As a foreigner I’m constantly aware of how different Tokyo is from where I’m from in America.
Here’s a few facts about my daily life in Tokyo that most people wouldn’t notice unless they get a chance to live or visit here.
You might be surprised to learn that:
- Crows are humongous here, and are known to swoop down and take small pets. I’ve even seen them attack people if the person has food.
- You can find a vending machine almost everywhere you go. There you can buy hot and cold drinks, some depending on the season. In the winter you can buy hot canned corn and sweet bean soup, and they’re delicious. It’s not very expensive, usually less than 200円 (less than $2 USD), but those costs do add up over time if you’re on a budget.
- There is a convenience store at almost every corner, and the food they sell is not only cheap and edible…it’s also delicious.
- But… you can rarely find a trash can once you leave the store. People carry their garbage with them until they get to the next こんびに (convenience store) or train station, etc.
- Many Japanese people do not use paper towels in the kitchen, they use washable cloths. They also call paper towels “kitchen paper.”
- Most homes do not have a dishwasher.
- Homes usually only have a clothes washer, but not a clothes dryer. Most everyone hangs their clothes and bedding out to dry.
- It is more convenient to ride a bike, walk, or take the train than it is to drive and park. (within the city, anyway). Parking costs money and paid parking lots with an open spot are sometimes hard to find if you don’t have one of the fancy car navi systems that shows you open lots.
- In Tokyo most Japanese people hurry- even employees. They will actually run to go open up their cash register, help a customer, etc.
- Often English is used as a novelty… not as an indicator of what kind of business it is. For example, there is a place near me called “Flamingo Saloon” with an old-west style sign. It’s a hair salon. This can be very confusing for a new person who can’t read or search online for services in Japanese. There’s a learning curve, for sure, and sometimes that curve is going to the place, realizing it’s not what you thought it would be, and leaving.
- You can find the kcalorie content on pretty much everything, and sometimes it’s even listed on the menus. This helps when trying to decide what to grab to eat when you’re out and about.
- Inanimate objects “sing” to you, or make other such noises…and I love it. My rice cooker plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when you turn it on and when it’s finished cooking, my hot water boiler plays “Fleur de Lise” when it’s finished boiling, the trash truck plays a song the entire time it’s driving, the floor waxing/buffing machine in the train station also plays a song… the list goes on, and on. I think it’s really interesting and pleasant.
Of course these are just a few examples of what I’ve experienced while living here. I might jot down a few more later, or write a new post about it. I’m not sure yet.
What did you find surprising when you lived in or visited Tokyo?
- Japanese packaging is so easy to open- from onigiri to shipping boxes. It’s very convenient!
- Surgical-style face masks. How could I have left this out of my original list? People wear face masks for many reasons. Sometimes they’re sick, sometimes they’re worried about getting sick, and sometimes it is due to allergies.
- There are so many choices for shampoos and conditioners that many drug stores will sell trial sized packages of most of the popular brands on the shelf. This is great when you’re not sure what to buy-especially if you can’t read all of the package. It is very cost effective compared to buying a large size of a product that you might end up not liking.