Last week Yvonne posted “My first Impressions of Japan: from food to fashion,” were she talked about her first impressions of Japan and what stood out to her. So, since we are different people with different opinions, I thought it would be good to share my first impressions of Japan.
When I was a child I loved to play computer games/video games (and still do), but my parents never bought me a Game Boy or game console. They thought that the games were too violent or unhealthy for a young boy. I thought differently. So, being a geniuses or clever deviant, I downloaded a emulator and roms allowing me to play all my favorite Japanese games on my PC for free. The games and stories like Street Fighter, Pokémon, Mega Man Battle Network, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Breath of Fire, Fire Emblem, and others shaped my opinion of Japan before I ever stepped foot in Tokyo.
First Impressions of Japan
My first impressions of Japan were pretty much everything I hoped for and more. Playing games like Mega Man Battle Network, allows gamers to run around cities and towns jacking into vending machines and riding trains all over “Japan.” My first impressions were this is awesome. Japan was really cool and there was so much to see and do, but, because I don’t want to ramble for the next 3,000 words. I will talk about Transportation, People, Food, and Attractions.
Upon arriving in Japan, it was clear to see that the Japanese people value organization and efficiency. The Tokyo airport was easy to navigate and the customs check was orderly and efficient. After leaving the airport, we headed to the subway. The subway system in Tokyo is intimidating, but surprisingly easy to navigate and use. With a population of over 13 million residents, you would expected the subways to be more crowded, but surprisingly the subways and JR trains were not too busy.
Yvonne and I bought JR Passes and this allowed us to use the JR lines throughout Tokyo and Japan. These passes are expensive but worth it because the subways and trains are more expensive if you buy individual tickets. We didn’t take any taxis, but the roads didn’t seem busy and the buses were clean and easy to use. We took a bus from Tokyo station to our hostel (K’s Hostel Tokyo) when we first arrived.
After a one hour delay at the Beijing airport (pollution), a 4 hour flight, and one hour train ride I was exhausted and just wanted to put down by pack and get some food. At this point I was about to have my first real encounter with a Japanese person in Japan (customs agents don’t really count), I had heard great things about Japanese people and I was not let down. The first, last, and every encounter in-between was pleasant. Japanese people are extremely polite and mostly friendly.
The first impression was they are also elderly. I have read about the aging population in Japan and I knew it was a concern for the government, but it is always different when you experience something firsthand. Every where we went in Japan there were elderly people. The people are friendly and elderly, but the families are also large, usually 2-3 children. So, the future of Japan’s population will be interesting to observer.
Sushi, sushi, sushi, ramen, and 7-11’s! I wanted to go to Japan for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was because of the food and especially the sushi! Love is a strong word, but if you can love food, sushi is on my list. I enjoy eating sushi and I was blown away by the sushi in Japan. The sushi is simple and clean. Fish and rice. I enjoy the California rolls and fusion style sushi, but nothing beats the simple traditional sushi prepared in Japan. The tuna melts in your mouth and nothing more is needed. On our first full day in Tokyo, we ate sushi for lunch and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Along with sushi, Japan is also known for their ramen noodles. I have had many instant noodles, Chinese noodles, Thai noodles, and Korean noodles, but nothing really compares to Japanese ramen noodles. There seems to be a noodle shop on every corner and, although we didn’t try them all, the ones we did try were delicious. If you get the chance to visit Japan, try the ramen noodles.
For some reason, I don’t know why, Japan has an obsession with convenience stores. There was a 7-11, Family Mart, or Lawson on almost every corner (right next to the noodle shop). In the morning, we would buy coffee and pastries from the convenience stores, which was convenient. Haha! But really, I don’t know why there was so many shops. Along with the convenience stores there was also many vending machines. The vending machines were out of control.
Tokyo doesn’t seem to have many ‘real’ attractions. When I think of cities like Beijing, Paris, or Moscow certain attractions come to mind immediately, but with Tokyo there are few attractions. Since this is a first impression of Japan post, I have to say I was not impressed with the traditional attractions available in Tokyo, but with that said, the attractions we did see were mostly free and interesting.
Tokyo in and of itself is an attraction. One of the coolest places we visited was the Akihabara electric town. Akihabara is a crazy area full of comics, video games, porn, and candy. Every 14 year old boy’s wet-dream. There is so much to see and do in this area, from reading comics and playing with dolls/action figures to playing in the arcades and cosplaying it up.
If you are interested in games, electronics or comics than this is the place to visit. You can find any game or comic book here, but unfortunately most of the merchandise is in Japanese. So, the pron and candy is easy to consume here, but if you are looking to buy games or comics…. you will need to learn Japanese first.
Overall, my first impressions of Japan were: Awesome, friendly, efficient, and elderly. It was awesome because I have wanted to visit Japan for some time and I was finally there. The people were friendly and helpful, but the level of English spoken by most people was surprisingly low considering Japan was the second largest economy for over 40 years (1968-2009).
Although few people spoke fluent English, the signage was easy to navigate and the systems in place were extremely efficient. Buses, trains, and metros all arrived on time and even the checkouts at stores seemed to move quickly and efficiently.
Finally, Japan seemed to be in decline. This was mostly due to the amount of elderly people present. There was a certain ‘Zen’ feeling about Japan. Everything was peaceful and quite, but this also made it feel slow and declining (especially compared to China).
These are my first impressions of Japan, have you traveled in Japan? What were your first impressions? If you haven’t traveled in Japan, what are some of your impressions and what formed these impressions (video games, blogs, etc)?