Monday, July 17, 2017

I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Observations of a mustache while...

Walking the streets of Japan:

1. The Japanese do not eat while walking. When one eats while walking, especially in crowded places, there is a possibility of bumping into another person and spilling food or drink on them. Thus, the Japanese consider it impolite to eat while walking.

Most mornings I would leave the hostel early and would buy food for breakfast from a convenience store, but then, if the convenience store didn't have a sitting area, I'd have a problem: where could I eat my breakfast? My options were to eat standing outside the convenience store or find a park where I could sit down and eat.


2. There are no trash bins in sight along the streets of Japan yet the surroundings are clean and free of rubbish. I only saw trash bins by the door (or sometimes, inside) of convenience stores. I'd also see bins next to vending machines for drinks, but these bins were for specific bottles or cans only. Whatever trash the people have they make sure to throw it in the proper bin or, if they can't find a trash bin nearby, they just bring it home and sort it properly (sorting trash is a whole new ballgame in Japan).

3. They have 5-way / 6-way crosswalks, making it a cinch to get from one street corner to the corner diagonally opposite! Forgive my ignorance, but I live in the Philippines where there are no 5-way / 6-way crosswalks and where crossing the street, whether on a pedestrian lane or not, is done at your own risk (risk is lower at the few areas where there are pedestrian signal lights, haha!).

5-way crosswalk at Shibuya. Photo by Shibuya246/Flickr

6-way crosswalk at Kyoto Station. Screenshot from Google Maps

4. Even narrow streets have a crosswalk and pedestrian lights! In just four steps I had crossed a very narrow street in Kyoto and only noticed there was a pedestrian light when I had reached the opposite side.

Screenshot from Google Streetview

5. Many people wear a surgical face mask. My first thought was that they were sick and didn't want people to catch whatever they have. A bit of googling revealed that another reason for wearing a surgical face mask was to avoid getting sick. And some wear it just because. (In the Philippines, people have started wearing masks, but I believe it's to protect themselves against dust and air pollution.)

On my trip in late November 2016, my body was adjusting to the low temperature causing my nose to run. While waiting for Horyuji Temple in Ikaruga Town in Nara to open, an old lady stopped to talk (by talk, I mean communicate with hand gestures) with me. In the middle of our "conversation", I sniffed, and she pointed to me, then to her nose, then made an X with her forearms, and then covered her nose and mouth with her hand. She didn't mean to say I had stinky breath (I'm sure I brushed my teeth!), but that I should wear a mask because I had colds.

Photo by Hinochika/Shutterstock


Commuting around Japan:

1. No matter how crowded the station is, everyone knows how to queue, whether getting on the train, taking the escalator, exiting/entering through the turnstiles, etc. So it was quite embarrassing for me when I accompanied Hitomi, a Japanese Couchsurfer, to Cebu South Bus terminal to catch a bus for Oslob. We were first in line and when the bus arrived, everyone behind us just surged towards the bus, fighting to get in through the narrow bus door. Needless to say, we were not the first ones to board. When Hitomi finally got on the bus, two other people squeezed in with her, and her slipper fell off but no one bothered to pick it up and give it to her (everyone was busy elbowing their way in to secure a seat). I told to take a seat and I had to block the way in order to fish out her slipper. When we had finally settled in, she remarked, "It was chaos."

People line up patiently to get in the train. Photo from Fast Japan

2. On escalators, people stand on one side and keep the other side free to give way to people who are in a hurry. In Tokyo, people stand on the left side of the escalator. In Osaka, people stand on the right side.

3. It's oh so quiet in the bus/train. Nobody talks on the mobile phone while in a public transportation. Everyone keeps to themselves, keeping their eyes glued on their mobile phones, getting some shuteye, or just staring into space. Those who do talk with their companions keep their voices low.

4. Nobody eats inside the train even if there is no sign prohibiting so. With the train shaking and braking, spills are likely to happen. Plus the train cars can smell like food. Like eating while walking, it is also considered impolite to eat and drink in the train.

5. Oftentimes priority/courtesy seats are left empty even if there are no other seats available. Other times, people who sit on the priority/courtesy seat would stand up and give way to those who need it like a pregnant lady, a mother carrying a baby, elderly, and disabled.

6. There are Women Only train cars. Lucky for the ladies they get to ride comfortably when us men would have travel like sardines in other train cars. But I understand they have implemented this so the women would feel safer and not have to worry about perverts groping them in a crowded train car.

Photo from Business Insider



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan (you're here!)

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions

Observations of an unfashionable mustache in a land where the modern and the traditional commingle, where simplicity and outrageousness walk side by side.

Conformity

I don't think I had seen any Japanese wearing sunglasses during my trip. Yeah, I went during autumn, but, hey, there are sunny days in autumn, too! The Japanese don't seem bothered by the sun's dazzling light. Is it because they are in the Land of the Rising Sun? I asked my Japanese friend if he wears sunglasses. He doesn't. Why? Because everyone else doesn't. If he wears one, he thinks he'd stick out like a sore thumb. My friend conforms to blend in.

While waiting for the train, while walking in the streets, I'd see double. Or triple. I'd see two or three (or more) friends, usually young ladies, wearing the exact same outfit or the same outfit but in different colors. We call it "twinning." The Japanese call it "Osoroi Code" (osoroi means "matching"). These young ones conform to stand out.

