between their joke and smiles

Continuing on the theme of the last post, we have to say that Japan is a bit of a strange place. We’re not trying to be disrespectful to the people, because were actually very nice and helpful…we were pretty much illiterates there, and managed to function by the good graces of people understanding our gestures and pointing. But, that said, there’s some weird shit going on there!

Right from the start, we knew it would be odd. First, the people actually cue very formally for the shuttle from the airport. Very formally! In lines, in order of the next bus. Lisa (and Becky who was travelling with us) loved this in an OCD librarian way. Dan had to be told to get in the proper line. But then, as our bus was pulling away from the curb, the people loading the luggage actually bowed. We’re not sure if they were acknowledging us or the bus.

Tokyo is a very tidy city. There was no garbage on the streets, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to find a garbage bin. There are no bins because they removed them after the sarin gas attacks a few years ago. But the Japanese people just seem to keep it clean somehow. To take tidiness to an extreme, at the Meiji Shrine there was actually a guy sweeping a few fallen leaves off the gravel footpath. It seemed a bit much…

Our visit to this shrine was part of a day-long bus tour we took. It also stopped at the Tokyo Tour, a Japanase replica of the Eiffel Tour.

Dan’s opinion of Tokyo is that it is a city where you can get, or do, anything…if you think of it, some Japanese entrepreneur or company has beat you to it and it will be available. This, however, is something that no westerner could ever think of – at the Tokyo tower, you could buy souvenir dried cuttlefish. ‘Nuff said…

One of our apprehensions about this trip was that we would have a hard time communicating. And yes, not many people speak English, but that is dealt with by most restaurants displaying wax food.

Yes, wax food effigies outside of restaurants, beckoning you in to try their real counterparts. Most didn’t look very appealing, but the real thing was usually fantastic. And often, those real things were almost the most bizarre things you could imagine. Or not imagine. We ate things that we had no idea what they were going to be, and often still didn’t know what they were until hours or even days later (thanks Natalya for the dango on the Mt Fuji trip – it was divine!). And there were things that we (well, Dan mostly) ate that we might wish we didn’t know what they were (raw horse!). There are probably things that we (well, Dan mostly) ate that we still don’t know what it was. Such as things from these bins:

Pickled swimmy things. Or not swimmy. The Tsukiji fish market is a cornucopia of odd and wonderful things from the sea. The items above were from a stall on the touristy edge of the market, and tame compared the still-live critters that we saw floundering (and trouting and mulleting and prawning and frogging!) around in eskies.

And then, in the same touristy area, there were vendors who just sold silly foodstuffs that weren’t fishy but uniquely Japanese:
Dan couldn’t resist the egg on a stick! Where else but Japan would you get that?

And who could resist pickles on a stick? Actually, we both did, because there was so much other amazing street food. Like…

whatever the hell these things were… they probably swam once, or did whatever shellfish and crustaceans do. Or if you were a bit more peckish, someone would hand you:

a whole grilled octopus to eat, by hand, as you wandered the streets and alleys of the market. While Dan did sample some of these water-based items, both raw and cooked (not live…though there were Japanese people there swallowing things that still looked to be squirming) Lisa (and Dan too) opted for the more palatable choice of

extremely yummy pork buns. Wagga (most of Australia? most of Canada?) doesn’t have a good street food culture and that is a shame, because it can be wonderful! These little gems were under 100 yen a piece and both filling and delicious.

But enough about the food.  To finish off, we have to point out that Japanese culture is an odd blend of modern (these are the people who are at the forefront of technology), traditional, and silly. And nowhere was this combination more obvious than in an amusement place – sort of like an arcade…or the lucky dip alley at the Ganmain show but more hi-tech…where there was what we affectionately dubbed Taiko Wars. Something like RockBand or GuitarHero for taiko drums. Well, not something like…exactly like…

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About waggadventure

Canadians newly relocated to Australia.
This entry was posted in cultural differences, food, japan, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to between their joke and smiles

  1. Janice says:

    I’ve always wanted to go and your post just reinforced that yearning! What fun!
    Janice

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