It’s been about 1 full week since returning from our Japan trip. I think we’ve only just felt like we’ve fully recovered from the experience — I think I’m adjusted, but still feel somewhat sleepy all the time. My wife somehow picked up some kind of cough after the trip (We were told it was common for people returning from areas like Japan to catch some kind of bug)
Japan was a great experience. We knew it would be. It was by no means relaxing. Tons of walking and struggling to find our way through the rail system. I averaged about 18K steps a day. Not unlike Hong Kong, you really can’t even make it to lunch time before you’re pushing 10k steps just getting about.
We pretty much saw all the areas we intended to see….maybe my time spent in certain districts weren’t as long as I originally intended, but overall I think we did pretty well covering parts of Tokyo with a 6-year old in tow. A 6-year old will tell you when he’s had enough, regardless of how long it took you to get where you are or how many things you can still see right around the corner.
There were a few surprises and challenges we encountered in Japan that wasn’t clear to us in any of our preparations and research:
- There seems to be no paper towels to dry your hands in any bathroom in Japan. In a could cases, there wasn’t even soap (not just because they didn’t fill the dispensers….no, there were no dispensers period).
- On a related note, it was fairly uncommon to see any trash receptacles across the city. You’d find them, but you’d have to make an effort to hunt them down. And yet the city still held up to its reputation for being clean most every place you looked.
- Bicyclists share most public sidewalks with pedestrians. This is not-in-itself surprising, but it got a little hairy a few times trying to keep my 6 year old from being run over. Bicyclists were neither slow nor respectful of the pedestrians sharing the sidewalk. I think I’d be less concerned about this issue if it was just adults I was traveling with, but if you bring kids to Tokyo you certainly have to keep an eye on them.
- A few of the tourist destinations require you to buy tickets in advance. They simply don’t have tickets redeemable on-site. While a few of the books I read leading up to our trip mentions this…they don’t emphasize it enough such that I gave it any thought until it was almost too late. Some museums are booked solid for months.
- One impression I didn’t expect was how green the city looked despite having such a dense population. It was not hard to find a park nearby. And these parks were typically lush, dense and green. I almost felt like I had hiked out into the wilderness in some of these spots and yet I’d know I was still in the middle of Tokyo somewhere. Hats off to the Japanese for that, I never got this impression both back home in Hawaii or in a similar asian city like Hong Kong.
We have since heard some of the reasons behind some of these challenges we faced. It all makes sense, but it’s still challenging for visitors.
Overall, I was left completely satisfied with our trip and I’d like to visit there again someday. If only because I wan’t to get my fix of the spicy karaage chicken we were addicted to there.