Tokyo, holy crap, Tokyo. Whatever expectations we had of Tokyo and Japan before we arrive were completely shattered. No guide had prepared us for our experiences so far, let alone the first half hour in the country. We’ve been in Tokyo for about five days and will be traveling around the country for the next 15 to see the cherry blossoms bloom. Yes, we did travel a quarter of the way around the world to see cherry blossoms. Last year, we were lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC and we wanted to see the grandest cherry blossom bloom in the world ever since.
We noticed immediately that Japan is completely different than anything we’ve experienced before. It started with the eerie quiet soon after we left the airplane. Japan is an incredibly quiet place; Jacquelyn and I find ourselves whispering most of the time simply because it is so quiet everywhere – subways, streets, stores, our apartment, everywhere. The places that are normally loud elsewhere in the world are stunningly quiet. The place we are renting has neighbors surrounding us on all sides but one yet I haven’t heard a peep. It’s so quiet I’m not sure anyone lives next to our apartment.
The next thing we noticed was that Japanese people are incredible helpful in a surprisingly assertive way. About 30seconds after looking at a subway map a woman assertively asked us where we were going. Luckily, we were going the same way so she helped us along. Then, shortly after getting off the subway we realized we were lost so we took out the map and looked around. Another 30seconds later a random person assertively asked us where we were going and if she could help. It was shocking, it was super helpful, and it was awesome. We’ve never had this type of experience anywhere in the world.
The next thing we noticed is the Japanese people are incredibly considerate and kind. I actually pay attention to where I walk because people will stop to let me pass even if I am the one crossing their path and disrupting their walk. This is very different than pretty much everywhere in Asia where I used my size to plow through crowds of people because no one gets out of the way. Japan is very photography friendly – put a camera up and people will find a way to walk behind the camera, duck, or just wait. It’s crazy.
There’s formalities for everything. For example, money isn’t handed to a cashier but the customer puts the money on a tray for the cashier to pick up. There’s also a process for saying thanks, bowing, accepting thanks, and I have no clue how it works. We were walking around a park and I saw an elderly man fall (his shoe broke and he took a tumble) so I spent some time helping him up and getting him back to his handlers so he could be wheeled out of the park. Later, his wife found me and said a whole lot of Japanese to me ending in “arigato”, which is thanks, and bowed. Not knowing what to do, I said “arigato” and bowed back. She then repeated what she said and bowed again. Once again, not knowing what to do, I said “arigato” and bowed. This repeated FIVE TIMES before I figured out that this poor lady was trapped so long as I kept saying arigato and bowing back. I’m not a fast learner.
The cherry blossoms are stellar. They are all over the city and we’ve been to quite a few parks and even visited a park which lights them up at night. It’s beautiful. We’re very fortunate we arrived in time to see the cherry blossoms. We are really looking forward to seeing the cherry blossoms bloom as we travel across the country!
We are about 1/3rd of the way through our visit in Japan. We’re hoping the rest of the trip is going to be just as amazing as the first part.
I put photos into two albums: one that’s a short 12 photo summary of Tokyo. The other is all the photos from Tokyo which includes a TON of cherry blossom photos. Unless you really like cherry blossom photos, I’d skip it.
Enjoy the photos!
Small album below:
Large album below: