Tune in Tokyo
You WILL have to adjust the dial when you travel to Japan. It takes a little time getting used to the culture, food and language, but it’s worth it.
I just landed in Tokyo in the last 24 hours and I’m just settling in to the apartment I booked with AirBnB.com. When I first walked in, I failed to remove my shoes in the entry way, thus failing at the local etiquette in front of the owner who greeted me. I should have known better, but I’m blaming it on the jet lag. The place is exactly as advertised (except the picture above the bed is missing). As I write, I’m sitting at the desk in the bedroom looking out at the neighborhood of high rises. I expected a lot of traffic noise, but it’s surprisingly quiet, except for some nearby construction. Oh, and there’s a flock of pigeons flying about, the flapping of their wings echoing between the buildings.
The only trouble so far is my lack of comprehension of the written or spoken language. Even though the owner of the apartment took the time to show me how to use the various amenities before he left, it still took me forever to figure out how to flush the toilet, which has 25 buttons with gobbledygook written on them. I was hesitant to push the buttons, afraid that I might get sprayed in the face by the bidet feature while I was inspecting the toilet transformer. On the other hand, I don’t understand why Americans haven’t embraced this technology. The heated toilet seats are especially nice.
I wandered down to the 24-hour Family Mart to grab a quick bite to eat and I was overwhelmed by all the choices, neatly packaged, but almost impossible to fully identify. I downloaded the Waygo app that helps identify Japanese words when you hover a smartphone over the text, but I quickly used up my 10 free translations trying to find plain yoghurt. I bought something that resembled it and I lucked out when I opened the package back at the apartment.
While I came back to the apartment to eat, I tried to watch some television, but there’s no channel in English. I flipped through shows with candy-hued sets and girls will really high-pitched voices until settling in to watch a program that teaches English to Japanese students. Finally, something I could understand. “For dinner, I would like chicken with potatoes and a bar of chocolate,” I said out loud to the screen in nearly perfect English. Now, if only they had a channel for teaching Japanese to foreigners. In the meantime, the only Japanese that pops into my head comes from American music, like “Mr. Roboto,” or my new favorite saying —”Konichiwa, bitches!” — courtesy of Robyn. I’ll leave you with a taste of that classic, while I try to add a few more words to my vocabulary before attempting to interact with the locals.