I’m back from my two-week exile in Japan. And when I say ‘exile’ I mean eating myself into oblivion and shopping until I got down to my last 460 yen (true story and one which slightly freaked me out when I realised just how little money I had left over).
Japan never gets old for me – no matter how many times I go there. Sometimes it loses some of its shine and sometimes it gets very tiring, but I’m still generally happier to be there than anywhere else.
This time I was there for one week of business meetings and one week of holiday bliss. I’d planned on chilling in my hotel room and just soaking up Japanese tv, but I ended up going to see an art installation that involved 5,000 goldfish and using a bum-washing toilet, 450m above Tokyo.
See, you just can’t do that kind of shit in Australia.
(Actually, I don’t think you could do that sort of shit anywhere else in the world.)
Three things I really noticed this time were:
- there are a.lot.of.people
- there is so much stimulation everywhere, all around you, all the time
- sadly, it’s ending up like every other country
As far a there being a.lot.of.people, well, I think I’ve been in Australia too long and I’ve gotten used to there not being so many people. When I lived in Tokyo, I knew there were a lot of people, but it never really fazed me that much. This time, I almost had a mini panic attack while waiting in a crowd of people.
Granted, I was in a ridiculously long line and it was hot and I was surrounded by people, but still, I’d like to think I am tougher than that.
The long line was to get into the Tokyo Sky Tree tower, which was tantalising me from my hotel:
Up close, it was dizzyingly tall:
The tower opened four months ago. It was a Thursday at 11am. Not a public holiday, not during school holidays, just an average day!! It took me over an hour just to buy a ticket to go to the first observation deck (there are two). Then there was the line to get in the elevator, the line to actually get to the windows to see out, the line to buy the ticket for the second observation tower another 100m up, the line for the elevator to that deck, the line for the toilet, the line for the elevator to get back down to the first observation deck, the line for the cafe to buy a drink, the line for the elevator to get back to the ground, the line to get into the gift shop and the damn line to buy the damn stuff you bought in the damn gift shop. It was 3pm before I got out of that place and I never, ever wanted to see another line of people in my life.
I guess the toilet line was optional, but I really wanted to be able to say that I’ve been to the highest toilet in Tokyo:
The stimulation thing? Well, after my week in Tokyo, my brain was pretty frazzled. There is just so much to do and see – you are surrounded by things to look at and listen to all day long. It probably doesn’t help that I take in all that stuff as information instead of not understanding it and ignoring it, but I really felt like I needed another week off after my week off just to recover. It was quite calming to be on the bus on Monday morning and not to have the inside of it plastered with advertisements and announcements telling me what I can do and buy at each and every bus stop. By Wednesday, I was back to my usual state of total boredom on the bus and longing for some stimulation – like that provided by goldfish in an art installation:
And that last thing about Japan ending up like every other country? Well, I’ve never seen so many signs about shoplifting and cctv cameras in the shops and whatnot. I think the definitive moment was using the toilet in the lobby of my hotel and seeing the sign (in Japanese) telling people not to steal the toilet paper. That sort of stuff just never used to happen in Japan. One of the supermarkets I went to also had different coloured baskets for ‘paid for goods’ that the cashiers transferred your stuff into at the check out, so that you could tell at a glance whether the things people were packing away into their bags were paid for or not. I felt particularly sad that even Japan is not immune to the plague of the modern world.
With this increase in crime in Japan, don’t forget to rock your hotel door.