Trip to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Japan, August 2004 & January 2006  
 
comments and photos by Dimos
 
     
  I have been twice in Japan. The first time in August 2004 (summer, very humid). The second in January 2006 (winter, very cold).  
   
  Many times we see Japanese tourists in Europe taking endless pictures.I never understood why they did that until I visited Japan... Japan is so different from Europe, America or Latin America...  
   
  There are no "old / historic" buildings in Tokyo and Osaka. All buildings are simple glass and steel... Hence the Japanese when they are in Europe they are amazed with the buildings here... Buildings in Japan with stores/shops or restaurants have so many bright-light signs, I doubt that they have any marketing effect (impossible to differentiate the one from the other).  
   
  FASHION It is a different world! Of course you see the young dressed interestingly... But what fascinated me most was how elegant the women were during the winter. Very few were wearing jeans. Most of them were wearing white or cream jackets, skirts, boots.  
   
  FOOD 99% of the restaurants are on the floors of the buildings and not on the ground floor like in Europe... Typically, a building with bars and restaurants has a bar or a restaurant in every floor. There are zillions of people on the streets and all the restaurants on the floors of the buildings are usually full. There are also restaurants in basements.  
   
  In medium to low priced restaurants there are displays of all the dishes with "plastic food". Everything from pizza slices, ice-screams, crepes, soups, full dishes, deserts. The up-market restaurants may have pictures of the dishes. Top restaurants do not have pictures or displays. In the stores that sell boxes with cookies, the top box has plastic cookies and a plastic cover so that the customer can see how the cookies look inside the real boxes...  
   
  Fruits and vegetables are extremely expensive. A single peach costs 3 euro. 70% of Japan is forests. So no fruits or vegetables are cultivated in Japan and everything is imported making them expensive.
 
   
  Japanese do not eat cheese. No cheese at the supermarkets or even at the breakfast buffet of top hotels (and if you get a "cheese" omelet, they put very little cheese).  
   
  Japanese like their food fresh. There are very few sandwiches sold in the convenient stores and they are all extremely fresh. So of course is sushi.  
   
  Japanese do not eat on the street...they will sit down in restaurants. You can not just buy something to eat while you are walking.  
   
  Buying tickets for the metro is an experience. You pay based on the distance you travel. There are no "zones". You first look at the metro map the station. Next to each station on the map there is the amount you need to pay to get from the station where you are to the station that you want to go. You look down to the ticket machines. Lets say you need to pay 370 Japanese YEN. Until you insert 370 YEN in the machine, the 370 ticket option is not available. You can also get a card for 1000 Yen, 2000 Yen and have the amount deducted every time you travel (be careful to put these cards in the right side on the entrances otherwise the machine gets confused and deducts more money...). There is also a daily card which is the greatest value for money for tourists.  
   
  There are a lot of electronic games everywhere (usually on the ground floor of buildings).  
   
  Everyone who is not doing something on their mobile phone in the metro, is sleeping (a lot of sleeping goes on in the metro). Japanese have the magic ability to fall asleep in the metro and wake up in the right station. Note that their heads never touch the windows (as the windows may not be clean...)  
   
  The first time I visited Japan, it was the second week of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Watching Japanese TV at the hotel, I never saw any non-Japanese athlete competing. The TV covered live all Japanese athletes as they were competing. For example, if at the same time one Japanese was competing in swimming, another in riding and another in long-jump, all games would be live in 3 different channels. I got up in the middle of the night to watch the Closing Ceremony (due to time difference). The camera kept focusing on the Japanese players... Clearly sends the message to the young generation that if you make it to the Olympics, you will be famous...  
   
  Japanese are probably the most clean people in the world. Every food item is rapped into plastic bags even if it is stored in the refrigerator. There are free toilets in most stations. When you seat to eat they bring you a hot towel to clean your hands. Companies that are trying to advertise themselves give out free paper towels to the people who walk on the street. And people who have a "cold" cover their mouth so that they do not pass the "cold" to other people...  
   
  And every toilet has an electronic system to clean yourself. You got different options on the side depending on how you like the water (straight up, on the side...). I assume most non-Japanese visiting Japan do not use this system. I wonder how difficult is for Japanese visiting other countries to use toilets without this cleaning system...  
   
  If you want to see young, differently dressed people, you should walk around Shibuya in Tokyo. To see business people go to Ginza and Shimbashi. The tourists concentrate around Roppongi. This is where the night life is.  
   
  One evening you should go to Kabuki-Za to watch the traditional Japanese theater called "Kabuki". Kabuki was developed during the Edo Period (1603-1868), an era of peace and isolation from the rest of the world. Headphones with English translation are provided.  
     
  Although there are quite a few things to see in Tokyo, the historical part of Kyoto is truly worth a visit. The best time in visit is Spring or Fall. It is best to stay one night in Kyoto as it is too big to explore in one day. While the most important places are the "Kiyomizu Temple", the "Heian Shrine" and the "Ginkakuji Temple", walking between each one of them is equally interesting. As you walk, you can imagine the days when aristocrats and samurai inhabited these neighborhoods....  
     
  In the winter, although Tokyo is as cold as northern Europe, it is always sunny!  
     
  People do not smoke while they are walking. There are designated places on the pavement for people to stop and smoke...  
     
  Here is some of the Japanese Art that I liked  
     
  General Photos  
     
     
 
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