Flying from the Outback to Sydney was in itself a culture shock. Now we are in Tokyo, the largest urban area in the world with 37m people, 13m more than the whole of Australia! It’s contrasts like this that makes this gap year so amazing.
For both of us, it’s our first time in Japan, so here are our initial observations….
- It’s hot and sticky, oppressively at times. Temperatures are in the mid 30s Celsius but it’s the humidity that’s making us so tired walking around the streets. Today we took refuge in the Tokyo National Gallery to keep cool.
- For some reason, in our planning, we were led to believe that Japan would be our most expensive country. It’s not, that honour definitely goes to Australia. Instead, we’re finding it relatively cheap to buy food from supermarkets and back street cafes. Also getting around isn’t too expensive thanks to passes specially aimed at encouraging tourism.
- We expected to be overwhelmed with noise and people. Instead, there’s an air of calmness, perhaps flowing from the character of the Japanese, who value conformity and living in harmony over individuality. No one seems to rush. No one pushes into you. No one talks loudly. Manners are everything here.
- It’s so easy to get around, thanks to the extensive tube network. In fact we’ve been really impressed by the wayfinding system used on the metro. With every line denoted by a letter, and every station by a number, you don’t need to understand Japanese writing.
- This city must have the lowest police presence of any city we have visited this year. No policemen with sub-machine guns here, for the only police we have seen are over 50 years old, cycling around on old bikes. But then everyone is very obedient; no one even jay-walks.
- There’s plenty of urban shabbiness, but everywhere is so clean. There is no graffiti or down and outs anywhere, and smoking as you walk along the pavements is outlawed. On every street there’s a person sweeping and at the Meiji–gingū park several old men are continually raking the gravel to perfection.
- If we stand somewhere studying our maps, looking vaguely lost, people will inevitably come up and help us. People seem genuinely interested in helping us out and then chatting to us in English.
We were going to spend just a couple of nights here in our hostel, but as we are enjoying it so much, we’ll stay for a third.