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First time in Japan, suggestions?


Peter O
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I'll be going to Japan for a three week work trip in October. As this will be my first time in Japan I have plenty of questions. I read ChoiceStriker's thread, so I know there will be some first-hand opionions to be had here.

 

First of all, what are some good websites or books to read with general information? Things like getting around, culture, customs, climate, etc. I want avoid ignorant American situations as much as possible :) I guess I will also need a basic Japanese phrase guide to carry around.

 

Where are the must-see tourist-type spots in and around Toyko (that's where I'll be staying)? Also, what are some good stores downtown for tech related gadgets and video games? Where can I get a stuffed Domo-Kun?

 

As ChoiceStriker did, let me know if there are any hard-to-get-in-US items that I should keep an eye out for. I'll try to get requested stuff for you guys (at my cost).

 

Thanks guys! I'll try to stay connected and post pictures while I'm there.

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Hey, congrats, Odie! I'm SO JEALOUS you're going to be over there! Can you tell me what part of Tokyo you'll be staying in? I think three weeks is a decent amount of time to do most everything you might want to within Tokyo, so if you'll have any spare time and want to explore the rest of the country, I may be able to make some recommendations.

 

Good resources about travel information... http://www.japan-guide.com is a good place to start. In hard copy I also like the DK Eyewitness guide to Japan. Lots of basic, essential information and plenty of beautiful photographs. Berlitz makes a good pocket-size phrasebook that should cover most any situation you would find yourself in. If I remember correctly it also has everything in Japanese, so if you need to just point and show someone the book you should be fine.

 

As far as getting around, the one essential piece of information you should remember is this: The green Yamanote line travels in a circle to nearly every major part of the city, and runs in a continuous loop, so if you really get desperate you can always just go around again (it takes about an hour to make all 30 stops). There are plenty of subways to parts of the city not on the Yamanote loop, but deciphering the routes can be a little tricky. Taxis are another option, but they can get pricey quickly. Base fare is 660 yen and around 80 yen each 500 meters thereafter.

 

Oooh... must-see tourist spots. Well, of course it all depends on what type of thing you're interested in. Since you mentioned gadgets and video games, the easiest recommendation is Akihabara. There are dozens of game and computer stores there, most of them along the main street, Chuo-Dori. On Sundays the street is closed to cars, so foot traffic can travel freely. Other good shopping areas include Ikebukuro and Shinjuku. If you want to see museums, Ueno is the place to go - Ueno Park has the Tokyo National Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a good museum of Western art. There are a couple of wonderful shrines to see in Tokyo, too, including Sensou-ji in Asakusa, and Meiji-jingu in Yoyogi.

 

Domo-kun shouldn't be too hard to find, but if you don't see him anywhere else, NHK has several shops scattered across the city. I can't remember any specific locations right now, but they really shouldn't be too hard to find.

 

Oh man, that's a lot of info for right now... I'll try to think about it a little more and post something else later. Hope this helps a little!

 

Eric

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Thanks a lot Eric!

 

Unfortunately, I'll be working days, so that will limit my exporing to weekends and evenings. My co-workers who are going on the trip too are talking non-stop about their planned excapades in the Roppongi district. I'd like to see more of Japan than just the bars that cater to Americans :)

 

We're staying at the New Takanawa Prince, I'm not sure what area of Tokyo that is, but the website says "Minato-ku, Tokyo" if that helps.

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The Takanawa Prince is near Shinagawa, in the Southeastern part of the city. You'll be fairly near Ginza, the upscale shopping area, and Tsukiji fish market, if you're interested in that, but the Shinagawa area itself is relatively uneventful. It's mostly a business district that shuts down before 9:00. Oh, and you'll also be near Odaiba across Tokyo Bay, home of a theme park, Palette Town... and Tokyo Disneyland is nearby too.

 

Anyway, yeah, try not to get stuck in the rut of Roppongi nightclub-hopping. I'd recommend checking it out at least once, but if you're like me you'll probably be turned off by the sheer density of foreigners there and constantly being accosted by sex-club advertisers.

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I am green with envy, I want to go back so bad... I haven't been there for about ten years so I guess I'll add some of the little culture details that I remember. If you want to be polite it is always good to hand something to another person using both hands instead of just one, if you drop a coin do not stop it with your foot (its a serious insult that I have seen happen...)

 

I don't know what you look like but if you're anything like me (6'1 bright blonde hair) expect to get a lot of attention. I was constantly stopped by girls wanting to touch my hair. In fact I stuck out so much there that it gave me a taste of what being a celebrity would be like, everyone pointing you out, trying their English skills out on you, having to stop for a picture every few minutes.

 

If you find yourself in a public restroom don't be surprised if an older lady comes in to use the can, sometimes the line for the women’s is too long for them so its generally accepted for them to use the men’s instead. In fact, the toilets themselves are quite an interesting surprise the first time you see them...look for the western sign ;)

 

Lines...when I was there, if you left a space in front of you while standing in line, someone was quite happy to come fill it for you, they are very aggressive that way. Also pay attention to where you are walking, they tend to walk like the traffic in the streets there...go with the flow.

