Close friends going to Japan this summer

Non-LIT specific topics about Japan and Asia - culture, customs, food, people, art, film etc.
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52FM
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Close friends going to Japan this summer

#1 Post by 52FM » Mon Mar 20, 2006 11:13 am

A couple that my wife and I have known for over 30 years is goinf to Japan this summer. He is a principal in a grade school and holds a doctorate in education. he was chosen as part of a program of American educators to learn more about the Japanese educational system. It is a two week trip - all expenses paid for him and most of the expenses - including airfair - paid for his wife. They are both excited about the opportunity and somewhat anxious of the culteral differences. They will be attending seminars on those differences before they go so they know what to expect.

They will be travelling to varous cities during the two weeks - and the first thing they were "warned" is that they need to be in decent shape wince they will be walking quite a lot - and that many of the buildings they will be in have no elevators. I doubt they are very tall - but they were told to be able to climb stairs readily.

A commetary on the perception and the reality of our obeses and out of shape society!

As I learn more I'll post. The trip is in June.

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#2 Post by lemoncupcake » Sat Mar 25, 2006 7:25 pm

They'll definitely want to get some of those cushy shoe insoles thingies. I have friends who went, and couldn't believe the amount of walking they did. They (Married couple) came home 10lb's lighter and were only there a week.

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#3 Post by 52FM » Wed Jul 05, 2006 11:57 am

Our friends are back from their trip and we were over at thier house yesterday. They are not big on pictures and videos so they dodnt' have much to show us - but a lot of stories.

They saw a traditioanl wedding at an outdoor chapel or temple. Very similar looking to LiT; they "crashed" the wedding with the fhelp of their host family and took pictures with the bride and groom. The groom was unusually tall - had to be at least 6'2".

They were in many different cities touring various schools. Very few building had air conditioning and they felt the heat strongly. The children were adorable they said - perfromed a traditional pagent -like welcome for them as they walked to the stage (the husband gave a speech to them). The children were all on their knees bowed down, and then each row rose as they walked past.

The food was difficult in many cases to get used to - though they had American dishes in some parts.

They loved Tokyo - they said if NY is the city that doesn't sleep, then Tokyo is the city that never takes a breath. The subway at 11:00PM was as busy as any rush hour in Chicago. But the city was spotless as were the train stations. Grafitti in spots however.

The college students were everywhere - usually with laptops or cell phones. The Pacinko parlors were fascinating they said - very much the same flavor as in LiT.

(They saw LiT before their trip - found it OK but "too slow". On as side personal note for some on the board who know me - my wife has not seen it and in light of the fact that it triggered such strong confusion in my mind that has led to persoanl discussions, counseling etc she absolutely refuses to see it now. I actually had to change the subject when they started talking about the movie)

They were dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos for a picture - and in a great contrast took a picture with their host family - who were dressed in t-shirts and jeans.

They also took the bullet train and loved that experience. They were upgraded to business class on the way out, so the flight was great - but economy on the way back so it was very uncomfortable (over 11 hours non-stop).

A fantastic experience and I'm looking forward to them sharing more stories over the summer.
"Willoughby. Next stop is Willoughby."

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#4 Post by Congruous » Wed Jul 05, 2006 1:34 pm

I can recall watching a story on the news one night about Japanese companies allowing their executives to take off their coats and ties at work because companies are cutting back on air conditioning to conserve energy. The people in this story really looked uncomfortable. They were plainly sweating.
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#5 Post by 52FM » Wed Jul 05, 2006 2:05 pm

Yes, sweating was a mild term the husband friend used. "Undershirt literally wringing wet" was his more descriptive term.

The wife came out and said "we were sweating our @sses off!"
"Willoughby. Next stop is Willoughby."

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#6 Post by jml98 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:49 pm

I am actually in Tokyo right now and have been since Sunday! It's amazing.

The parts that you (LIT-fans) would be interested in that I have done (I'm writing all this in a rushed state, so sorry for bad grammar, spelling and just bad writing in general!):

Visited Park Hyatt Tokyo and, of course, the New York Bar (Sausilito was not playing). I had a drink called the "L.I.T." and of course a Suntory scotch on the rocks. This place is so expensive: there is a 2000 yen (120 yen = 1 us dollar) cover charge, and each drink is 1900-2000 yen. My L.I.T. drink was 2000 yen and my suntory was 2900 yen!!!! The views are so amazing. I'm going back before I leave to take photos (disposable camera though...they actually have disposable DIGITAL cameras)


I went to shibuya crossings and the one that charlotte went to witht he dinosaur on the side of the building and the starbucks. Shibuya is a district of Tokyo; Shibuya crossing is an area; the "scramble crosswalk" is the one scarlett went on.

