Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 13-20: two week observations and corrections

April 13-20: two week observations and corrections

Sanshuukan taiza-shmasu

I’m here for three weeks

Pics: Pop Quiz, one of these pictures does not belong with the others. Which one?

• On escalators, we can’t figure out what side to stand on to let those walking up or down pass by us. Our favorite moment: with Yasuko going up from one station to another we stand on the right. She says that people in Osaka do it differently than in Tokyo. We get off one escalator and transition to another. On this one, the SAME people including us are now standing on the left. Yasuko starts laughing…for sure, the people in Tokyo do it differently; cosmic humor is everywhere.
• In Kyoto it appears that every other college age boy has been seriously maltreated by his hairstylist
• 2000 yen bills aren’t used in Japan, they are only given out when you convert currency in foreign countries, so people carry 1000, 5000 and 10000 bills. The ATMs spit out 10000s ($100 US).
• We go to a bank to exchange some traveler’s checks. We wait for our number to be called. There are 5 people behind desks, 3 tellers and just two people being helped. It takes over 20 minutes. Turns out the best place to get money is at the ATMs in the 7/11 stores, they apparently don’t take much of a fee.
• The trains and subways are announced using digital clocks, the time is kept with analog clocks
• The people wearing masks are using them to cut down on pollen and reduce allergic reactions
• Most people queue up to get on the subway, the teenage/college boys do not and basically get up and cut in front of the others
• We see very few kids going out to dinner with their parents
• We see a guy wearing purple gloves, is he a member of different cult than all the white glove folks? A fashion statement (he’s in his 50s and shows no other sense of style)
• The cabbies will make change for $100 without blinking
• The basic railroad car (not the bullet train) has seat warmers; the subway cars have seat warmers. The temperature is often so high in the cars we can’t understand why they bother with heating the seats.
• The trains have pull down seats at the doors and as the train comes into the station everyone using the seats stands up to create more room for the people getting on or off. After the train leaves the station, they wait for a moment or two and them pull them down again
• The Kyoto Hyatt Regency is very handsome, lots of blond wood everywhere. However, it is short on functionality, very short. Strange to be in an inefficiently designed new, modern hotel.
• We have seen a number of young women wearing incredible short shorts. One we followed (er, I followed, DB had no clue where we were going or why) was wearing what appeared to black lingerie short-shorts. I need to remind you, it has been at most in the 50s and most of the time even colder. What must it be like in summer? Hmmmmmmm….
• When we were with Yasuko on our last train ride together, I asked her to pull out her phone (she had it out earlier). Then I asked her about her tassel hanging off the phones. She giggled, somewhat embarrassed. It was something maybe an eight year old might treasure. She was laughing as she explained it was actually an art piece and expensive!
• Somebody actually took a call while we were sitting in a restaurant, first time in 10 days we have seen that. Has only happened twice now in two weeks.
• The shower at Kyoto Hyatt Regency has one of those dual bath / shower controls, and the “switch” between the two (a rotation of a knob on the side) also worked so smoothly to transition from off to bath to shower to off that I don’t understand why this version of the device hasn’t taken over all hotel bathrooms (or home ones, for that matter).
• As previously noted, we solved the napkin mystery, you use the wet towel throughout the meal even if given a paper or cloth napkin
• As stated before, costs aren’t that out of line with what we would pay in US, and for some stuff, even less, especially the public transportation
• Re the buildings with charcoal siding, I still think it’s fake
• Drivers are very respectful, no tailgating and most travel well below the speed limit. The lights are so long in Kanazawa that we have time for a long nap, partially due to there being a scramble rather than pedestrian crossings with traffic,
• Two weeks and we have yet to see a real sunset or sunrise (and I’m up before sunrise a number of times). Is this possible? No red skys in the land of the rising (red) sun?

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