 

Make sure you have a good grasp on the currency conversion, things are pretty expensive there. Try some of the candy over there too, some of the hard suck candies put jolly ranchers to shame. It’s also a good idea to practice a lot with chop sticks before you go.

 

I would suggest avoid wearing anything that has an American flag on it. Wearing a Canadian flag will do you much better, but as a Canadian I will request that you act like one when doing so...eh :)

 

Other little details that I remember sticking out are:

-The parking scheme they have setup in a lot of the tall buildings is really wild, make sure you take a look at that, its like a big amusement park ride for cars.

-Beer vending machines...hmmmm, beeeerrr

-Plinko places are the loudest freaking buildings I have ever been in

-Try to take a picture of a ford on the street there...its a challenge

 

Dean

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I was there a few years ago - I think they're a little less fascinated by Americans these days than when Dean was there. The girls, however, are still randy western fetishists, though, so be careful if you're taken/married/whatever.

 

Roppongi is gross. It's fun for a night, but it's a pretty embarrassing Tijuana-style hang that should otherwise be avoided. These days I'd recommend the Shibuya area for a fun evening hang. Very, very fun, and nice people.

 

Watch for post-work drunk-fests with the boss-man hanging on the shoulders of his workers.

 

Go to Kyoto for a weekend. Do *not* miss Kyoto. Take the bullet train there.

 

Have some Chicken Katsu for lunch.

 

Go to a shot bar building. Start at the top floor. Have a drink on every floor. Stumble home.

 

Don't be offended if upon trying to enter a place they say "Japanese only." It's just their way. Also, don't be offended if you hear "gaijin" whispered in your direction.

 

"Coco" means here. Yell that if you need to get out of a cab.

 

Speaking of cabs, don't touch the doors. They're automatic.

 

Very few people drink beer out. Try some of the interested mixed drinks they have.

 

The subway and JR (the circular line) close around 4am. Keep that in mind if you're out late.

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Again, I really wouldn't worry about wearing an American flag shirt. You'll probably see more of THEM wearing that than Americans here, to be honest.

 

Jeans and t-shirts are fine. In fact, that's what 99% of the young people wear there. The guys will all be wearing t-shirts with English writing that means almost nothing, or random American brands. The girls will be wearing some bizarre concoction dreamed up in Shibuya or Harajuku.

 

Keep in mind some places (restaurants, especially) will require that you take your shoes off, so be mindful your socks and what-not.

 

Be careful taking random pictures of people. Some don't like that.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks again for all the advice guys.

 

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for the airport. Hopefully early enough to avoid the terrible Washington DC commuter traffic. My laptop and PSP are fully charged for use as in-flight entertainment. Plenty of juice for some Virtua Tennis action.

 

I drop a post in couple of days with some pictures and comments.

 

Romier, I'll send you a PM if I find your game. If there is anything else that someone wants me to look for, send me a PM.

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If there is anything else that someone wants me to look for, send me a PM.

 

Ya can you pick me up one of those hot submissive asian chicks? I need someone to keep my house clean, cook my meals and "wuv me wong time". I'd really appriciate it. I'll wire the money to your bank account and PM you with my address to ship her to. Thanks so much!

 

PS: Make sure she brings "naughty school girl" and "sexy maid" outfits. I'll be glad to pay for them if she doesn't have them already.

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Haven't really taken all that many pics, having too much fun just soaking in the culture and not stopping to snap the camera :)

 

I have a gallery up here of what I have so far:

 

http://gallery.odiededawg.com/jp2005

 

I went to Akihabara today, what a great place! A gadget-lovers dream. Lots of fun stuff to play with: microscopic-sized digital cameras, massage chairs (better than the ones at Sharper Image), all kinds of HDTVs and HT systems.

 

I also briefly used the new Canon 5D :drool: That was the first time handling a full-frame dSLR, wow! The larger viewfinder makes a huge difference compared to 1.6x crop cams.

 

There is also an Apple Store there, and they were showing off the new video iPods. Pretty nice, a lot smaller than the older iPods, new larger screen was nice too.

 

PSP games and hardware had a good representation, including the white PSPs. They look pretty sharp, but I still prefer my black PSP. It was interesting to note that all the buttons and lettering on the Japanese PSPs were in English. They were slightly cheaper than in the US, only about 24,000 Yen. Not suprisingly, in one video game store I went to, there were asle after asle of PS2 games, but Xbox games only got a few feet of shelf-space in the back.

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  • 2 months later...
Nice pics.

 

What kind of camera and what lenses are you using? The moon pictures really make me think that I should get some new lenses for my Nikon D70.

 

Glen

 

Thanks. For the Japan pictures, I used my small point 'n' shoot camera, a Fuji F10.

 

The older pictures like the ones of the moon I used my Canon Digital Rebel 300D DSLR. I greatly prefer using the SLR to take pictures (more exposure control, better lenses, low light, etc).

 

Unfortunately between the body and several lenses I need, it is simply too much stuff to take on my work trips. I have to lug enough stuff as it is: laptop, paperwork, gadgets for the plane rides :)

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