Anyway, after learning the language for six years and dreaming about coming here, stepping onto the archipelago and delving further into Tokyo has just made me beyond happy. There is just something wonderful about this country, and I've only just got started in Tokyo!
Tokyo is like multiple miniature cities all in one major sprawling complex. After the utter marathon journey it takes you to get from Narita Airport to about anywhere in Tokyo (it’s actually not too bad, but still about an hour to get to one of the more closer main sights in Ueno and Asakusa), you'll soon realise how densely large and populated this city is. In terms of sights, you could easily spend two weeks here and discover all you could want from Japan: beautiful scenery, futuristic buildings and so many differing types of restaurants to try each day. So with so many things to do in this huge city, I thought I would talk about the five most convenient things about this buzzing city.
1. Vending machines/convenience stores everywhere.
Thirsty? No worries because you'll find at least two vending machines on nearly every block, every station.
Everywhere. All the time.
The vending machines serve so many different kinds of drinks, hot and cold, for around 130-180 yen (around AUD$1.40-1.90). When they're so cheap and so plentiful, you will struggle to say no. But if you're feeling like more choice, one of the many convenience stores is another option. You are able to get everything from pastries to whole microwaveable meals for the cheap. Seeing a convenience store near where I'm staying always makes me happy as I know I can always get cheap food whenever I want.
2. The various, fast restaurants
My lovely home city of Melbourne has plenty of restaurants, but it is no match for the sheer amount that Tokyo has. My favourite ones are (of course) the ramen shops. Most of these restaurants actually have a machine near the door where you put money in, choose your order from the machine, sit down and a waitress comes over and takes your ticket. Five minutes later you're slurping down glorious noodles. Not all the machines are bilingual, but they're still pretty easy to understand so don't let that put you off! It seems the Japanese have found ways to simplify everything and I love it.
3. The subway/rail system is complicated, but still easy to navigate.
There’s the Toei subway, and Tokyo Metro subway, then the Japan Railways train lines, as well as several private lines. But the best part is they're all easily signed so you can navigate your way around the city using multiple methods in Tokyo. Even if you get your ticketing confused, rather than making it harder for you at the end, there’s fare adjustment machines, or staff at the station who will help you pay the difference if you overcharge your fare! Makes so much sense to me with the different companies and such. First time you look at the Tokyo subway map you'll be daunted, but the bilingual signs, staff and machines are all there to help you out. In saying that, I would still avoid peak hour (the general 8am-9:30am and 4pm-7pm) rushes if you want to be able to look at signs easily in stations and clearly hear the announcements, which are also in English. It can be hard to hear and see where you're going over throngs of people.
4. The customer service
The service goes beyond the stations. People are always happy to help you. No matter where I am, a little bit of Japanese greetings and thanks goes a long way in the staff going to lengths to help me out and being so polite about it when they do. It’s a bit a culture shock, but a refreshing one at that.
5. The cleanliness
The city is so clean! No graffiti in the subways/trains, the bins don't overflow and there’s no serious air pollution (after two months in China, it’s a big one for me). It just makes appreciating a city so much more wonderful when you don't have to see rubbish near bins or graffiti scratched into train doors. The Japanese people seem to have much more respect for the facilities in their city, and that’s something I really can appreciate.
What’s your favourite thing about Tokyo? Or indeed Japan? I’m leaving Tokyo this Sunday to explore more of Japan on the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) and I’m only more excited after my week here. Let me know in the comments below.
~ Olivia (WM)