I went to Kyoto on the bullet train and visited Nijo castle and Golden Palace. That wishing tree and the pond lake with the stone steps were NOT at either of these places..I'm not sure where the place is

the neon is everywhere. it is amazing. ads are EVERYWHERE. cell phones are much more advanced (they LAUGH at our excitement for the iPhone; they've had that for years. people here can buy stocks with their phones, buy train tickets, play games, have GPS, and more). Most only speak japanese (broken english at BEST). You HAVE to either speak it fluently or go with someone that does if you want to visit here. They do NOT card for alcohol here (=P). You dont' even want to know how much I spent at a Kyoto bar with my friend (it puts the NY bar tab to shame).



Still to do: I'm going to Air (the club Bob, Charlotte and Charlie Brown went to) at some point. I'm probably NOT going to a strip club. I'm also probably not going to Daiken-yama (where they had shabu-shabu lunch). I MAY go to a karaoke bar.



Finally...at one point, I was waiting for a subway and it was relatively quiet because people just went to work. There was a blonde caucasin girl, alone, waiting for a subway and then getting on with us. I'm NOT making this up. It was so eerily similar to LIT


Stuff NOT really relevant to LIT that I did:

the shopping area is nice here. there are two: ginza is the one people usually go to (similar to 5th ave. in NY). They have outrageously expensive shops here. I went to burberry and bought some stuff that they only have in japan (Blue label and black label clothes). My friend has friends here. We hung out with them a bunch.

We went to harajuku, a funky kind of japanese district. It reminds me of Berkeley's telegraph ave. if you have ever been or know what I'm referring to.

McDonald's here are actually (relatively) good (real lettuce!!!!)!
Everyone is so repsectful here. Of course, they repsectfully bow, but hospitality and generosity goes beyond that. At one point, we weret rying to find an international bank (Citibank is your best bet here), and my friend asked arandom couple on the street. they spent about 25 minutes looking at the yellow pages/gps on their phones and asking EVERYONE around. Would people int he US ever do that?


I'll tell you more when I do more. I'm not a big fan of blogs or things of that sort, but I'm just so excited about this I couldn't help myself! haha
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#7 Post by jml98 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:00 pm

Oooo a couple things I want to quickly add:

1) I will end one LIT controversy right now (not the whisper): What was in the cup or bowl that Charlotte sends to Bob in the NY bar scene?

People say it is a drink, other say nuts. The answer......NEITHER are correct. In the bowl are japanese crackers (not bar nuts as people imply). They are crackers you can buy in any US japanese supermarket


2) a bit on culture (since this is the asian culture forum): Wearing short pants is the surest sign of unsophisticated people. EVERYONE wears pants (jeans, khakis, slacks, etc). The ONLY people that wear shorts are white tourists (seriously) that dont know better.

3) at stores, it is unacceptable to try on shirts or anything that touches your bare skin. This is true no matter where you are, at the expensive ginza district or a random little shop on the side of a street in harajuku.

this creates problems especially because the japanese perception of sizes are VERY different than americans. I bought a shirt that is "XL" large at a store, but it fits as a medium in the U.S. would. Thankfully, I tired it on in the hotel room on my bare skin and it does indeed fit. You have to buy clothes (men's t-shirts/polo shirts at least) that are 1-2 sizes bigger than what you would normally buy. I usually wear medium or large U.S. shirts; the ones I bought are Large or XL. The difference in perceptions of size are also apparent at starbucks (their large is our small, literally) and mcdonalds (their "supersize" or large is our medium).


Anyways, I'll write more when I do more!
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#8 Post by Ithildriel » Fri Jun 01, 2007 11:44 pm

Great information jml, and it sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Please keep us posted! :)

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#9 Post by LostCalls » Sat Jun 02, 2007 2:04 am

Thanks so much for these updates! I'm going to Tokyo later this summer, and I'm ridiculously excited. (My first time...)

I'll be going with two old friends of mine, one of whom is Japanese (born and raised in the States, though). This friend will be with his family for a big reunion most of the time, so my other friend and I will get to be adventurous on our own and then we can all meet up on occasion.

