Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tokyo

Hi friends,

I realized I have one more Asian themed card that I made before I left and didn't share with you.

So here I am in Tokyo this week.  Tokyo is a fun city.  It is very unique and very Japanese.  So let me share my i-phone dump and tell you a little about how people live and work in Tokyo.

First, I have to start with a conversation about bathroom protocol.  In Japan, there was a habit of women flushing the toilet as they tinkled so the flushing sound would overshadow the tinkling sound.  Well, that was pretty wasteful of water so most of the public toilets have a speaker system in them and when you enter the toilet stall you can press a button to trigger the flushing sound.  Very smart.  So now, you can disguise your tinkle sounds with the flushing sound but be environmentally friendly about it.  I always hit the flushing sound button when I go into a public restroom (like at the office) when I'm not alone in the restroom.  Why?  I feel they may be offended by hearing my tinkle noise so I figure better to follow their protocol than offend them and it's pretty easy to hit the button.  And where else can you hit a button and trigger a speaker system that plays toilet flushing sounds.  ( - :  Oh and one other thing about Japan and bathrooms.  There are never any paper towels or hand dryers in the public restrooms.  Japanese woman all carry a small hand towel (about the size of a washcloth) in their purse and they use their personal towel to dry their hands.  I have learned to bring a washcloth from the hotel when I go to the office or out so I don't have to shake  my hands dry.

Second, let's talk about pantyhose.  In Japan, most working women wear pantyhose or hosiery with their business dresses and skirts.  Many of the young ladies also wear hosiery with their 'going out' dresses or skirts.  And many Japanese women wear skirts or dresses this time of year.  I would say at least 70% of the ladies I saw (during the day and evening) were wearing some type of skirt or dress.  In America, pantyhose are dead.   Only old ladies wear flesh colored hosiery.  I actually feel self conscious wearing pantyhose now and avoid it in all cases.  I noticed that women (all ages) wear hosiery in Europe too.  I read that Kate Middleton wears them and so she is causing a surge in nylon sales in Great Britain.   Maybe the death of pantyhose is only in America and maybe it's because we Americans have gone so casual.  I mean really, if you are wearing slippers and pajamas around town, why would you need pantyhose?  I was glad to see the young and older ladies in Japan wearing the beautiful hosiery that makes their legs look so perfect.


Third, let's talk about Tokyo fashions.   I noticed that most Japanese women are comfortable wearing short skirts and short shorts, often with frilly and lacy details and very feminine and fashionable.  What I didn't see was any Japanese woman wearing a low cut top.  First, the Japanese are not especially large chested, but despite their size, the necklines were almost always modest.  I found this a refreshing alternative to the trends I see in the US where young woman (and a lot of older woman too) think nothing of wearing low cut, cleavage bearing tops.  One of the women from the office said that many young ladies do wear low tops, but I didn't observe it during my 5 day visit there and frankly I think her idea of low cut is no where near as embarrassing as the US version of low cut.

Fourth, let's talk about shopping.  I found the coolest store in Japan completely by mistake. The store is called Uniqlo and it is one of the most popular stores in Japan and expanding to Asia, Europe and the US market.  It offers high quality, low cost, comfortable clothing.  I happened upon a store location in Kyoto and found a fun t-shirt and top for about 15.00 each.   Keep your eye out people... these stores are going to save the Japanese economy and you'll find one in a mall near you in no time.
Fifth - let me tell you about earthquakes.  So of course you all know about the big earthquake that hit Japan last March.  It was really interesting listening to the people from the office describe the events of the day.  One woman said that she felt for the first time in her life "I'm going to die today.'  Thankfully that was not the case, but it was a harrowing experience for these people.  Our companies Japanese office is on the 10th floor of a building with views of Tokyo Bay.  When the earthquake hit they said the earth was shaking for 5 minutes.  At the time they had no emergency plan for earthquakes so they all stopped working (duh) and gathered together.  Books and personal items fell from shelves and after a while the building was evacuated.  After about an hour they allowed people back into the building and they went into a conference room and watched the news on TV.  Many were very frightened and tried to contact family members, but the phone in the office was dead and the cell phones couldn't handle the traffic.  There is a pay phone at the lobby of the building and that worked, so everyone took turns using the payphone to reach their loved ones and confirm they were okay.  The trains didn't work that evening so many people either walked (in their work clothes and shoes) over 2 hours to get home.  Most stayed in the office overnight.  One girl was at an off-site training with strangers.  I felt she had the worst experience because she was in an unfamiliar place with strangers.  I would rather be with people I know in a crisis like that.  Many of the people have an application on their phone now that will sound an alarm when an earthquake of a certain magnitude hits.  While I was in Tokyo I was awoken at 1:30am by the feeling of my bed shaking and then my bed swaying.  Yup, there was a 5.3M earthquake near Tokyo.  When we asked people about it they said 'yes, that happens all the time.'  they said an earthquake like that would happen several times a month and they think nothing of it.  Most people sleep right through one that size.  I am a sound sleeper and it woke me up, so I can't imagine how they can live with the ground moving all the time and not be afraid.

So now for the i-phone dump:

This is Tokyo tower.  You can pay to go to the top and get a great view of the city.  They just built a new, taller tower called sky tower that is on the other side of the city.   I loved this view of the tower just in front of a mid-city temple.
 Here are two adorable Japanese children walking.  It looks like their mothers are behind and they are walking to pre-school.  The school children in Japan go to school Mon-Saturday and many students in jr high spend time in the evenings going to cram school.  Like Asia, the students don't automatically go to the local high school.  They take exams and they get accepted at the best (or not so best) high schools in the city.  It is very competitive.
 Here is a picture of the skyline of a city temple.  This temple was right smack in the middle of the city.  It was a beautiful sanctuary of green in the city, kind of how a park would be for us.
 Most Tokyo people seem to wear black and white.  Men and woman alike were usually seen wearing a white blouse or shirt with a black suit.  Most travel to work on a train, either the JR line (Japan Railways), the subway or the mono-rail.  Here is a crowd coming out of the train station walking toward the office buildings.
 So this is a photo of the lobby of the inter-continental hotel.  this is a beautiful, old fashion hotel.  No wi-fi, no work out room, but a player piano in the lobby and lots of bowing japanese bell hops tripping over themselves to open a door or press an elevator button.
 So on Tuesday, we had only a short time for lunch so we went to this 'Japanese Fast Food restaurant.'  It was very cool.  Everything was some kind of rice bowl.  Rice at the bottom and some type of meat or vegetables on top.  The cool thing about this was you didn't order at the counter.  You sat at the table, pressed a button and a server came and took your order.  The food came right up and you went to the counter with your bill and payed.  You only ordered at the counter if you wanted it to go.  And it was cheap.  My lunch as 380 yen which is around $5.00.
 So on Wednesday when I went for my morning run, I stumbled upon a HUGE market.  I could tell I stumbled upon something because I came around a bend in the road and there were lots of trucks, workers and tourists all crowding the sidewalk.  Then I went further and the smell of fresh fish hit me.  I've heard about the famous fish market in Tokyo.  I think this may have been it.  It was 6:45 and the market was pretty much finished for the morning.  I was right next to the water so I'm sure that the food was coming in from the ships.
 It was very big and very industrial.
 Here are a group of European tourists viewing the map.
 Here is the map showing where the different food types were for sale.  All the blue in the picture is fish, but they also seemed to have a lot of produce also.  Many small trucks were hauling boxes of produce.  I guess many restaurants come to the market to buy their food at a reasonable price for quality products.
 So on my jog, I was primarily in quieter areas but at one point I found myself on this footbridge going over the water.  Below is a photo of the massive road structures in Tokyo.  It really looks like something out of Disney's tomorrow land.  there are monorail lines, roads, bike paths, everything.  And it's all very neat and orderly.

 Here is the view of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge from the office conference room.  It is very beautiful.
 So here I am at the Korean Barbeque restaurant for lunch.  The food arrives raw and in the middle of the table there is a grill.  You put your meat on the grill and cook it.
 Here are a few of the ladies from the Tokyo office.
 Here is my meat on the grill.
 Each table had a control. You could call your waiter or increase the heat on the grill.
 The subways in Tokyo are very crowded.  Here is a view into one of the subway cars around 6:30pm.   It was packed and this is very typical.
I heard that one of the men from our Japan office once got pushed out of the train before his station.  It was a major stop and so many people were exiting that he had no choice but to go with the flow and exit.  He had to wait for another train to come and board it to get to his station. Now this was a big man - 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds.  It was amazing to me that the train could be so crowded that he couldn't stand his ground on his spot.  I can't imagine doing that every day, but many people do.
Here is a view of Tokyo Bay and the rainbow bridge at night from my hotel room.

 Below is a photo of the cool way they offer coffee in the hotel room.  There is a packet with this self brew coffee.  It is a tiny filter with the coffee beans inside. You have a hot water dispenser and you add the water to the filter and you have decent instant coffee. It was pretty good.
Well, that is the end of my Tokyo post.  I realize it was very long.  I head home on Thursday and I'm looking forward to going home, even though it's been a great trip.  Thanks for coming along with me and reading about my experiences.  Have a great day and stop by my blog again Friday for a card post and maybe some post Tokyo stories.

2 comments:

Pam said...

Very interesting to read about the customs there! I have to say I still were pantyhose every time I wear a dress/skirt unless it's a casual sundress on the weekend. But to work or out always. :)

Loved that night skyline photo!

Karen said...

Your card is adorable - especially love the multicolored flowers matching the kimono!

Your comments about bathroom protocol made me laugh - and made me wonder if there are mysterious toilet function buttons here as well! And no one told me pantyhose are dead - I grudgingly wear them to work on all but the hottest days (it was one of the hardest things about going back to work!)

You continue to amaze me. You seem to pack so much into a day, and then still have the energy to write about it! I am gratified to enjoy Japan through your eyes... and not have to deal with the jet lag or culture shock!