The canned coffee and alcoholic beverage vending machines are my favorites. These are things you need at the spur of the moment at your fingertips always!
Man i’ve always wanted to travel to Japan Visiting Tokyo and other big cities would be fun but i low key want to visit the countryside for a few weeks. I think that’d be pretty relaxing and interesting seeing the rural side of the country that one normally doesn’t hear much about. Anyone here have any experiences with that?
Where are the booze vending machines? They seemed to have disappeared. My ~4 months stay in 2001, they were everywhere. My trip back in 2009 the only one I saw was in my hotel lobby in Minato. I even asked around last year when I was there, and nobody seemed to know of any. (Ah, such useful vocabulary “biru no jidouhanbaiki”)
For that matter, in 2001, I saw all kinds of vice sold in vending machines (no, not the used panties, but just about everything else), and all that was gone in 2009. Guessing there’s been legislation around vending machines, considering that cigarette machines now require a “taspo” to be swiped?
I spent a term at Nagoya Gakuin University which is in Seto (a suburb of Nagoya). I arrived there on Sept. 8th 2001 (which is a whole other story what the 11th was like overseas…). The university is on the outskirts of town, on a mountain, out in the rice paddies. There was a beer vending machine a ways walk further out into the country, and a few times we just wandered off into the forest down a path past some shrines.
Seto of course is historically known for its pottery, a particular style of pottery is literally called “Setomono”. So all kinds of really nice pottery was to be had very, very cheaply because of all the practicing artisans. Just off the main drag in Seto was the mining pit where for hundreds of years they’ve harvested clay for the pottery.
Our dorm building had roof access, and we’d get liquored up on saturday nights and go up to stare at the stars, and over the cityscape of the nearby Seto. It was so dark out in the country.
There was a lot of swans in the ponds nearby (including the big koi pond next to a building where we had classes). You couldn’t get near them without the swans coming up and harassing you. Swans are assholes. But, the fish were pretty!
There was lizards everywhere, little ones, big ones, in orange, blue, yellow, green… And huge insects. I think I have a pic somewhere of a praying mantis that was literally 10-12 inches long hanging out by the bus stop. I came back later to see if it was still there, and its wing was left behind at the bus stop–something bigger had eaten it seemingly.
It was beautiful. I’d wake up every day and look at the mountains outside of my window. Midway through the term, there was a mandatory field trip where all the international students (mostly American/Canadian, some Chinese, one from Vietnam) packed into a tour bus and traveled all around the mainland. We stayed in a Ryokan, and I took some terrible video with my webcam of the flowing stream outside in the morning, and some video of all us Gaijin drinking tea wearing yukata. We visited Shirakawa (the old farming village perfectly preserved), saw some museums in Kanazawa. I saw wild monkeys playing along a creekbed.
Also on that field trip, we stopped at a mountain and hiked up it. My best buddy there and I sprinted to the top ahead of everyone else, blowing past a pair of old ladies. (Old people hiking up mountains is a thing there, I guess) As we blew past, one turned to the other and said, “Hayai ne, wakai de” (basically: the young are fast/always in a hurry)
I saw the gardens at Kenrokuen, and visited Nara where I was the unlucky gaijin who got sat with a bunch of old ladies for lunch. (All the other english speakers got sat together)
I had a teacher take me and a classmate to dinner at a Okonomiyaki restaurant, the likes of which you never see outside of Japan because it’s sort of considered blue collar fare. Afterward, he drove us out to a stream to watch the autumn leaves fall and waxed poetic on what happiness means when you’re old. (That was a strange conversation, “at the end of the day, happiness is just a warm, happy small intestine”)
The strangest thing about being out in the country, especially in 2001, is that you could go an entire day without ever seeing another white person. And of course, Japan has had a longstanding fascination with the West, so all eyes were constantly on you. People constantly were watching, and you were always aware of it. It was so constant, that when I had my layover in DFW on the way back, I was acutely aware that nobody was paying attention to me anymore and it was a reverse culture shock having that feeling all of a sudden be absent. During my time there, everyone always was trying to chat me up and make friends, young women often literally saying in Japanese, “Please be my friend!”. A buddy of mine and I used to have fake conversations in English for the express purpose of giving the impression that we didn’t understand Japanese–and of course we heard some very interesting things said about us mere feet away from us. Of course a lot of the time, people just yelled out, “Gaijin da!”, seemingly not caring if we heard.
