As we near the end of our time in Tokyo, there are a number of things that have surprised us about Japan. Everyone goes into situations with different expectations but here are some of the things that caught us off guard.
The language barrier
As soon as we got into Japan the language barrier became obvious. My expectation going into the trip is that at least a few people would speak basic English. I assumed we would be able to easily communicate with people to help us navigate the city or talk with our server when we ordered. Unfortunately that has not been the case at all. Even basic things like asking for water, a bathroom, or a check are not understood by 98%+ of the people we speak to. The majority of our “conversations” involve us pointing to something and trying to make up sign language as we go. In addition, things written in English are pretty limited. Most restaurants have an English menu but beyond that you’re on your own!
The worst part about the language barrier is that it’s left us both feeling a little disconnected from the people and the city. We have yet to hold a single conversation with anyone in Japan. I hope that changes as we get further into the trip and put ourselves out there more. I definitely underestimated the amount of people who would speak at least some English. We are in Japan after all but I was caught off guard anyway!
Vending Machines are Everywhere
Seriously I have never seen this many vending machines in my entire life. You can’t walk 25 feet without coming across a vending machine. We’re not talking just 1 vending machine either! It’s usually a few vending machines together every few feet. This makes no sense to us as the vending machines rarely seem to have people using them. There is such an over abundance of vending machines I don’t see how they are actually getting used.
On the plus side, I can walk down the street and grab a beer out of a vending machine easily…
Japanese Arcades Rock!
We’ve been into a few arcades now and they are always impressive. Arcades aren’t limited to a male audience in Japan either. They have a large number of female focused games in the arcades too. They also seem to have an obsession with claw games. They usually account for over 50% of each arcade we walk into.
They also have a wide selection of games I’ve never seen before. Want to play a table Tennis arcade game? No problem. In the mood for some pool bowling? Who wouldn’t be! Think you’re a beer pong champion? Better start training for the multiple bounce shots in the coolest arcade game ever.
Where are the tourists?
We have both been extremely surprised by the lack of tourists! Whether from the United States or anywhere else, we have run into very few. Even in tourist destination areas we struggle to meet anyone to hold a conversation with at all.
Everything is cheaper than expected
We have been very surprised how cheap the food and everything else has been. Our average meal is anywhere from $15 to $22 for 2 people. We have had some meals that cost around $10 for both of us as well. Our most expensive meal in Tokyo was around $40 which still isn’t horrible. Sushi in particular is incredibly cheap. You can find nice Sashimi for around $1 to $1.50 and it’s double the size of Sushi we find back home.
Visiting different sites has also been cheaper than expected. The zoo was $5/person and the Science and Nature Museum was just $6.50/person. The Tokyo Sky Tree, which we read was very expensive, only cost $17.50/person which we found reasonable as well. The low prices might stem from the fact that the dollar is the strongest it’s been against the Japanese Yen in many years but we’re not complaining!
Everyone is very quiet
As a general rule everyone speaks very quietly here. The average conversation in the United States is substantially louder than anything you hear in Japan. On the subway you would think you were in a library. Talking above a whisper in public seems to be frowned upon!
The sinks are short and bathrooms are small
I’m just sayin…