Day 174 - Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, July 30th, 2016
1st Day in Japan; Yokohama

Sleepless in Tokyo

4am touchdown. It’s been a rough flight because we had an hour of sleep between the two of us.

Off the plane, waiting outside the washrooms, a baggage cart comes around playing the tune of that song, “hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go” as a warning song that it’s coming around. Cute.

From the Bus
Airport Issues

I crossed my fingers that my research had been correct. No time like the present to be wrong about not needing a visa, on foreign soil, sleep deprived. Upon entering a new country, they provide you with a card to fill out that declares who you are and makes you sign that you aren’t bringing anything that breaks their rules. They also require an address, which is difficult when you’re using a foreign writing system and airbnb. Shimou got through, and, thank god, they let me call her over when I was clearly having trouble with their request for filling in the address. Bouncing from 2 or 3 different agents, eventually they let me through.

These Things Are Everytwhere
Next hurtle, filling out another form declaring the goods we’re bringing in. Having nothing to declare isn’t good enough, you still need a card. Again, no address. I fill it out super quick and cramped, hoping they won’t make me do it again. I could have written my address to be “picklefritz” for all the time he took to read it.

Entering the City

About 5:30am, we’re outside, waiting for the bus that will take us to Yokohama. Listening to Japanese is awesome. I noticed that they have a smoking room. There are no benches outside, and no garbage cans. I wonder why they’re treating smokers to having their own room with seats, while nonsmokers get screwed. That’s when Shimou pointed out the waiting room. Vending machines with lots of options, all for about ¥100 (1.20ish CAD), seats, and free wifi. A man with grey hair and faux-paint spattered blue jeans was sitting beside me, attempting to read manga (japanese comics) on his iPad, snoring.

The bus arrives, and we have it to ourselves. Well, and Hans the driver. It reminds me of Australia because of the lush environment and driving on the wrong left side of the street. I will live here one day, at least for a bit.

Pop in my ear buds while Shimou jacks up her Japanese through an app she downloaded while waiting for the bus. Magic City Hippies - Bust. Ignore the lyrics and focus on feel. It suits my first impression of Japan.

Yep, Women-only traincars
China and Japan

Coming straight from China lends for easy comparison. The way Shimou describes the social faux pas seem like China has the social rules of a burger joint, and Japan has those of fine dining. Spit, cough, scratch your groin, fart , belch – in general it’s all par for the course in China. I burped in front of Shimou. She balked, saying “You can’t do that here, we’re in Japan!”

Meanwhile, in Japan it seems like everything is about not bothering others. Speak quietly, play your headphones at a low volume, don't stand close others unless you have to, don't give expensive gifts without a reason or it might make the recipient feel uncomfortable, don’t litter, and, for god sakes, don’t forget to put your phone on silent! Shimou doesn't even know the swear words. I repeat: someone who studied a second language doesn't know the swear words! They're the first you usually learn!

This... thing.
Up- and Down-side: they're all too polite to stop you or say anything if you're doing something rude.

I feel like the soundtrack for Japan is upbeat indie pop. Shimou asked me what China's would be. I can only speak for Beijing, but… rock, punk. They're both against the system, which would require an actual system to fight against. Chinese people always try to get what they want despite what the system says. Can’t have rebellion without something to rebel against, after all. Rough around the edges, dirty, what're you looking at?

Wandering around, half awake, I notice a wider variety of fashion and body types than in China. Strangely, also a higher rate walking impairments and hunched backs among the elderly. Everyone seems really nice. I’m mostly watching Shimou talk, and defaulting to Chinese to respond by accident.

Navigating the Underground

Having trouble finding our way, we finally arrived at the subway station. I neglected to grab my stub, which you need to exit at your destination. 

Sitting on Luggage
Shimou in the background looking around
How the subways work here: look at the giant map of the entire subway system, find the spot you want – English may or may not be alongside characters. It’ll have a number: this is how much you insert into the ATM-like machine. It will spit out a stub for you to get through the turnstile. The turnstile will punch it, and you have to take it to your destination and insert it to get out. If you paid the incorrect amount, you can stick it into the “fare adjustment” machine and it will tell you how much you owe. If you have no clue, buy a really cheap one, go to your destination, and pay the difference. Anyway, I didn’t know any of this until later.

The guard ran after me to make sure I had my stub. An old man saw we were lost and offered help, going so far as to come down to the platform and show us which direction, even counting the stops, then returning to the world above.

One of the train cars was “Women’s Only” on weekdays. The car greeted me with a slap in the nose of nostalgia. I couldn’t nail it down at first, but eventually realized that the cushioned seats on the finely chilled trainers smelled of my aunts house when I was a kid. Bizarre.

These ATM-like Ticket Machines
Reaching our desired station, I notice that the escalators are going down to the platform, with only stairs going up. The opposite of China, which might have to do with the time of day. 