I'm slightly concerned about everything being so relatively expensive--even though I live in New York City. I'm hoping that I can visit at least a few LiT spots...

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#10 Post by jml98 » Sun Jun 03, 2007 9:48 am

LostCalls wrote:I'm slightly concerned about everything being so relatively expensive
It is expensive, but if you live in NY, you should be used to it. My trip became expensive because of shopping, trip to Kyoto and bars (New York bar for example)
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#11 Post by LostCalls » Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:08 am

Thanks for the reply, jml98. I think my friend and I might be taking a day trip over to Kyoto or Osaka, so some extra expenses will likely be incurred there. But I'll be prepared! (Also, though my friend has seen and enjoyed LiT, he's certainly not nearly the fanatic that I've become. That said, I'll try to lure him to the LiT sites with subtlety!)

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#12 Post by jml98 » Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:17 am

oh my god, i thought I saw sofia walk into this bar I was at, but it was a false alarm.

Btw, japanese people, I've found, HATE chinese people. They are always the butt of jokes, but you can tell they aren't REALLY kidding.
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#13 Post by Pockets » Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:45 pm

There is much hate between the different Asian cultures. Much of it is because of the various wars between them over the centuries. WWII is a very sore subject with the Chinese, and rightly so. I worked in two Japanese restaurants in the Boston area and the staff at both were very nice to me. Not all of the Asian waitresses were Japanese. Being in America dilutes the old traditional attitudes, or maybe it's a bit of the Asians sticking together in the foreign land <racial comment deleted -Admin>. lol

I'm Chinese, but as an antiques dealer and collector, I find the Japanese antiques to be more desirable and of superior quality than those of my own culture. I love all Asian food, don't care for any of their music. And their male chauvinistic attitudes towards women s*cks. Hearing about Japanese men trolling the high schools for young mistresses is very disturbing to me. The Chinese men and their aphrodisiacs of rhino horn and bear paws are equally repugnant to me.

<---- Most grateful to be a Chinese woman living in the States.

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#14 Post by Pockets » Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:51 pm

<deleted -Admin>

Anyway, I love the aesthetics and beauty of the Japanese culture, but am very aware of the darker sides to it. However, no country is perfect.

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#15 Post by Bob_san » Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:32 pm

jml98 wrote:I am actually in Tokyo right now and have been since Sunday! It's amazing.
This is awesome! Can't wait to hear more and see some photos!

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#16 Post by Bob_san » Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:15 pm

I have split the posts about objectionable material removed to a new post in the Adminstration section. Please do not post way off topic posts to any thread that tends to divert the theme of the post from it's original intention especially if it would incite arguments. If you have issues or objections to administrative procedures and process, then please use email, pm, or post a new topic in the Adminstration section.

Now back to the discussion about travel to Japan.

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#17 Post by jml98 » Tue Jun 12, 2007 4:39 am

so I just got back from Tokyo/Hong Kong.

going back to the dislike (which is an understatement) between Japanese and Chinese - yes, there is the historical elements (can you say Rape of Nanking?) but it's also culturally so different and I can see how Japanese people react as they do towards Chinese...

Chinese people, ESPECIALLY to Japanese people, who are so polite and resepctful, must seem incredibly rude. I would have to agree, based on my limited experieneces in both countries, that Chinese people tend to be more...harsh....than Japanese people. I remember multiple times asking a Japanese person where a location is. If the person didn't know, they would always go way out of their way to find it. One kind couple, for instance, spent 20 or so minutes asking other people and checking their GPS on their phones where the nearest Citibank was (I had to withdraw cash).

Several Japanese cab drivers who didn't know where a destination was would do everything he could to find it - check his GPS, call dispatch - Chinese cab drivers kicked me and my friend out the cab.

When I asked Chinese people where a location was, they would be impatient. I don't expect anybody to go so far out of their way to help a stranger as Japanese people do routinely, but Chinese people are straight up rude. I asked a person for Burger King in Hong Kong and all she could say was "What's wrong with McDonald's? Are you too good for it?"


Japanese people think of CHinese people as greedy swindlers, and to some extent, I must admit I agree. COnsider the following cases (keep in mind I was in HOng Kong for 4 days, + 1 travel day)

I didn't want to take a cab from the airport to the hotel, so the cab driver (who already lied and doubled the actual price of the fare when I asked him how much it would be), told me that the hotel shuttle services were in another TERMINAL (a good 15-20 minute walk).

These kinds of swindlers were EVERYWHERE, even at the Shanghai airport, at a Chinese restaurant we ate at. My friend and I ordered beers. When we got them, we noticed they tasted bad, and sure enough we noticed that there was a date on the label that were seveal months old (his was literally over 6 months old!). We suspected that this date was the expiration date (we couldn't read the chinese) and so we wanted to return them to the waitress. However, she simply got upset and tried to trick us into thinking that the beers were still good. IN the end, she simply refused to take it back.

A couple days later, we found bottles of the same brands of beers in a 7-11 and we checked the labels (they were in English). Sure enough, those dates WERE the expiration dates as we had suspected.

Another instance at the airport. A Chinese person at a duty-free shop blatantly told us the HK Dollar to US Dollar was 12:1 (It is actually 8:1). She tried to charge almost $500 HK for a bottle of whisky that actually cost about $325 HK or so.

Yet another time, the cab driver purposely ran up our fare. It was the same route we took almost everyday, from our hotel to the Star Ferry and back. The fare varies little from $24 hong kong dollars. We KNEW the driver was taking an uncessary extra few roads and the end fair was closer to $40.

A contrast to this:

In the New York Bar, my friend sent back a drink he didn't like; they asked no questions and gave him a free replacement drink of his choice (aside: ALL the drinks that I had there were GREAT, which is impossible to say about any of the other bars I personally went to in Japan/China. Really, the NY Bar is amazing).

Another time, we accidentally told our cab driver the incorrect destination. He claimed it was HIS fault for not understanding, and he even took OFF part of the far at the final destination (we insisted on paying for our mistake though).


Also - I don't know how else to put this - Chinese people tend to simply be louder and more obnoxious. I can't really give a concrete example, but if you ever go, I think you would agree. It just seems like Chinese people are ALWAYS shouting at everyone - friends, family, strangers.

Hong Kong is also a pretty dirty city, I found. Of course, the nice areas (like "Central" the business area) were clean, but in general Hong Kong was simply dirty. It is unfair to compare it to Tokyo, which has to be one of the cleanest cities in the world.


I apologize if this critique of the two cultures offends anyone. I am speaking honestly from what I observed and what I felt on my trip. I don't pretend to be very familiar with EITHER culture; this is just what I noticed.
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#18 Post by jml98 » Tue Jun 12, 2007 5:13 am

But anyways...back to JAPAN! A day by day itinerary would be too long (I was there for 11 full days) and boring, but here's a rundown.

So I went with a good friend from school who is so in love with the Japanese culture, he is fluent int he language (reading and writing also) and even lived in Chiba (north of TOkyo I believe) for 6 months.

Going with him was great because he showed me things a tour group (which I don't like anyways) wouldn't. We went to SO many districts - here are some of the highlights:

SHIBUYA (really beautiful; where lots of young people hang out; central to nightlife, lots of clubs and bars)

ROPPONGI (another cool area for nightlife; there are a lot of massage parlors and it has a little bit of a red-light district feel to it)

OMOTE-SANDO (REALLY nice shopping area; the trees and lights make for a beautiful contrast)

GINZA (a very glitzy, 5th Ave. style of shopping area)

SHINJUKU (buisness district, not fun for people not wearing suits haha; this is where the Park Hyatt is)

DAIKAN-YAMA (a quiet, cozy little suburban feeling area; this is where the nightclub AIR is)

ASAKASA (a touristy area; there is a cool shrine)

AKASAKA (not to be confused with the above tourist area; this is a kind of residential/commercial district area; not much gonig on, really, but nice to walk around and admire)



We also went to Kyoto, which is 3 hours by bullet train (costs about $135 for non-reserved seating, or $150 for reserved seating). THis was the only time we did really touristy stuff: we went to Nijo castle and the Golden Palace. We also hung out in the trendy Gion district.


NEW YORK BAR: it is so much cooler in person. It is very expensive though. There is a $20 cover charge (NOT a drink min.) and then each drink (cocktails, anyway) range from $17-$20. I tried almost every cocktail on their menu original to the NY Bar. The L.I.T. drink was sake base; the Charlotte drink I think was a vodka base. All the drinks, except for one particularly medicinal tasting drink, were EXCELLENT. They weren't just good, they were definately worth the high price of admission. I took pictures of drinks, including the L.I.T. and the Charlotte (and also the Graces, probably the prettiest drink I've ever seen).

Of course, I had to have a suntory on the rocks. I treated myself; I ordered 12 year old suntory scotch, not just the whisky that Bob drinks in the movie. It is REALLLLLY smooth. It's too expensive (for me at least) to order regularly (at least the aged scotch); it was $29 US a drink!!!!


Also, they make the best french fries I've ever had. They fry their fries in duck fat and as a result it is SOO tasty.

btw, the lounge singer was HORRIBLE.

ALso, I mentioned this earlier, but the mysterious "drink" Charlotte gives to Bob in the one bar scene is actually Japanese crackers (assuming they didn't change this, although I dont' see why they would)

AIR: We actually went to air....but alas they were CLOSED. THey close on Wednesdays and Sundays, if you ever find yourself trying to figure out their schedule.

Didn't do Karaoke, although I wouldn't have minded


If you go to Japan, I would recommend staying in Shibuya or Roppongi (which is one metro stop away from Shibuya and also very cool in its own right). Then again, my reasons for going may not be the same as yours. I found these areas to be fascinating, especially at night. There are a lot of young people hanging out around here. Shibuya can get toursity, but if you avoid Starbucks, you should be fine, honestly. I'm sure you'd exect me to say the Park Hyatt, but I honestly don't think it's central to where a lot of the action happens. Plus, you can go to the NY bar even if you don't stay there!!! =P

ANother tip (which will sound stupid): Don't necessarily eat Japanese food because you're in Tokyo. Why? First, because Tokyo is such an international city. It's like New York: you dont' necessarily eat American food if you visit there. The best food I had in Tokyo was actually Italian! Second, the Japanese food I had was expensive and VERY SMALL. I spent about $40 on the smallest serving of steak ever, then went to McDonald's and ordered a BIg Mac and Large fries and ate every last bit.


You WILL inevitably shop (or at least good to stores and admire weird/interesting clothing). Keep this in mind: you CANNOT try on clothes that touches your bare skin. THis means that you can only really try on sweaters/jackets, unless you have an undershirt on. This proved to be a problem in one case; I bought a shirt that I thought would fit, but turned out to be way too small.

SIZES ARE DIFFERENT (Japan sizes are MUCH smaller). I usually wear medium-large T-shirts in US sizing, but L- XL in Japan sizing. In one case, an XL was too small for me (P.s. I'm not fat or anything, I'm 6'1", 170lbs, in case your wondering haha).

I highly recommend going with someone fluent in Japanese, if you yourself are not. Really, "knowing enough to get around" isn't so simple in Japan. THen again, if you don't know any Japanese and aren't with someone, it's not the WORST thing ever. The VERY essnetial stuff is sometimes in English too. It was take a lot LONGER to find places though, and it will cause your trip to drag.

A note about clothing: wear long pants. It's not the WORST thing ever to wear shorts, but honestly you RARELY see a native Japanese person wearing them. Even at Shibuya crossing, where there are literally hundreds in that one little area, I couldn't find a person with shorts (some girls wears skirts, though).

Even more than the U.S. Japanese people consider shorts to be somewhat of a lower sophistication. Again, it's not the worst thing ever if you wear shorts around town, but you will stick out more than you probably are already.


So that's my Cliffsnotes version of Tokyo! I really think it's one of those places you have to experience before you die - and I would say the same even if I never saw LIT. It's a major culture shock, but in a very refreshing way.
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#19 Post by Just Like Honey... » Tue Jun 12, 2007 10:41 pm

then went to McDonald's and ordered a BIg Mac and Large fries and ate every last bit.
*GASP*
No.. NO!!

Seriously though, reading this prompted me to do a quick image search to see some more of Roppongi and Omote-Sando, and I noticed something jumped out at me.. I found this one photo of a sculpture in Roppongi that sort of looks like a giant spider in front of a building called Mori Tower, in Roppongi Hills. When I was in Ottawa a few years ago, I noticed a verysimilar sculpture in front of the National Gallery. I was wondering if anyone knows the significance of this. Here are both sculptures, starting with the one in front of Mori Tower, then the National Gallery in OTT.


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#20 Post by jml98 » Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:09 am

The artist made six of these spiders around the world. They are, apparently, an ode to his mother. I don't know any more of the details.
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