Visiting Japan. Part 6. God bless America for making Japan affordable

My Japanese vacation came to an end, and in this concluding blog I “ll just mention some of the little artifacts of life that I did not see at home or other countries I “ve been to.

Public transportation stops at 1 AM. What if you had a little too many drinks after work and missed the last train home? Taking taxi may by very costly as many people live pretty far from their places of work. Getting a room in a hotel is also expensive, unless it “s so called capsule hotel. Imagine a corridor in a morgue, OK, in a fancy one, where there are rows of drawers, and if you “ll pull the handle, you “ll see a dead body. In the capsule hotels not only the bodies are alive, they also enjoy a light, linen, and a TV in their large and luxury drawer. This costs 20-30 bucks per night. Nice, unless you are claustrophobic.

My last hotel in Tokyo was brand new, and it had many cool features, but I “ll just show you one photo. There was an “Internet Radio rdquo; panel on the wall in my room.

Just push a button, and it connects to the Internet to get the live feed from BBC, Voice of America, or couple of other online radio stations. The sound goes through the main audio system. Nice.

Cash machines are located in food stores, post offices, train stations. But only the ones in post offices will definitely give you the money ndash; not every ATM standing elsewhere accepts cards from all banks.

Even though most Japanese study English for 6 years in schools, they can “t speak and won “t understand you on the streets. People are friendly though and will try to help you in finding directions if you got lost, but don “t waste your time ndash; get a taxi (showing the map in English may not help). While leaving the hotel, ask the concierge to write on a piece of paper in Japanese, “Please take me to the Hilton hotel rdquo;. Keep it in your wallet and show to the cab driver after realizing that you were overestimating your map reading skills.

Important. This advice work only for people who stay at Hilton.

The Tokyo subway is well maintained, clean and air conditioned. You need to buy a metrocard in one of the machines putting a $5 deposit for the card itself, and then as much as you want for your commuting needs. When you enter the subway, the machine scans the card, and when you exit, it scans it again to deduct the money based on the distance/train you took ($1.60 is a minimum charge). When your vacation is over, go to the office of a train station and return them the card and get you deposit and all unused money back.

I was lucky to see a Sumo fighter in a subway car. He was listening to an iPod, which is an event of itself. It seems that iPods aren “t popular here. Sumo fighters used to die early, but nowadays, after retirement at 32, they hire personal nutritionists and lose weight to live longer.

There are 5.5 million vending machines in Japan. They even sell liquor. I was wondering if under-aged kids can buy it, and the locals said, “There is no special regulation in this regard, but they don “t do it rdquo;.

I “d like to answer your burning question ndash; is visiting Japan expensive? You can always plan a trip that fits your budget. In general, it “s not more expensive than vacationing in Western Europe if you restrict your consumption of tea, coffee, wine, watermelons and grapes. These items are more expensive here. Clothes are more expensive here too, but it doesn “t really matter since they sell mostly small sizes anyway. Food is less expensive than in Western Europe.

People in Tokyo are better dressed than people in Manhattan. I mean a lot better!

It “s a pity that most Americans don “t like international travel. They are scared of getting lost, mugged, and not knowing the local language is the worst part. Many Americans are brainwashed and sincerely believe want living in the USA is a lot more superior and there is no reason to go anywhere else. Forget foreign travel. Many people never leave their hometown. Forget the hometown. A square of five street block can be a lifetime space for some of them.

Visiting Asia in general and Japan in particular would help Americans in realizing that Asia is a lot more developed and advanced than they think hellip; Regular Americans would also learn that America is not far ahead in any aspect of life. This might have been the case 30 years ago, but it “s over.

I “m in the fortunate position of being able to travel both in the USA and internationally, and wherever I go, I always ask myself the same question, “Would I want to live and work here? rdquo; While there are lots and lots of beautiful places in the world, so far I didn “t see a better than the USA place for living. Being an American allows me to afford comfortable traveling and learn how other people live (sorry, I “m too old to be a backpacker and stay in cheap hostels). I encourage you to pack your bags too, and spend your next vacation not cleaning your backyard, but seeing a foreign country of your choice. I “m sure you “ll like it.

I “m typing this on the plane. A direct flight Tokyo-New York by American Airlines is only twelve and a half hour long. The food on the way back is delicious. Tasty deep fried fish, fresh salads, shrimps, and out of this world pastries. And all this in the economy class! We bought all this food in a gourmet food store in Tokyo before the flight.

We need to finish all the food while in the plane. Last time I was randomly picked and JFK authorities put me through so called agricultural inspection. People are not allowed to bring food back to the USA. Yet another stupid restriction, but hey, gotta play by the rules.

Till next country hellip;

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