older women wearing saris on any sort of day, but you really only see young women wearing traditional clothing for special occasions, i.e. holidays, weddings, ceremonies. But I noticed many young women wearing beautiful yukata wherever we went. I know that there are services that allow foreign tourists to rent yukata and walk around dressed up for the day in Japan. That seems a bit weird to me. I didn't take any pictures of strangers wearing traditional dress, so I'm sharing this 4-year-old picture of the yukata I was given in high school instead. Although theirs looked much neater than mine, and had much more ornately tied obis.

We learn so many new things about the world around us when we travel--particularly not to rely so much on preconceived expectations! Do you have any stories of being surprised by something you came across on a trip?

24 comments :

  1. Looks like such an interesting trip! Although, I must say, seeing all those people crowded together in that street makes me start hyperventilating a bit.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  2. Wowee that's an expensive dog! And the flowers are beautiful!

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  3. The flowers look so amazing, that must have been a beautiful place to walk around! Gosh, this makes me want to visit Japan even more someday :P
    I respect that you don't eat seafood, though I still think you're somewhat crazy for not liking seafood when you live in the corner of the world that has super-fresh seafood! That's really interesting that you saw so many women in yukata-I would not be expecting that, either! I guess I've always seen Japan (and Tokyo, more specifically) as such a modern place, I figured that no one would really be wearing traditional clothes.

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  4. I've always wanted to visit Japan, and you've done a great job of capturing its beauty! It's safe to say I want to go there more now LOL!


    www.shewillneverlose.com

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  5. I've always thought of Tokyo as too busy of a city for my liking. This has me convinced I should give her a shot!

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  6. can't wait to read more! I'd love to visit Japan, but wow...those crowds.

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  7. Beautiful pictures! Tokyo is on my bucket list.

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  8. It looks like you had a lot of fun! I've never been to Asia, so all of that is so new to me. Thanks for sharing about your trip :)

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  9. How interesting! I love the random Godzilla coming out of the building, haha. I'm not sure what the exchange rate comes out to with that puppy price but it certainly looks expensive! So cute though!

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  10. Oh wow, the pictures are so pretty! I used to live in Japan when I was a toddler, but don't remember any of it. I definitely need to go back so I can enjoy it and remember it. :)

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  11. what a fun and interesting trip! I have always wanted to go to Japan

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  12. Rachel, thanks for giving us a glimpse into your trip! Now I want to hop on a plane to go somewhere...anywhere! My husband would be in heaven there, because ramen (or, saimen, as they call it in Hawaii) is just about his favorite food. I laughed so hard at that Godzilla! Happy Birthday to you two!

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  13. My husband lived in Japan for 3 years while in the army, and he really wants to go back for a visit. We're hoping to go in a couple of years. Thank you for sharing your pictures and stories.

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  14. Great post! We have always thought it would be fun to visit Japan someday.

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  15. I'm shocked at the price for an animal!

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  16. What a fun trip! I can't believe how crowded it is! I wouldn't know what to do in that situation.

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  17. Isn't Tokyo fun!! So many surprises there... and you look great in the yukata, Rachel!

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  18. Looks like so much fun! Tokyo is definitely on my list of places to go to soon :) I love how they have payphones, how practical and old fashioned!

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  19. Sounds like you had a fantastic time! That Godzilla is crazy! All your pictures are gorgeous! I would definitely have been surprised by all of these things too. What a fun way to recap the entire trip!

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  20. I would never have imagined that there would be phone boxes in such a techno-savvy country! Those gardens are beautiful, I'm a big fan of gardens. Crowds not so much... That looks like Oxford Street in the run up to Christmas!

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  21. OH! It is my husband's lifelong dream to go to Japan-- and by the looks of this post we definitely have to go. Though we definitely won't be buying a new furbaby there-- whoa those puppies were pricey! Also, you're gorgeous. Loved this post! Looks like a blast! xX

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  22. Looks like a great trip! Phillip's family lived in Shibuya for 5 years.

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  23. Visiting Tokyo is on Justin's bucket list--he really wants to go to a cultural festival while there one day.

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  24. Oh wow! So many surprises about visiting Tokyo! I honestly can't remember any of my assumptions about Tokyo before I visited, but that was a long time ago. I like seeing Tokyo through your eyes! I love that most people were wearing such practical shoes (and find it hilarious that Angel has to tie your shoes for you for them to stay on, ha!) and that you guys saw so many payphones. :)

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