No review, blog, travel guide or encyclopedic article about Tokyo would be the same if it didn’t mention some of the weird things one might encounter when visiting the city. So here’s a few of my own which I’ve noticed while trying to avoid some of the clichés mentioned elsewhere.

Inside a cat café in Odaiba

The School Run
In the UK and USA the school run means lots of parents driving their one of two children from the house to the school gates lest they get robbed, run over or their precious legs get tired. For Tokyo’s youngsters the school run is more of a walk. Volunteer parents (or possibly teachers) go door to door collecting children and then leading the children they’ve accumulated from street to street picking up more children. The parents and children all wear bridge yellow jackets and the kids wear bright hats and bags too for safety reasons. This is despite the fact that there is less crime in this city of 40 million than on my island of 80,000.

Vending machines

Lively vending machine in Harajuku

So far I have been slightly disappointed because the majority of machines only sell drinks. But they are everywhere. Many of them sell hot drinks in cans (hot coffee, tea or soup) and there are no CCTV cameras or warnings about not trying to rip the machine off because it seems that nobody would ever dream of doing that. Many of the machines will take SUICA or PLASMA cards which are Tokyo’s equivalent of London’s Oyster and Hong Kong’s Octopus cards. The few non-drinks machines I have seen included ice creams, batteries, snacks, sports cards and food tickets – you order your food from the machine then hand the receipt to the chef who’ll prepare your meal.

Don’t cross
I know that in Poland and parts of the USA you can get busted for jay walking if you cross a street when the red man is showing but I’m not aware of any such law in Japan. Yet everybody will wait for the green light. Even on a long, straight road where there is no traffic in sight. Usually I am not going to do this waiting lark if I don’t want to and it’s fun to see just how many locals will dare to cross after having seen the foreigner do it first.

Cafés

What would your dog like to eat today?

Firstly there’s traditional Kissaten coffee shops with comfy seating and tasty coffee served from what looks like a chemistry set. The more ‘geekish’ will like maid cafés where scantily-dressed maids serve drink to ‘Otaku‘ (Japanese geeks). Some maid cafés even spoon-feed food for the Otaku, provide massages and sit and chat with them. I’ve yet to sample a maid café but I’m thinking it’s something that has to be seen while in Japan. Or if you’re not in need of a drink why not get one for your pet at one of the many Dog Cafés?  Next up are cat cafés where people can pay for time in a room full of cats. This idea apparently took off because most apartments in Japan either don’t allow pets or are too small for pets and all Japanese love cute animals. Ugly cats not allowed.

Advertisements