The first thing that caught my eye when we landed in Tokyo was the lack of chaos we grew accustomed to, order and cleanness are the rules here. After visiting countries like India, Nepal, and Myanmar, something just seems odd: everything is in place, sings show you where to stand, queue and walk, and garbage bins require unheard kinds of separation and car drivers don't run into pedestrians.
Welcome to Japan! The Switzerland of Asia.
Arriving in Tokyo
Our first stop was Tokyo, where our friend Jonathan came to pick us up from the busy-early-morning train station, just 15 minutes walk to his amazing apartment, wholly paid out by our tax-shekel, the best way my taxes ever returned to me: floor to ceiling window to the Tokyo tower.
We stayed with Jonathan for a week in which we discovered some of the most outstanding neighborhoods of the 20+million inhabitants amazing city. Each one with its trends and own styles (Next post).
At Jonathan's I met Toto for the first time, Toto is a Japanese sanitary brand that produces toilet experiences rather than toilet seats. A robotic seat will assist you by heating the seat, washing your butt at different massage programs, fan-dry and even play some cloaking noises to avoid embarrassment.
It was love at first sight, enhanced by our experiences of Indian latrines and Chinese shared troughs (See Only in China post).
Toto can also be found in cleaner than clean public restrooms spread around the country. Who had ever though restrooms could be a nice place to spend time in.
Going out for Japanese in Tel Aviv means Sushi, rice enriched with fish, veggies and some wasabi. Little did we know about the deliciousness and variety of the Japanese food.
Curries, Tempura, Udon noodles, Ramen and a plethora of seafood are only part of the great variety of food we've tasted so far.
The mild flavors and excellent quality of the products make it a second best only to our beloved Indian food, save the stomach problems it brings.
Gimmicks also add to the charms of Japanese food making it simpler and more effective (a.k.a. sleepy waiters). Robotic or conveyor-belt Sushi makes for an economic and fast meal while ordering your meal from a touch-screen with pictures and English translation menu will save time and confusion.
For the first time in two months we are starting to gain our weight back, so don't expect many shirtless pics before The Philippines.
It is said that you can synchronize your clock to the Japanese trains, that is if you manage to understand them.
The Japanese railway, metro, and bus network are the most advanced in the world, that's the reason nobody fully understands it. Different companies running different train-lines over shared rails, metros that change its line name while you are still on board and dozens of regional passes that include and exclude certain areas is enough to get you a headache.
There are even signs indicating to which car of the train you should go to get to the right escalator at your next connection. And you better use them, since you can easily make three combinations just to have dinner.
Although Google maps sort most of the short ride challenges, there's no alternative to the smiling guys at the information offices when things get complicated.
Boom!!! That was our daily budget blowing out. Although Japan is just as expensive as most of Western Europe, we've been traveling in places where a 10 dollar bill will get you through most of the day, here in Japan it will take you lunch only, while accommodations under 50 USD are hard to find (compared to 10 USD in private rooms in India). Sleeping in bed-size capsules in common dormitories is no longer an oddity for us.
Since our arrival, we've become much more budget-minded. For the first time since we left Israel, the budget is shaping our itinerary, trying to combine the most exciting experiences without burning our savings, after all, we have more than half trip ahead.
Our landing in Japan has been the softest so far, the Japanese are polite, clean, crazy for order and most importantly, most of them speak English. For the first time in several months, we are able to relax: when ordering food, ride a train or simply using a toilet.
We really love Japan and we are paying the price, in Yens.