Saturday, 18 June Now I understand why Japan is called The Land of the Rising Sun. The daylight starts at 4 am here. Yeｓ, at 4 am! This means, that it’s bright earlier than in New Zealand, despite 3 hour time difference (in favour of New Zealand). And it also means that I am up quite early :).
I arrived to Nagoya, my first Japanese city. Nagoya is one of the most industrial (and money making) cities in Japan, being home of Toyota (the car manufacturer) and alike. I found my hostel on Airbnb this time. An offer to stay in an old traditional style house won over central accommodations. However, when booking the accommodation (you always have to book your accommodation in advance, Japanese don’t really appreciate walk-ins) I completely forgot to check where my current ‘home’ is located. “Ah, I’ll be fine, I have an address and I have a GPS on my phone. Easy.” It certainly would be easy if I had actually charged my phone… So I found myself in Nagoya with no navigation system, no map, with an address but apparently these are not much of a help, as Japanese “addressing” system is confusing eve for the locals.
It was a challenge to find the way out of the train station. “Should I use the northern entrance, or maybe I should head south? Hm, I think I feel western today…”. I found a metro line and a very nice person (well, they are all nice, so maybe I should stop using that adjective) told me which train I should take. As I arrived to what-I-hoped-for-was-the-right-suburb, the clearly confused train station officer suggested me to go through the door on the left and then turn right once I’m on the street. “Where next?” I walked into a European style bakery where (yes, he was super nice too) an oooold baker greeted me. “Sumimasen (excuse me)… (and then I showed him the address that I had)…?” He was looking at it for a while, just as confused as the previous guy, until he brought out the latest Samsung. Thank God for tech savvy bakers!
I found my traditional styled hostel. At 161 and a half cm / 5 nearly 3 feet I feel like a giant in Japan. Houses are tiny, beds (mattresses) are small, toilets and sinks are very low and so are door knobs. There is no space for garages so cars are tiny (and for some reason most of them are box shaped) too. I can’t judge whether the stereotype of an “Asian driver” counts for Japanese as well? If it does, parking is excluded. All the car parks are the size of a car plus 2 mm max on each of the four sides. The folding side mirrors, the feature that I never ever use on my Honda Fit makes perfect sense here.
I spent the day walking around the Nagoya city. It happened to be one of the hottest days, so I was pretty much melting down in this concrete jungle. I came to the Nagoya Science Museum and decided to visit its exhibitions. I really needed an airconditioned space. The museum looked very interesting, explaining everything from the Earth and Universe, to different materials that we use and how we use them. Unfortunately, the whole 6 floors were in Japanese only (which I realised after I purchased the ticket) so I didn’t really understand much. It was fun playing with all the gadgets and experiments though :).
Japanese love queues. They queue for everything. They even queue to be queued. To see one of the features in the museum you have to queue at 2.30 pm in order to get a ticket for one of the shows that run at 3.00 or 4.00 pm, when you have have to queue for them again.
It seems to me that Japan’s unemployment rate is close to 0. Everyone has a job here! I decided to visit SkyPromenade, Japan’s tallest observation deck where you get magnificent views of the city. The observation deck is at the 46th floor, to which you take a super fast (everything in Japan seems to be super fast anyway) elevator. There is a clearly signed path (in English as well!) to this elevator and there is only one possible button to push once in the elevator. However, there is the first nice and polite lady waiting for you at the bottom floor, greeting and welcoming you. She bowed, I bowed back. Once I exited the elevator there was another lady waiting for me, ready to show me the right way. Mind that there was only one possible way to go. She bowed, I bowed. At the first corner (and there was again no other way to turn) there was another polite lady, showing me the way. She bowed, I bowed. To enter the SkyPromenade you need to purchase a ticket, which is sold by a vending machine. The machine is clearly singed, in case you haven’t figured out yet that all you need to do is to insert the money. Anyway, there are two nice ladies smiling and bowing at you again. I bowed back. About 5 m further there is the actual entrance to the deck and guess what, there is another extra polite lady waiting for you. She saw you purchase the ticket from the vending machine with two ladies ‘helping’ you, but she still thoroughly checked the ticket before she welcomed me to the Promenade. She bowed, of course. I bowed back, what else. So, all you need is six polite ladies and you have no unemployment issues and superb customer experience management!
I needed to buy an adapter, so I could charge my phone in Japanese power sockets (and avoid “treasure hunts” for my accommodation). Easier said than done, I afraid. I entered a shopping centre which turned out to be just enormous. Since all the floor guides were in Japanese only, I had no other option but to check out each floor. After I arrived to the final floor (10th!) and still haven’t seen any electronics department, I decided to ask for help. It took three (super polite) department workers to dissolve my issue. Finally I was told to go straight, then left, left again, down the stairs, right, into the elevator, to the 3rd floor, then right, right again and straight down the hall. “Right, I played this game once already today, I can do this!”
I walked into the “electronics supermarket”. The whole floor (and this one was huge) was full of cameras. I have never seen that many cameras in my life! Anyway, I was on a mission. “Sumimasen, I would need… (I actually have no idea how this is called in English, I don’t even know the Slovenian word for it)…”. I started explaining in English what I was after to three non-English speaking retailers. They started running around bringing me all possible gadgets and slowly we were getting closer and closer until I actually got what I was looking for. “Yes, hai (yes), that’s it! Arigato, arigato gozaimas!” Now… “Just one more thing, how do I get out of here??”
Sunday, 19 June I was trying to find an internet cafe, so I could write this post. There is not many around, since everyone has their own computers (or other electronic devices) and Wi-Fi is widely available. So, I was sent to this place… When I first walked in and was told that I needed to become a member and have to produce my passport and personal details, I was a bit alert. I looked around and there were all these cubicles with computers and couches in. And there was a huge library of DVDs. “Hm, what exactly is this place?” It’s a dream place for all the nerds in love with comics and anime and computer games! People come here, borrow DVDs and play games or watch comics all day and/or night long. Drinks are for free, you can choose from the lazyboy chair or a sofa. You can have your own cubicle or share one with your friend(s). I’ll just write this blog :).
I took a train to Takayama today. After a day in a city I needed mountains and forests again. Takayama is a small town (well, it still has 100,000 people) with heaps of traditional houses, old-style shops and a huge number of temples and shrines.
The first temple I saw was beautiful. And so was the next one. And the third one. By the sixth one, I didn’t bother getting out my camera anymore, When i arrived to the 8th one, I had them enough. Well, at least I mastered the praying procedure. I washed my hands like I know what i was doing at the bottom of each temple. at the temple you pray to the god of a particular temple. You toss in a coin (you should only throw in a 5Y coin, the 10Y one is not so good as the number ten has sounds very similar to the word “far” which means that your good luck will arrive only later/far in the future), ring a bell, say your prayers (or confess or do whatever you are there for), clap your hands twice (this is apparently to wake up the God in case he/she fell asleep while listening to you :), bow and retreat backwards.Yep, I’ve got this!
On the way back to the train station, I came across a small group of old people who, as it turned out, were on their protest for piece. Hey, I support piece! So I joined them. I was marching with them, I couldn’t really sing as I had no idea what they were saying until one remembered the English words so we all screamed “No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki”. I bet my friend Val is very proud of me now :). They loved it, I loved it. And they showed me the way to the train station.
While marching with the protesters an American guy joined us. “Aa, uuh, I’, sorry, I saw you earlier when I was sitting in a cafe and I saw you now… uh, don’t worry, I’m not following you… I just wanted… you seem to speak English, so I just wanted to talk to someone… I’ve been living here for 12 years and…”. I still had some time before my train so decided to visit Hida Folk Village, a remake of a traditional Japanese village. He knew everything about it and was happy to show me around. Meanwhile he explained my his life story. “Just don’t worry, everything will sort out, life’s pretty fun!” He proclaimed me a guru. “Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to hear!” I guess everyone \would tell him exactly the same, so no need to call me a guru or anything like this, but it was nice to make someone (even if a perfect stranger) smile. Yep, I’ll take credits for that :).