As mentioned, the school was out in the rice paddies. So we’d see a lot of infirm old ladies walking around hunched over, sometimes with dual walking canes. I gathered at the time, this was due to a lifetime in the rice fields. There was very few old men.
I can’t recommend enough getting away from Tokyo out into the countryside.
I’ve been a member of a Shinto temple. I’m well aware of Shinto beliefs.
That doesn’t change the fact that any positive mention of spirituality usually draws out the trolls here.
Kyoto is beautiful. I especially enjoyed staying on Koyasan as well.
I’m trying to convince my wife to go back and go to Hokkaido.
I met up with people in Niseko last year. A little disappointing, the whole town is very westernized. Gorgeous scenery, but one night our party had dinner at what was basically a Benihana’s. Completely surreal, having Americanized Japanese food in Japan. Most of the people wandering around our condos were Australian, and it was easy to forget you were in Asia between that and all the signs in English. Aside from bumming around Chitose for an afternoon with my little brother, I don’t really feel like I’ve “done” Hokkaido.
Can’t complain about the scenery, though. Skiing down a mountain overlooking a dormant volcano.
My wife is all "what would we do there?"
I have plenty that I could do on Honshu still as well. I was almost a novice Shingonshu soryu a few years back so I could go visit the temple where I was going to be ordained and my sponsor and friend (an American) in Okayama.
Not all public toilets in Japan are that fancy. Have you encountered a squat-toilet at a train station?
When I hear “yoyogi”, I still think of Dave Barry’s colorful description from “Dave Barry Does Japan”, which turns 25 this year.
I was trying to see if the chapter was online, only to come across this reference, indicating that no, things haven’t necessarily changed.
Really neat experiences, thank you for sharing I feel a bit awkward with my interest in Japan and japanese culture because i grew up practicing karate, as my dad is an instructor whose sensei is one of the few highest ranking teachers in that particular style. So we’ve always had some interest and bond with Japan.
Anyway, cut to these days people’s interest is mainly due to anime and video games. Not to say that isn’t valid as i like those things too, but i don’t relate to the people who fetishize the culture because of it. But i’ve been mulling over visiting the country over the years, more so lately because i feel like i can actually afford it with my current job. Well… i just bought a car and i’m moving later this year to a new place so it’ll be a couple of years before i feel like i can afford a long trip there
On my last visit to Japan (2009) I saw the booze vending machines in the hallways of my hotel in Yokohama and all over Nagano roadside vendors and onsens (hot springs resorts). At onsens they practically encourage being a little tipsy when going in the water.
Pardon the offense, it was unintentional. I was referring to atheist attitudes in Shinto temples, not Shinto beliefs.
I am an atheist. I cut Shintoism and Buddhism a lot of slack compared to other religions because they don’t go out of their way to marginalize or attack unbelievers like most monotheistic faiths. The people who run them seem to realize most foreign tourists are impressed with the artistry of the shrines and appear to be OK with that.
I generally have no choice but to spend most of my time in Japan in the Kansai region. My in-laws live in Kashihara, Nara.
But it is such a beautiful part of the country that it never gets old for me. Nara, Kyoto and Osaka are just fun places for me to visit. The epitome of ancient Japan. Nara and Kyoto were former capitals of the country. So much to do, so much to see. Plus the regional cuisine specialties are phenomenal and are virtually never seen in restaurants in the US.
When I first went to Japan in 2003, I maybe saw about 10 foreign tourists in total in Osaka and scads of them all over Tokyo. Three years later Osaka was inundated with foreign tourists and signs started to pop up in English. In the intervening years the city had popped up on a number of cable travel/cuisine shows. Plus more airlines were flying from the West Coast to Kansai International Airport.
I’m not offended. I jus find it amusing what folks give a pass to.
I’m basically an atheist (effectively) but I am a Zen Buddhist.
Atheist does not equal hostile to religious beliefs of others. Although some are genuinely anti-theists (against all religion), many like myself treat it like table salt or Parmesan cheese. Feel free to put some on, but I pass on it out of personal taste.
“Whatever floats your boat as long as you aren’t trying to steer mine while you are at it.”
More tomorrow? Yes please!
(Decided I am posting too much here.)