Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tokyo pt. 3

In the latest edition of "The World According to Erin," here are my top cultural observations from Tokyo...

Cultural experience #1- toilets. Not 10 minutes off the plane and I had my first cultural experience. There were two choices in the airport restrooms-- a hole or a toilet with buttons on it. My favorite was the music note button, which played the sound of a flushing toilet in case you didn't want others to hear you while you were doing your business. Fast forward to the hotel, my toilet had a heated seat and every time you sat down, the standby button lit up. Still unclear to me what I was "standing by" for but it made me nervous. On the way home, I read that these toilet seats are celebrating their 30th anniversary this month!

Cultural experience #2- runners. I stayed across the street from the Imperial Palace and Garden. The 5k loop around the moat was loaded with runners at all hours.

I was super jealous that I could not join them, especially considering that the loop is lined with cherry trees and I will soon (hopefully) be running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC where the trees were donated by the people of Japan. I also loved Japanese running gear, which was much more colorful than you find here.

Cultural experience #3- cafes. Yes there was Starbucks and a chain called Excelsior Cafe, but there were also lots of cafes tucked into multi-story buildings, each with unique decor and menus. The great one near my hotel was Kojimachi cafe, whose food was international with a Japanese flare. Importantly, vegetarian options were noted on the menu! My sense (Japan experts correct me if I'm wrong) was that many meals in Japan were multi-course. I managed to order my rice with black-eye peas and salad but was pleasantly surprised when a root vegetable soup and bagel shaped sesame roll arrived before my meal and a little pumpkin cake arrived for dessert. I went into a bookstore and even found a book all about cafes in the Shibuya. Too bad I saw that 30 minutes before I had to leave.

Cultural experience #4-- masks. All over Tokyo I was struck by people wearing masks. You see this on tv, but it was surprising to see so many people using them-- 50% I would guess. What did they know that I don't!? I noticed lots of young couples where only one person was wearing a mask. Not the most romantic of looks! I was also surprised that no one was wearing designer masks. If this has become part of the culture, I would think that you could add a bit of style to the look. Matt was disappointed I didn't bring him one back as a souvenir.

Lots of vending machines... everywhere

Also orange cones everywhere... but these 5-footers were blog-worthy. What on earth!?

Breakfast during one of my 6am, 12-hour shifts. Japanese buns taste like sugary hamburger buns. Add to that a cup of green tea and you have a lovely Japanese breakfast

No idea what the story is here but I thought this was a sweet little statue. Seems like he is dressed in different attire depending on the week/month. I wonder if this is in tribute to the rescue workers in Sendai.

I guess this is a good note to end the Tokyo posts on. I really do keep all those effected by the disaster in my thoughts and prayers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ET! I am upset with you!! How come you didn't tell me you would be in town for the race?? I want to see you!!!


10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your "stand-by" toilet makes me laugh out loud... definitely unnerving! :)


9:10 PM  
Anonymous Tours of the Sistine Chapel said...

I have never been to Tokyo, but a lot of my friends have and have had similar experiences. I know the air-quality isn't the greatest, so that explains the masks but why so many odd things like vending machines and giant cones? Can you imagine if New York or Los Angeles had those? People would think we were crazier than we already are!

3:15 PM  

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