Japan 2.0: Dear Japan…


Dear Japan

I think I really like you as a friend, but I am no longer in love.

It’s not you, it’s me. The love of the new, the unknown, the forbidden is gone.

It is not the great public transport, the very friendly and courteous people. The wall-to-wall shopping.

I am sure we can still be friends.

My third trip to Japan, even with the earthquake and typhoon, was pleasant enough. I think however that to know you better, I would have to move in with you and learn your language. At this stage in my life, it’s a commitment I cannot make. I am just too tired and grumpy for that.

My genes are calling me to follow my DNA back in time. Germany and Scotland call.

This begs the question of why I travelled to Japan in the first place. Good question. I think I should have had a holiday while I was not working.

You have shown me the future: it’s vertical and it’s mobile. Even the geek (otaku) side of Japan was interesting – but not engaging enough unless you like manga, gundam universe and other slices of culture I cannot explain.




Microsoft Office Shinjuku

Japan 2.0: Maps

Exits are numbered and are important in the Tokyo subway system. A1-10, B1-12, C1-16. Yes, there are that many exits.

Thankfully the organisers of Japan have nice maps virtually everywhere, and you should not get lost.

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Ginza is the home to shopping in brand-name stores. Today we visited the Sony, Nissan, Canon and Apple stores.

After visiting Yodobashi, and the Sony store, I am of the belief that we get the crappiest stuff in Australia. The Toshiba and Sony laptops in Japan are beautiful. In Australia, everything is grey and horrible. The above is a small PC with wireless, bluetooth, TV and a whole bunch of things running in Vista. Do Want! Oh, that’s right. Not in Australia.


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Buying food from pictures is one thing, but pharmaceutical items? It’s a hoot – you are likely to get almost anything.


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Paul Macartney playing in the Starbucks, Ginza Matsuya-dori is putting everyone to sleep. (note: this Starbucks in now 10 years old!). Why Starbucks? You can taste the distance between the coffee in Japanese coffee. Starbucks is denser.


Funny paper pirates, Canon Store, Ginza

The new Canon store just a way down from the Starbucks has excellent photos, and displays of their devices. Above is a paper model of Pirates. Excellent way of selling more printers, inks and paper.



Nick goes Apple Store, Ginza

And yes, before heading back to the hotel, I visited teh Apple Store Ginza and refrained from purchasing anything. Might get one of them new MacBook Pros when I return to Australia if I can find a new owner for my old one. The store looks a little bare without the iPhone. Way more sales people than customers. Very non-Ginza.

Japan 2.0: Undercover

Yodobashi Games Store

Picture: Yodobashi Camera, Shinjuku, Games Store. Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii.  Maybe something Xbox360. If you look hard enough.


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The normal PC “bits” store in in the lower level (B1) of the main store. Here is absolutely anything and everything you will ever need for PC stuff:


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Picture: Image, on tree in Shinjuku

Yodobashi Games Store

Picture: Quality merchandise from Japan

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Picture: I jump on a busy JR Yamanote from Shinjuku to Tokyo Station. Goal: Imperial Palace Gardens

Polite Japanese for "homeless refuge"

From note in the above picture: “Shelter for People Who Cannot Go Back Home” That is, homeless

Imperial Palace park

Picture: Guard House (old, not new) at Imperial Palace. Note: the guards are not ninjas

Imperial Palace Entrance with Nervous Guards

Picture: This was taken at the Eastern entrance to the Imperial Palace. I loitered around this area as there were many security guys with ear pieces looking nervous. More nervous with a sweaty anglo-saxon guy standing around watching (ie: me). They waved me on, just in case I was a white terrorist intent on doing something evil. I was just interested! Eventually, a car rushed past on this road and everyone returned to normal.

Japan 2.0: Kyoto-des

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Up early, walk to JR Train: Osaka to Kyoto via Express Line. Cityline Bus around to the middle of Kyoto suburbia. Express Line is faster as it seems to skip 2 stops out of 3. A Rapid, in comparison, skips 1 out of 3. A local stops at every stop. The nuance between Rapid and Express means the difference of 30 minutes between Osaka and Kyoto.

Rushing through the country-side between Osaka and Kyoto, it is easy to miss the actual country part. Yes, the mountains are all very verdant and green – the farms can be seen in the triangles between houses. Farming is squeezed into the left overs of suburbia. All the spare space in Japan is used. Rice paddies, soccer fields on the flood plains of rivers; vertical car parks. All the space is wisely used.

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Imagine a modern city, wrapped around large plots of land conveniently containing shines, temples and gardens. Gone is the deep green of the countryside: here it is orange. Lots of Orange. It is a shame that digital cameras miss the deep oranges and purples. There is lots of orange in Kyoto.

The bus system is perfect for Kyoto’s sprawl. Only Y500 for a day pass is excellent value. The JR trip from Kyoto to Osaka was Y540, one way. This is a mere AU$10 for a day’s worth of travel, each. Enter from the rear, and exit (after paying) from the front. A smart system that ensures an efficient flow of people through the bus, onto the street and into the money making temples. For the JR, we re-charged our Suica (stored value) cards from our last trip in 2005.

Japan, whilst exhibits many features of the future; cashless is not one of them in small stores and restaurants. Thankfully, the JR trains use these new stored value cards and the places where you can get money from your accounts seems to be greater.

Every temple/shine I’ve seen is surrounded by mechanisms for taking money from the attendee. Whether for long life, good marriage, for ancestors — the temples/shrines take your money in multiplicity of forms. At least this investment results in some of the world’s best vistas, and the raw earth and nature calming suburbian nerves.

Our first shine/temple/garden/shopping trap was the Kiyomizu (largest) etched into the mountainside of Kyoto. We had Meiho, Yuka and Shiho escort us (for free!) around this large temple. They were using the experience to learn English.

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Picture: some fat bastard looking for Charlotte.

In Lost in Translation, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) calls her mum still in the US and says “she went to a temple, and didn’t feel anything” I can understand why. Whilst the temples and shines are meant to evoke spiritual feeling; the sheer number of people and the shopping stalls dampen the spiritual feeling somewhat. A calmness does decend on you in the gardens. Sitting and watching the Koi (think: carp) and turtles fight it out for illicit scraps of food thrown down into the water.

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The second was the Heian. The gardens here are brilliant. I think there is a scene from Lost in Translation (Charlotte crossing the pond) shot in this garden. The garden is situation around a stark white and orange courtyard temple thing. Venturing through the portal into the garden, you see a cooler, calmer world where the sounds of Kyoto traffic disappears.

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The JR train returning to Osaka we passed Suntory Whisky distillery. Just like Lost in Translation.

Dinner at a random place with some random Japanese food. “setto menu”. Buying food late in the day from the department store resulted in discounts; although it was still a little expensive.

Tired legs, broken feet. Tomorrow is another day.

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