"" Writer's Wanderings: Observations of Tokyo

Friday, January 02, 2015

Observations of Tokyo

Probably the most prominent thing you notice about Tokyo is all the food places. Don't get me wrong. There are lots of places to shop as well and rising above them are beautiful sleek office buildings. But the food places are fascinating. Most restaurants have large boards outside showing pictures of their foods on their menu. Many have plates of food displayed in large glass cases so you can see what might tempt your palate. You may be surprised to know that most of the food displayed is fake--very good fake.

Tokyo, being an international city, has everything imaginable from Mexican to Italian to Chinese (Yokohama is a large Chinese area) to every delectable type of Japanese cuisine imaginable. If there had not been so much walking on our visit, I would have felt very guilty indulging so much. Most menus are in Japanese but have English subtitles. Ordering is easy. Just point to the picture. The variety of foods and restaurants explains why our son is always posting pictures of what they eat.

Again, being an international city, you will find that many people speak at least some English and communication is not difficult.

We did a lot of travel by train and subway and once a bus. Having a car does not guarantee you getting anywhere any faster as the roads are full of traffic. It would also be difficult to keep a car in the small residential areas. Except for having to carry groceries which means having to shop more often, it's not a bad situation and there is a delivery service you can take advantage of. Stores are abundant so there is always one close by.

The trains are interesting. There are several different train companies and lots of lines lacing the city and making connections from one side to the other, up and down. It can be a bit confusing but after a little practice and some study of where you want to go (a Google app helps if you don't mind the data charges) you can make sense of it.

In general the Japanese are an extremely polite society--except where the trains are concerned it seems. We avoided rush hour as much as possible but when it gets crowded, the rush for space is on and the surge takes precedence. Finding a seat is not as important as just finding a space. It was quite a challenge several times with our grandchildren trying to keep them together and on their feet.

Something that seems to have changed in the fourteen years since we were here for our son's wedding, is cigarette smoking. It has lessened. I remember finding smokers everywhere and being bothered by the heavy smoke in the air as we weren't used to it any more. Today there are more places that have smoking and non-smoking areas and I'm guessing less smokers. It was much more pleasant.

Many times you will see people with medical masks on their faces. This is not because they are germaphobic, It is considered polite to wear a mask if you think you might have a cold. I'm sure during cold and flu season though, there are some who wear them to avoid catching something. And who could blame them as they travel in such close quarters on the train.

Getting back to food, one of the fun things we did was the Smart Sushi place. You ordered your food by electronic tablet and the food slid along on a tray automatically stopping at your table for you. Once you took the plates, you pushed the flashing red button and sent the empty tray back. Of course they charged by the plate and the plates stacked up. Most of the places where we ate served small dishes and you did a sampling of many different items.

I'm sure there were many things I didn't notice but I was having too much fun visiting with our grandchildren and enjoying Christmas with them. It's a great city and a neat place to explore if you have an adventurous spirit.

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