"Wow, only 12 days in Tokyo" and "Wow, 12 days in Tokyo, isn't that quite long?" - Those were the two most common answers that I got when I said that I'll be going to Japan for vacation. Today is the last one of those twelve days. It's been interesting to discover a city which is so wildly different from our European comfort zone.
Generally the Japanese people are super kind and extremely polite and mindful about their surrounding. However they usually don't speak or understand English at all, which occasionally gets a bit complicated for foreigners. Only the younger generation in the 'hipper' shopping areas was more sophisticated in that and could explain and recommend things in English. I probably shouldn't talk about this too much because the Germans aren't the best ones in English either but I'd claim that foreign tourists have an easier time in Germany than over here in Japan.
Technology-wise I saw a lot of flip phones - A LOT of flip phones! I didn't know they are still a thing but it seems so. Apart from that everything is super modern. They've got free WiFi throughout most Metro stations, awesome LTE coverage (even underground) and the latest gadgets everywhere.
And they're all on Twitter! At least the younger ones that I saw walking around in the city or riding the Metro were usually reading the latest tweets and news on their phones which might sound a bit obvious for 2015 but the Germans really haven't figured that out (yet).
Let's talk about the Metro. Or to be more specific: The Metro systemS. I think there are 4 different companies that run train lines around Tokyo which is definitely confusing for foreigners at first. Also the Metro stations are usually not just simple stations like the ones I know from New York or London but instead they are so big that they had to numbers to the exits and put up maps. On the plus-side: Once you figured everything out, it might definitely be the best Metro system ever! People queue up and let passengers exit the trains first, all trains are super punctual and run in 2 min intervals during peak hours.
Japan also has those very cool IC cards which aren't like the SmartLink system in New Jersey or the Oyster card in London that just work with the trains but they can also be used to pay stuff in selected shops or buy drinks from vending machines!
The city itself is so big that one can probably spend weeks discovering every part of it. Ahead of this trip I made a big list in Evernote with shops and places that I'd really like to see and some that would be cool to visit. I saw everything on this list in about 9-10 days. Just don't come here expecting 'to see everything'. Keep in mind that Tokyo has a population of over 9 million people (13 million in the entire prefecture). Nevertheless the streets never felt overcrowded. I wouldn't say that I expected it be crazily crowded but I prepared myself for more people and was pleasantly surprised.
If I had to compare it to New York I must say that I missed a little bit of the 'edgy' feeling. One rarely sees street art here.
I'm also always interested in the different approaches to design whenever I visit another country or another city. I really like Tokyo's modern buildings with their exposed concrete structure which I stumbled upon throughout the city.
The advertisements and signs around the city could be split up into two categories: They were either really bright, colorful and kitschy (Just think of Hello Kitty and you'll get the idea). Or on the other hand they followed the very functional and minimalist Japanese style (Think of Muji for example).
I hope you liked my images of the previous eleven days. If you have any feedback about that, let me know on Twitter or on my Facebook page!
I'm now heading of to the airport to catch my flight back to Germany. See you on the other side of the world with some new ideas for projects around this blog.
Also check out the other blogs from Tokyo: