YOTO–you only Tokyo once. While most people choose to spend their time in Japan hitting the big three–Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, we decided to spend all 4 days in Tokyo. So if someone were to ask me, “I’m going to Japan for a week what should I do while I’m there?” I’d be at a loss. But if someone asked “I’m going to Tokyo for a day what should I do?”
I walked so much and slept so little, by the last day my knee caps had swollen and I couldn’t walk. No that’s not hyperbole I was stiff-legging it around Shinjuku. There are some things that happened in Tokyo that will stay in Tokyo. But most things will be written about over the next few days. I promise they will be up asap–I get out at 6:30 instead of 8:30 these days because of Intensives. Which means I have more time in coffee shops! But first–an overview. Seoul being the only other metropolitan city I’ve lived in, I was constantly comparing the two cities.
Goes to Tokyo: Bathrooms: Before the trip, I bought a package of toilet paper, knowing the scarcity of it in Korea. I was going to be prepared. Turns out–I didn’t have to open the package. Every single bathroom I went in–every single one–had toilet paper. And you could even flush it down the toilet!
This is kind of a big deal. The average bathrooms (love hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations) not only had toilet paper but often bidets. Multiple types of bidets actually, depending on how you feel that day. And the nice bathrooms (airports, hotels, nice restaurants) not only had toilet paper and bidets, but even had automatic forest/river noises that turned on when you sat down because apparently these noises make you feel relaxed and therefore it is easier to do your business.
Cleanliness: This city is spotless. It’s more than just flushing toilets. Like Seoul there are few public trashcans. But unlike Seoul, there are very few piles of trash. Instead of every corner, it’s like every other block. And they don’t really pile up until 3am. Don’t ask me how I know these things.
So I’m not really sure where the trash actually goes. But it’s not on the ground. And the bathrooms always have soap–so people’s hands are likely clean. And the grass is mowed and the trees groomed. Some parts feel as tidy as Celebration.
The Subway: It’s really hard to choose which subway system is better. On the one hand, Tokyo’s seats are cushioned and bouncy.
They also, for the most part, came just a tad faster. Every 3-4 minutes instead of 5-7. There are also many guards and helpers who will help you the moment your machine beeps red. And during rush hour, there are officials with guide cones and whistles to shuffle people in an orderly manner. BUT, Tokyo’s system is not as extensive. Sure, you can get anywhere by subway…if you’re willing to transfer 3 times. It’s also a little more expensive. You’ll see the pink line on the map and you’ll be like “oh sweet a shortcut!” only for it to NOT be included in your 3 day pass so you end up taking 3 transfers around it.
It’s also REALLY quiet. It’s like a library in there. Every once in a while there’s a rowdy group of teenage girls whispering but for the most part, we were the loudest people there. Some think this is a pro, but being a person with questions, I tend to talk a lot. The Food: This obviously depends on your personal taste, but I found Japanese food to be just as delicious as Korean food, though different. But I’ll do a food appreciation post later.
Goes to Seoul:
The money: Okay–so yen were really confusing for me. They aren’t as pretty as won, and are all the same colors and sizes. The 10000 ($10) and the 100000 ($100) are extremely similar–the same colors and sizes. Meaning you have to physically count the zeroes and it was more than one time I handed the cashier 100000 for ice cream. And he looked me like, are you sure?
I’m also used to “1000” being cheap, approximately a dollar. So seeing dinner for 700 yen was like, “wow that’s a dollar menu meal” when actually no. It’s a $7 meal. And most meals WERE $7. Even a simple curry was at least $5. This place is EXPENSIVE. Also–most of the money is actually in coins. There was a 500 yen (or $5) coin. So dropping your wallet and having your coins spill out into the street, which is unfortunately a frequent occurrence for me, is actually a big problem. Yet there are also 1 yen coins (less than a penny). This makes it difficult to put coins in a single pocket–like some of them are worth your time to dig through and others aren’t. I ended up putting the $5 and $1 coins in the same pocket as my giant bills. Like everything, this is probably something you can get used to. But the transition was much more difficult from won to yen than from dollars to won.
The ice cream: I judge a country by it’s convenience store ice cream and let me just say I was extremely underwhelmed. The best tasting one was actually made by Lotte–a Korean company. The others tasted like fake vanilla/chocolate and weren’t very unique. The one exception was the “soda” flavor. I actually wasn’t a fan–but at least it was unique. The language: Another thing that you probably just “get use to”, but Korean Hangul is an alphabet with few exceptions. So even if you have no idea what you are saying, you can still say it. Whereas Japanese is symbols, so you can’t pronounce anything. It’s especially hard in the subway. While all the stops are labeled in both Kanji and English, the English is usually a weird pronunciation so people still probably won’t know what you’re talking about. Overall, I like Seoul more.
That’s not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Tokyo. As you’ll soon learn, I fully YOTOed.