… of quirky things I’ve remembered…
Firstly I apologise it has taken me some time to get this together. I've been ill on returning home courtesy of an extremely inconsiderate woman sitting behind me on the plane who coughed all night long without a mask. Thanks very much!
Of course, when you get home real life intervenes and there are things to be done at home, work to resume etc etc.
I have been calling all hot baths in Japan, onsens. Not so. An onsen contains mineral water. Without mineral water it's just a hot bath. Okaay I'm glad we cleared that up!
I think I have probably mentioned before (perhaps in a blog of the 2018 trip) that Japan’s rail system is incredible; vast, efficient, smart. Even so, I thought it amazing that there was an apology over the train speaker system because the train was 2 minutes late.
It’s not just toilet seats that are heated, so are train seats and taxi seats. Tokyo residents do not like the cold.
Train rules (metro not long distance): do not converse loudly on the train and DO NOT talk on your phone. That is particularly frowned upon.
It also used to be that people did not eat or drink on the trains either, but I noticed some relaxation of that this trip. Mind you, that could be tourists.
A kind of unspoken rule is to wear your pack on your front. This minimizes your space requirement and stops you knocking into people on crowded trains. (Trains are mostly crowded irrespective of the time of day/night.) And apparently, that is why vertical luggage with 4 wheels on the bottom was invented... they take up significantly less space than towed bags.
I noticed that in some train stations you'd hear what sounded like bird song, chirping. Given the proliferation of pigeons at Wellington's railway station it wasn't surprising but I'd hear it even late at night. Hiroki told me that each station has it's own individual song. Some do resemble bird song and others are jingly cheerful little tunes. Weird but true!
When departing Hokkaido a very senior policeman at the airport helped me struggling with my camera pack at the security screening and carried my bag for me. I was totally delighted and offered profuse thanks. It wasn’t until later that I was told that it’s a common way of testing people’s behaviour. Had I looked nervous or refused his help I would have been subject to intense scrutiny & most likely a search. Aww I much preferred the story where he was just lovely, and helping me!
Charles, my guide for the red light district shoot, offered an explanation as to why I struggled so badly with Google maps. Apparently the skyscrapers in Tokyo mess up Googles navigation to a degree. So that's why I'd get Google frantically repeating 'turn left' when there was absolutely no possibility of doing so and then saying 'turn right' 1.5 seconds later. It wasn't me after all!
Although I shouldn’t be, I’ve been amazed at the display of wealth in Tokyo. The areas that I’ve stayed in, visited & photographed are most often the places where people with money hang out. But even so, to see queues of people lining up to gain entry to exclusive fashion stores at a time when most of the world is doing it tough post pandemic, does make you look twice.
I’m not a natural people photographer and have an inbuilt reticence to it. I’m very conscious that if a tourist pointed a camera at me in my home land I’d be right ticked off about it. So I’m cautious when photographing people. However, in Japan people love being photographed. I was walking down the main street in Ginza and saw a couple of young women around 20ish. They’d dropped their shopping bags and one was posing (and I mean POSING) on the sidewalk while the other took her photo. Then they swapped around. I thought it amusing and began shooting them shooting each other. They loved it and hammed it up even more.
Weird things you see: Strawberry & whipped cream sandwiches - yep true story check out the picture below! No, I was not game to try them. Eew.
I heard a most bizarre announcement at Narita airport while on my way home. A boarding call that started with Kia ora in a very very Japanese accent. It sounded so incredibly weird that it was funny.
Ok, well that's it until the next time.