Thursday, August 10, 2006

the little things

Some of the small odd ways Japan is not other countries:

1.It's hot here in the summer, but no one swims. We have been by several bays, rivers, lakes, oceans, and no one uses these beautiful expanses of waterfront. Even the hotels have hot baths, not a single swimming pool. We went to only one resort with one swimming pool that was heated to a sweltering 80 degrees. It was in no way refreshing. As someone who spent most of her childhood in the sweltering south at the community pool, I am baffled at a nation who would rather sit in a hot bath than jump in a clear cool lake. I've gone swimming illigally 4 times here. Sure, those hot baths may make them live longer and have great skin, but at what cost?

2.Women all wear heels, all the time. Sometimes sensible pumps, but more often cute little high heeled sandals with flowers or sequins. And these women walk or ride bikes everywhere- either Japan is the mecca of comfortable and cute women's footwear, or women here have feet of iron. Running through the subway or hiking through the mountains, no woman is complete without little heels. Cute shoes are so mandatory that they have large rubber bands when you get on rollercoasters to strap around your shoes so they stay on your feet.

3. Maps here are all oriented to where you are standing when you look at them. Some of them tell you where North is in relation to this, some not so much.
You can stand at a subway station and get 4 different maps, all with different facings and no sense of scale. What happened to efficiency and standardization?

4. Fans and tissue paper as advertisements. Instead of postcards and fliers like on American street corners, people hand out paper fans and little packets of tissues for vodaphone or Mister Donut all over the place. These two items are very useful (see 1 and 5), and people keep them on hand all the time. This is because Japanese are fastidious about trash. They scoff at American recycling and instead divide waste into burnable, non-burnable, pet plastic, pura plastic, tin and metals, recycle paper, glass, and chocolate.

5. The Western toilet is new to Japan, just like high fructose corn syrup and SUVs. So they have not mastered toilet paper distribution, nor have they perfected toilet paper production they way they have perfected public transit and karaoke. So several places have no toilet paper, so keep that cute packet from Thank You Mart. Places that do have tp all have crappy single ply that comes off the roll in shreds. I'm not picky, but come on. You spend hours getting your kimono to hang just so and you can't even put quilted in your nice hotel rooms? Japan, you're like that roommate who keeps her desk immaculate but leaves the bathroom a mess.

6. Fruit is ri-cock-ulously expensive here, like some melons are $60.00. No, this is no typo. $60.00 or up to 1,000 yen. You can get a fancy pair of shoes (and you'll need them to fit in, see 2), or you can get a melon. Not a huge 40 pound gold-encrusted melon or a melon with a new laptop in the center or even a melon that will promise you great sex forever when you eat it. Just a normal melon, not quite Cantelope, not quite honeydew, somewhere in between. I normally eat 4 or 5 pieces of fruit a day. I love fruit. It's refreshing when it's hot and humid(see 1), and you'd think with so much farmland around, they'd have cheaper fruit.


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