Monday, September 21, 2009


There is a magic word that one must learn before vacationing in Japan, and that word is "sumimasen." This nifty little phrase will come in handy when pushing through crowds, getting a sales associate's attention, you name it. Politeness is decorum in Japan, and I found the passive culture to be strangely refreshing.

As is habit when I travel, I guarded my bag with a ferocity. I soon relaxed as it dawned on me that petty crime is not a problem here. Sure, sexual perversions (maid cafes, anatomically, um, enhanced anime dolls) are a different story, but pickpocketing? Non-existent.

During my trip, I attempted to sketch my way around Japan. But it was hot. And humid. And so this is as far as I got:

There are five things that I quickly picked up on during my first few days in Tokyo:
1) Rare is the trash can on Japanese streets. This is a paradox, as for a city that populated, Tokyo is unnaturally clean.
2) You can buy anything from a vending machine. (Case in point: ramen at a Bourdain-approved restaurant.)
3) Japanese women do not sweat. I notice this as I'm more or less mopping my face while waiting in line for a Belgian waffle in Omotesando. Well-heeled and perfectly kept. They are freaks of nature.
4) Calpis is the greatest drink ever. And apparently, an empire. It also comes in chewable candy form.
5) The Japanese really, really like to gift wrap. Really.

In other news, we ate. And ate and ate and ate. From Michelin rated restaurants (Kondo) to street food in Osaka, I happily chomped away at the likes of sushi, ramen, and tempura shrimp legs.

And I've never seen such a high concentration of logos and luxury brands in my life. Beverly Hills and the Champs Elysees has nothing on Tokyo. Louis Vuitton stores are like Starbucks here - there's one on every other street corner. But the shopping is comparable to Paris more than anywhere else. My eyes perked up immediately at the likes of Comptoir des Cottoniers and A.P.C. with a dash of Y-3 sprinkled in. When in Tokyo, do as the Tokyo-ans do. And so I did. :)

As much as I loved Japan, I did find one thing disappointing though.
The yakuza count: 0. All pinky fingers were disappointingly intact.

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