I’m now back in Sakhalin, new visa in hand, once again impressed by the speed with which a Russian embassy can process a visa if you pony up enough cash. Some further thoughts on Japan are below.
The Japanese have toll-booths on certain roads, one of which runs between Narita Airport and Tokyo city. Two little red-and-white striped barriers block the roadway between the toll-booths, which open automatically at great speed once a detector of some sort reads some device on the car and deducts the charge. The barriers have to open at great speed because drivers approach them at great speed as if they weren’t even there. First time I went through one, I thought my driver had gone all kamikaze on me, before the barriers whipped up a split second before the bumper would have smashed them to pieces. I’m guessing the system doesn’t run on Windows software. A Toyota Camry heading towards the barriers at 100mph. Blue screen comes up. Not pretty.
There were some nifty gadgets in the hotel room. One was a toilet which did all the cleaning, washing, and scrubbing of your nether regions for you. A little control pad attached to the toilet kept everything under control. Another was the curtains which opened and closed at the touch of a button beside the bed. You could lie in bed watching TV with a full view of the Tokyo skyline, then close the curtains and go to sleep without moving more than your arm. In the morning, you can check the weather (hot and humid) before you get out of bed. I liked that.
There seems to be some schoolgirl fetish thing going on in Japan. Okay, all the actual schoolgirls were dressed in short tartan skirts and knee-socks, but so were the women handing out flyers on the streets and the girls on more than a few advertising posters. It seemed to be a recurring theme.
If you think Russians like their female popstars young, take a look at Japan. I saw a poster advertising some top Japanese star’s latest single. She looked about 12.
I wandered into what looked to be a games arcade, hoping to check out some fancy video games we can expect to see in the west in 15 years. I found it full of people in their forties and fifties playing some bizarre game which consisted of putting steel ball bearings – which they kept beside them by the thousand in baskets – into a machine. It looked like some vertical version of bagatelle.
Odd, day-glo cartoon characters are not used in Japan only to advertise kids’ stuff, such as odd, day-glo cartoon toys. They are used to advertise seemingly everything, including stuff which exists firnly within the realms of the adult world. Bank loans, for example.
There were lots of weird kiosks about, full of slot machines which I could not for the life of me figure out what they were dispensing. My best guess is comics.
I went into the BIC Camera Centre on the day some latest mobile phone launched. One would have thought Miss Japan was there putting out for anyone who wanted her.
The Japanese use their own, stunningly logical system of shoe sizes. Rather than use random numbers like 38 or 7.5, they state their shoe sizes in centimetres. Sadly for me, most Japanese feet don’t grow beyond size 28.
Going to the sports section of a department store presents you with a mass of golfing equipment and nothing else. The outfits Japanese women choose to play golf in look as though they were created by Walt Disney. Enormous – and I mean enormous – netted structures stand around the city. These are driving ranges. Golf is big in Japan.
The Tokyo Metro is brilliant. I have ridden the four main ones in the world – London, Tokyo, New York, and Moscow – and found the Japanese one to be by far the best, although they don’t have bronze sculptures of partisan fighters planning an attack on German invaders. London’s is by far the worst.
The sheer quantity of electronic stuff on sale in Electronic City in the Chiyoda district is staggering. You go into a shop, spend a while looking around, then realise there are another 6 floors. I don’t think there is anything you couldn’t find there. Except for maybe anything made by Samsung or LG. I saw Sony LCD TVs the size of whiteboards.
Apart from when it is really busy with people, Tokyo is very pleasant to walk around. There are signposts all over the place, pedestrian crossings everywhere, and everything is spotlessly clean. If it weren’t so expensvie, it would be a great place for a short holiday.
The policeman outside the Russian embassy greets passers by with a cheery grin and a hello. Try finding that in any other country.
I liked Japan. If I got offered a year or two of work there, I’d jump at the chance.