Based on my 6 days trip, here’s how I found Japan overall and made some (fair or unfair) comparisons to Malaysia, in no particular order. I’m just going to say it as it is here in point forms, without being biased in my review, so here goes…
So, What Did I Learn About Japan?
1. The first thing I noticed when I landed on Japanese soil was a drop in temperature. It was about 21 degree Celcius when I was spending my first night in Tokyo, and it was a few more degrees less when I headed down to the Fukushima prefacture (17 – 19 degree Celcius, less at night).
2. The Bullet Train – truly a remarkable invention! The distance between Tokyo (the part I came from) and Fukushima is probably similar to Kuala Lumpur -> Johor Bahru, and it took only 1.5 hours to cover the distance. While one may not be able to feel the speed and pressure from inside the train, occasionally one can feel ‘something’ the ears and if seen from outside, the Bullet Train moves at a frightening speed.
3. I must have said this many times to some of my friends by now, but I am motivated to repeat it again here. I understand that there are different types of people that one will find in just about any group, society or nation, but if I am to generalize the Japanese people I find them to be an exceedingly polite bunch. They truly treat their customers like kings, and making acknowledgments or smiles is a social customary and norm. 🙂
4. Also worth noting that in spite of the cold weather, the girls wear rather short skirts and high stockings. 😉 Perhaps they are very used to the 4 seasons which unlike in Malaysia where we have only 3: hot, hot, and hotter.
5. Schools – students here go to school 7 days a week! And I thought that Chinese schools were already extreme with their length of school hours.
6. $1.00 = 105++ yen. So to sum it up easily, 1 Japanese Yen is almost likened to 1 American cent. However, things in Japan are costly as I have been told (and warned) by many. To give you a rough idea: the average McDonald’s meal costs around 650 Yen. That’s almost $6.50 or 22.10 MYR ($1.00 = 3.4 MYR).
7. While the cost of living is high, employees overall are compensated with high weekly pays and salaries. The average employee brings home $800 – $900 a week, and the managers and employees that belong to the higher levels of a company are expected to make more.
8. The employee job security is different altogether though, and this is where it differs from most other countries: most employees sign a limited time contract of say, 3 – 9 months (or more, whatever the figure is) and after the contract with a company expires, they have to go out and look for another job again. Suffice to say, job security isn’t good here.
9. Japan is populous – 180 – 190 million people population.
10. ATM machines are more rare here. While I could find an ATM machine in almost every 7-11 store (very common here), people here believe in carrying more cash around. The average Japanese carries about easily $1,000-2,000 in cash in their wallets.
11. Night life isn’t that happening even when I was in Tokyo for 2 nights (first and last night here). This is where Malaysia beats Japan BIG TIME. 🙂
12. Food choices aren’t many and as diverse either compared to back in Malaysia – mostly Japanese food, some Western and some Korean. In Malaysia, you can eat food from almost any culture – Chinese, Malay, Indian, Thai, Vietnam, Western, Japanese, Korean… did I miss anything out?
13. It’s a bummer that I couldn’t speak Japanese. Otherwise I wouldn’t have passed up the chance to interact with the people here and find out more fun facts about Japan. Even though I could only speak a word or two in Japanese, people here are easily approachable. And when approached, they generally do not have ulterior motives.
14. On the other hand, Japanese people have no or little command of English too which I think was a waste, otherwise I’d love to talk to some of them more. With the exception of hotel, posh areas and better parts of the city, the general crowd doesn’t speak English.
15. In retrospect, my initial fear before going to Japan was a racism issue. To my understanding (World War II and how a few movies portrayed it) Japanese and Chinese people don’t get along with each other well. Fortunately that was un-found, at least from the amount of people I’ve met there so far. Interesting to note also, people there look quite similar to the Chinese crowd back here in Malaysia so there was that ‘homely feeling’ even in foreign land.
16. Onsen or Natural Hot Spring – aaaaah, good one! 🙂 We sampled the hot spring up in the mountains of Fukushima and it was rejuvenating, needless to say. The smell of sulfur was a put-off though. LOL
17. Internet connection speed here is extremely fast too – I uploaded a few 50 meg YouTube videos for my previous posts (since they were all in MOV format) and it took only minutes. Wouldn’t had been possible to achieve that on Streamyx, even though on both occasions the speed read 100.0 mbps.
18. Bleach, Naruto and Death Note are exceptionally popular Anime and Manga works here, though there are gazillions more that I was not aware of. At every book shop and turning I make, I could almost expect to see either or more of them.
19. Most of the signs here are written in Japanese Kanji so admittedly, I was frustrated when it comes to going around here as I couldn’t read a word, and there were few English signs – usually reserved for hotel or posh areas.
20. In spite of being notoriously known for poor English a.k.a. Engrish, I have yet to see any signs or published works with significantly funny English.
21. It is very common for people to use bicycles here – whether you’re going to school or work.
22. I’ve been to Central Tokyo and Fukushima and I’ve so far found the place to be unusually clean! It’s a wonder since I noticed that public trash cans are not that common here. Shame on Malaysia – even though we have ample trash cans placed on almost every street, many of us still choose to discard our trash on the street (but I’m not one of them). Speaking of trash cans, they are organized in that too – they have divided the trash cans into compartments for cans, papers and others.
23. I also noticed that their taxi models are the same as the ones used in Singapore.
24. Majority of the people here are of the Buddhist or Shinto religion whereas Christians of all nominations only form 2% of the population.
25. Vending Machines – the way of life. Vending machines are very, very common here. Apparently, there is 1 vending machine for every 26 people living in this country. And the vending machines are more sophisticated and sells a wider variety of items other than just drinks and snacks. My sister, Ashley, has been in Japan around the same time last year too and she told me that vending machine vandalism is almost unheard of here. People here depend on vending machines like we do on oxygen for living. 🙂
I really like Japan for its place and the people have really, really impressed me. (FYI I’m not an easy person to impress)
I have to admit that I didn’t really look back to go back to Malaysia, at least so soon, even though I had a tiny regret of not preparing myself better i.e. learn up some basic Japanese and pan a better plan to visit more places.
All in all even though many have said that traveling to Japan is expensive, I found the experience to be PRICELESS. I am definitely considering re-visiting Japan again. 🙂
Oh Yes, Before I Forget…
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the following people:
James Brown and Mari Wakamatsu – for inviting me to Japan in the first place. 🙂 Also, a hearty congratulations on being officially wed!
James B Allen – for being kind and generous, especially on my second last day here in Japan. You helped me secure a hotel room and reserved a shuttle bus to the airport. Yeah I was nervous since I couldn’t read or speak Japanese!
Frank Bauer – without this guy the trip won’t be half as fun. 😉
Fidens Felix – nice meeting you for the first time. This man is the Karaoke King!
Mr. and Mrs. Brown (James Brown’s parents) – nice meeting you too. and Mr. Gylnn Brown, thanks for joining the group in picking me up from the airport on the first night I came.
Stuart Stirling – for taking time off and driving us around Fukushima outskirts. 🙂
Pete Leong – I look forward to the photos you’ve snapped on the wedding day! 🙂
UPDATE 11th October – new photos from James & Mari’s wedding here.
And everyone else I’ve forgotten to mention here as well… thanks for making the trip an awesome, unforgettable one! 🙂