We emerge from the underground near our Air BnB, but it’s far too early to check in. They said 1 or 2pm was ok. It’s currently 7:30am. We have no way of contacting the agent after requesting entry at 10am with no response. Really tired, we wander the street until we find it with assistance from a man in uniform, who happily directs us. They like their official looking hats here. You know, like the ones a general would wear, except it seems to be part of pretty much any guard's uniform. Shimou said they can be like robots in their responses when asking questions, coming off stiff and scripted. Rehearsed lines with no emotion.

The street has no litter, yet there aren’t any garbage cans on any regular interval.  The smell of petrol, and another, different nostalgia provoking smell linger in the air. This one I really can’t pinpoint.

The Ever-Wonderful Yuzu
Sitting on the Side of the Street 

Nowhere is open at 7:30 on a Saturday, leaving us to squat on the side of the sidewalk, sitting on overturned luggage while drinking ¥100 drinks procured from a nearby vending machine. While garbages aren't all that frequently place, Vending machines for drinks are everywhere, sometimes selling cigarettes, and rarely selling food or instant noodles. The nostalgic smell registers: it was of a girl I had a crush long, long ago. Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, and sometimes they just stick.*

Shimou points out that the cars look environmentally friendly. I didn't notice until she said something, but hardly any of the cars seem to have any noise from their engine compartment, besides motorcycles. Most of these small, square-ish vehicles are nearly silent, implying hybrid or electric. Double-U Tee eff, mate.

A Fellow Traveller

We eventually decided to just try getting into our apartment at 8:30 using the instructions in our e-mail. The super was there, and let us in, affording us a 5h rest before having to head out to meet Yuzu. Yes, the very same Yuzu from Australia! It just so happened to coincide with her return to Japan literally the day before. Really good timing!

Pork Katsu with Ground Sesame Seeds
It seems like people are just as intrigued by me here as they are in China, though their stares are generally more subtle (if only marginally so by some), and more sidelong glances then outright gaping stares.

Downtown Yokohama

Yuzu takes us to a Katsu restaurant, which is fried (tempura) meat, usually pork. The mall is very big. We are informed of the wedding Yuzu is part of tomorrow, and that she hasn’t been wearing makeup for most of the time she was in Australia. She said that she'd forgotten how to do it. “Do I use this first? This?” she mimed picking things up and considering each. She’s just as adorable as ever.

The right bit screwed up, but this is some Japanese Candy (and a bit of my finger)
She had been in Australia for nearly one year when we first met, forced to come back to Japan for about 6 months because of the age restriction on working visas. She then went back on a tourist visa for a concert, and stuck around, working under the table while traveling. Seemed she had a good job working on some sort of farm before management changed and they fired her for not being legit. Unfortunate, but understandable. Worked in her favor, since she had to come back for the wedding, anyway. Now her plans are up in the air, currently set on making enough money to travel again. Open invitation to Beijing!

The Two Symbols of Yokohama
Customer Service

Even from the limited experience we've had with employees providing us assistance, it seems like Japan might have some of the best customer service in the world. Example: The katsu restaurant has a suggested option for female diners. They noticed that women will often order different things and sample from each other's plates. So they made an option that is a variety pack with a small sample of each.

In front of said Yokohama Symbols
They served us sesame seeds in a small mortar-like bowl with a pestle to grind up the seeds and add this thick, sweet/sour sauce. Kind of like a tart BBQ sauce. After the meal, they brought powdered tea, which was green lava. Yuzu says that people who can’t drink hot drinks are said to have a “cat tongue” in Japanese. I have a cat tongue.

Japanese Dollar Store

After dinner, we went to a shop called Daiso, which is ¥100 for everything in the store! Basically Japanese dollar store. Yuzu needed to buy an envelope for gifting money at the wedding, though I’m mostly engrossed with the snacks. Yuzu helped me pick out things that even she thinks are strange, such as Salt Tomato Candy. Other things we tried were: mint-milk candy, matcha cashew, Wasabi cashew, ginger candy. I think it would be hilarious to leave out a bowl of mixed nuts - matcha and wasabi interspersed.

Totally Serious Picture on the other side
of the Ferris Wheel
We took pictures near the symbols of Yokohama: their ship, and ferris wheel. None of us knew the significance of these symbols.

We wanted to find a dessert restaurant, but settled on one of the only open locations we could find, a cafe. Apparently their Wifi didn't work with foreign phones. I hope that isn't a trend here...

Yuzu gave us some gifts, including an impressive bracelet in a similar fashion to the one she originally gave me. It's clear her skill has improved. We ask if she knows anything about getting temporary SIM cards, and she suggests we look on Hot Pepper (like Scoupon) or Bic Camera (like Futureshop, I thought they had said "Big Camera" from the accent). We thank her for everything, and return to our BnB.

Man, it's great to see her again.

*One time I even used perfume while studying so I could huff myself to a better grade during the exam. Results are out about if it helped or not. 

Word of the Day - Japanese Edition
English - JAPANESE [pronunciation]
Thank You
Arigatō gozaimas
[All-ih-gah-toe go-za-E-moss]

No comments:

Post a Comment