Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Home Sweet, Tokyo!? Home

I'm back in Tokyo! The city of pachinko machines, unnecessarily complicated subways, and home of Sakura hostel, where I stayed before and am staying now. So Tokyo is still much too weird to actually feel like home, but it does feel fairly familiar, even a little comfortable perhaps.

The trip over here was started with damn near torrential downpours in LA and San Diego (an event that the American Airlines ground crews are entirely unprepared for judging by the fact that my checked bag arrived still wet, twelve hours later in Tokyo). And, of course, I got to re-confirm that 12 hour flights still suck, even if JAL makes it a bit less intolerable than the AA alternative.

Random things I've found/remembered in my first few hours in Tokyo:
- it's true, the Japanese are wholly paranoid about germs. I saw plenty of face masks last year, there's even more of them now, in the face of Avian/swine/etc. flus. Including the guy that was sitting next to me on the flight.
- on the subway, I was reminded of the fact that the people here are either sleep deprived, or just really like to nap in positions I would find wholly uncomfortable while on the subway. Young, old, men, women, everybody's taking naps on the train.
- the iPhones are coming! the iPhones are coming! This one is particularly painful as I left mine behind in San Diego, but it is nice to see some iPhones supplementing the wholly ubiquitous Japanese phones. Not sure if iPhone 3G was even out yet when I was here a year ago, but I certainly didn't see any.

I'll come up with a few more witty observations before I leave Japan, I'm sure, in the mean time, I'm only here for a few days - three nights in Tokyo, two more in Nagoya (meeting up with friends in both places), then making my way down to Osaka for a flight down to Manila, and the tropical warm archipelago that is the Philippines. Started reading the Philippines guide book on the flight over - I wish I had more than 10 days to see the place! Looks like it'll just take it's rightful place along all the other countries that I would like to come back to eventually.

A few pictures:

Sakura Hostel in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo

Asakusa is more famous for the huge temple dominating the neighborhood

The Pachniko parlors seem to be the major attraction for the locals though

The Sunshine Pachinko parlor - your 'Enjoy Space!' I love the Japanese attempts at English translations... People do seem to be ready to enjoy the space though as there was a line of some 20 people waiting outside at 9:45. Presumably, this particular Enjoy Space opens its doors at 10AM

Lively or Apathetic? Well, I just don't know, it sounds more like one of those HSBC ads I see at airports the world over. Sidewalk art murals outside the hostel

Tommy Lee Jones looking very serious as he tries to sell you on Japanese soft drinks... Weird...

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