Day 11/12: Jakarta to Tokyo – into culture clash

Day 11 was spent catching up on emails, writing the blog and preparing for yet another overnight flight leaving at 9.30pm and arriving in Tokyo around 7.30am on May 3. This was followed by an hour and a half bus ride to the city drop-off point then a taxi to the hotel. Tiring. Hotel had just finished breakfast and wouldn’t make an exception. Went looking for breakfast but ended up eating a bag of crisps a bar of fruit & nut (hooray) and making a cup of tea in my room which is the smallest hotel room I have ever seen and been in. Apparently nearly all accommodation, including where people live, in Tokyo is like this.

Early interesting (to me) observations. There are almost no houses at all in Tokyo or en-route from the airport. It is all flats/apartments and high-rises. Cars, vans etc. in Tokyo are nearly all white, off-white, cream, metallic silver or a kind of muted (again metallic) brown. Most are white/cream though. Madoka (my guide) who had never noticed this, suggested to me the following day, that it may have something to do with protecting onward retail value. Whatever the reason/s it does provide some insight into Japanese culture as do some of the other general observations to follow after the next post.

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Even within a short time of being here it was obvious to me that Japan offered the most familiarity to me (immediate built environment, availability of familiar brands/shops; familiar driving rules and so on) of the countries visited to date but also some of the greatest differences. One example of stark difference would be visible/petty crime. In (it seems) every street, whether a quite backstreet or busy street there are vending machines selling drinks but also cigarettes. In the middle of the city centre there are lockers for anyone to use. As far as I can tell all of the machines and the lockers have been there a while but everything is clean and in almost new condition. No vandalism, scratching, graffiti. No stickers stuck on the lockers. No scribbling or defacing of any kind. The machines do not get broken into regardless of where they are located. This, to a visitor from most western cities, (as it was to me) must seem almost unbelievable and yet it is true and there for all to see.

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Cycles are also often just left unchained (from casual observations I would say around 40%) – amazing. Here’s an example. This is the world’s largest city remember (by most measures).

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Within just five minutes of venturing out after ‘breakfast’ I heard a loud hock and saw a middle-aged man spit into a curb-side hedge – I’ll reveal in the next post the extent to which spitting is an obvious part of Tokyo behaviour.

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