We are sitting on the plane from Tokyo to Paris and it seems to be the right time for a few lines of summary of this one-week trip to Tokyo. I have to confess I love long-haul flights for this cut-off they give.No phone calls, no messages, no emails and lots of movies and music to choose from. I hate flights that are between 2-5 hours as it is too little time to organise the space and enjoy movie watching and book reading, while way too much time just to sit and wait for landing. I have already seen a French movie „Marseille” (after all I’m flying AirFrance so a French movie seems to be politically correct to watch;)) and now I am listening to my Spotify collection and writing the post (“Lost on you” right now-I like it a lot:-))
First of all, it was really relaxing and smooth time with no obstacles or unpleasant surprises or unnecessary ‚adventures’. Despite not knowing the language, traveling in Japan is easy and convenient. All the transport connections are written in English. All the commands and requirements are provided in English as well. On metro trains taking you to major tourist attractions or airports all the announcements are in English. Well, I have to admit that while shopping you can hardly ever communicate in English- well, you do not need to communicate much while shopping for clothes, but it would be helpful to speak to someone at the drugstore just to make sure that the face cream you are buying is not whitening (most cosmetics here are whitening of course). But here comes the power of the Internet and with a few screenshots you can get everything you want not knowing a word in Japanese. At least I hope I got what I wanted and I bought a lot. I got familiar with a brand called Hadalabo that apparently is sold by Hebe drugstore in Poland. I am looking forward to checking it out. The more luxurious brand to buy in Japan is SK-II, but most of their products are whitening and the price range is between 10,000 and 20,000 yen for an item (400,00 to 800,00 PLN). Once my stock runs out I will need to get back to Tokyo for drugstore shopping. Maybe next time I will fly with one of my student’s mum who is a great specialist on cosmetics on the Japanese market?;-)
As far as food is concerned, whatever we ate was great! And good food isn’t difficult to find and it isn’t expensive. Of course we had a lot of great sushi and a sushi feast with starters and wine and desserts would cost us about 5000,00 yen (200,00 PLN). We also had a few bowls of udon and excellent ramen (price ranging from 600-1000 yen which is from 23,00 to 39,00 PLN). There is some misconception that traveling to Japan is expensive. Well, surely it isn’t as cheap as traveling in Thailand or Cuba, but it is cheaper than traveling in the United States. The plane ticket costs as much as a ticket to NY for instance. Accommodation is definitely cheaper than in NYC. And the food is inexpensive and soooo good.
I don’t know why I am kind of comparing Tokyo to NYC, but since I am I have to say that I would rather come to Tokyo again than go to NYC (especially for clothes shopping-so much to my taste). Another reason is the fact that the Japanese are so quiet. You are in big city but strangely enough it feels relaxed and quiet and thus does not make you tired. Of course there are places such as Yodabashi or Bic Camera stores where they keep playing stupid annoying jingles or Patchinko where the sound is unbearable. I think I haven’t mentioned patching yet; so let me explain it to you. So, Patchinko is a game place where everybody plays some rediculous games on flashing machines and the loud sound of the machines in impossible to bear-terrible experience!!! Though, if you are a fun of such things, Japan has more to offer. You can also go to a Robot cafe or to a Maid Cafe in which cutely dressed girls serve these cute looking food and make stupid faces and sounds, and get you involved in childish games for which you apparently need to pay and you only realize it when you see the bill. Not our cup of tea, but definately a Japan exclusive attraction. We also saw some Karaoke places but we didn’t have a chance to try.
Of course we loved Japanese toilets. I don’t know if you are familiar with a Japanese toilet means, but you would love it. Once you sit, it turns out to be heated:-). When you are done, you can get the parts of your body washed and dried with warm flow of air. Amazing luxury!!!! I’ll miss that the most;-). What we will surely miss too is this Japanese politeness and great service.
What we both noticed and liked a lot is the fact that Japan does not get flooded by foreign world-wide chain stores. Of course at such shopping districts as Ginza, Shinjuku or Harajuku you would find h&m and Zara but strangely enough you don’t see people crying shopping bags from these stores. They have plenty of great domestic brands that offer better quality and cater for the Japanese classic tastes. Even a Starbucks or McDonalds would happen rarely and I believe they are available mostly in big city shopping districts. The only known to us cosmetic brand that I saw in drugstores was Avene and Listerine, the rest was domestic. On the whole, we didn’t see any neons or ads of the brands we normally see everywhere in the world. Japan seems to be keeping their own identity and culture and to be supporting the domestic market in everything. How great, hm? They behave a little bit like the French, but after all for many of them France is the country to go to admire in Europe.
Well, there are things we didn’t see this time. We didn’t have a chance to see sumo wrestlers practicing as there is an annual tournament going on now and they are all off to the tournament and the sumo stables were closed. We also didn’t rent a kimono and we have no pictures in traditional attire. We also gave up o one of the greatest attraction that is tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market but as they admit only 120 people a day, you need to queue as early as 2 am in the morning to get admitted at 6 am to see the giant tuna auction. We are both tuna lovers but not that much determined as to get up at 2 am and queue for hours. What is more ,Tomasz somehow forgot that he wanted to buy a vintage Hasselblad camera and remembers only in the evenon the last day Maybe next time?
We definitely recommend Tokyo as place to see and enjoy.