Photo from Tokyo Fashion

Modesty

For Japanese women, showing décolletage, even in a casual setting, is deemed inappropriate. But that doesn't mean women in Japan walk around all covered up. Because, strangely, short short skirts are not frowned upon. So ladies, when in Japan, remember: low necklines, not okay; high hemlines, a-okay. Go figure!

Photo from Tokyo Faces



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions (you're here!)
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers

There are so many interesting things to see in Japan. Even the manhole covers! There are over 6000 manhole cover designs and I have only seen 0.30% of that number! (Some I missed to take a photo of, but have found photos of them thanks to citizens of the internet world!) Designs usually include the city/town's crest/seal/emblem, official flower/tree, and/or local spots.


Spotted in: Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

This manhole cover is adorned with two of Tokyo's symbols:
somei-yoshino cherry blossom and ginkgo biloba tree.
Let's learn Kanji:
東京 Tokyo
下水道 (gesuido) sewer
合流 (goryu) confluence


TOKYO
Spotted in: Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

And this here is none other than Hachiko!
Saw this by the Hachiko Memorial Statue outside Shibuya Station.


Spotted in: Ainokura Village, Nanto City, Toyama

On this manhole cover are azalea (flower) and paulownia (tree), the symbols of the former village of Taira, to which Ainokura belonged to. In 2004, four towns and four villages (including Taira Village) merged into what is now called Nanto City. This manhole was constructed before the merging. (Thanks to Gokayama Tourist Information Center for providing information about this design! I couldn't find it on any website.)
Let's learn Kanji:
排 (hai) drain
Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons


Spotted in: Himeji City, Hyogo

Himeji City's manhole covers are decorated with the white heron and the orchid Pecteilis radiata (also known as White Egret Flower). These two are symbols of the city.
Let's learn Kana (Kanji and Hiragana):
消火栓 (shokasen) fire hydrant 
ひめじ Himeji

Let's learn Hiragana:
ひめじ Himeji
おすい (osui) sewage


Spotted in: Miyajima/Itsukushima, Hiroshima

On the center of this manhole cover in Miyajima is the island's seal/emblem.
Let's learn Kanji:
汚水 (osui) sewage
Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons

And why the maple leaves on this drain cover? Because the maple is Hiroshima prefecture's tree.
Let's learn Kanji:
広島県 (Hiroshima-ken) Hiroshima Prefecture + 木 (ki) tree


Spotted in: Chuo Ward, Osaka City, Osaka

In this manhole cover are Osaka City's seal/emblem, the city's tree (cherry tree), and Osaka Castle.
Let's learn Kanji:
中央区 (Chuo-ku) Chuo Ward

And this one shows some of the city's tourist attractions: Tombori river cruise, Dotonbori Canal, Osaka Castle, and...I don't know what the two buildings are. If you know, please leave a comment.
Let's learn Kanji:
大阪市 (Osaka-shi) Osaka City
空気弁 (kuki-ben) air valve
水道局 (suidokyoku) Waterworks Bureau


Spotted in: Toyonaka City, Osaka

Toyonaka City's manhole cover has roses (the city's flower) and a crocodile. Because crocs live in the city's sewers! Just kidding! The crocodile is Osaka University's official mascot Machikane-wani or Dr. Waninamed after the huge crocodile fossil discovered in 1964 in Osaka University's Toyonaka campus.
Let's learn Hiragana:
とよなか Toyonaka


Spotted in: Koya Town, Wakayama

On the center of this manhole cover is Koya Town's emblem.
Let's learn Kanji:
汚水 (osui) sewage
Photo from Japan Visitor



Spotted in: Nara City, Nara

Nara is known for its more than 1,000 free-roaming deer in Nara Park, thus the deer on the manhole cover. The design also includes the city's flower, yaezakura (a variety of cherry blossom), and the city's emblem in the center.
Let's learn Kanji:
汚水 (osui) sewage


Spotted in: Ikaruga town, Nara

On Ikaruga Town's manhole cover are the Japanese black pine (the town's tree), camellia sasanqua (the town's flower), and Hokkiji (a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Ikaruga Town).
Let's learn Hiragana:
いかるが Ikaruga
げすい (gesui) sewage

Colored version from Muza-chan's Gate to Japan


Spotted in: Kyoto City, Kyoto

I saw three different manhole cover designs in Kyoto City. All three have a simple patterned design with Kyoto City's crest on the center.


Spotted in: Uji City, Kyoto

In Uji City, I spotted two manhole covers that, like Kyoto City's covers, are designed with a pattern surrounding the city's emblem.

An interesting find was a colorful drain with Japanese globeflowers, Uji City's flower.
Let's learn Kana (Kanji and Hiragana):
市の花 (ichi no hana) City flower
やまぶき (yamabuki) Japanese globeflower

Another interesting find in Uji City was a manhole cover with maple (the city's tree) leaves, and Ujibashi (bridge), one of the most ancient bridges in Japan.
Let's learn Kanji:
宇治市 (Uji-shi) Uji City
汚水 (osui) sewage

Let's learn Kanji:
消火栓 (shokasen) fire hydrant


YAMANASHI
Spotted in: Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi

And here's one from my friend, Bunny, who visited Fujikawaguchiko recently. Thanks, Bunny! On this manhole cover are oenothera (the town's flower) and, on the center, the town's symbol.

Let's learn Hiragana:
おすい (osui) sewage

Have you seen any interesting manhole covers in Japan? Do send me a photo and its location and I will add it in this blogpost. Thank you, fellow drainspotter!



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers (you're here!)
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado