The City of Tokyo has a major problem with crows. A visitor may notice that there are generally plastic mesh tarps over the bags of trash, the whole being anchored to the palings which line major streets. The reason is that Tokyo is overrun by large and voracious crows. Apparently virtually all wild life in Japan disappeared during and immediately following World War II (people were starving, and ate it). What survived were some varieties of birds, but they have no natural predators. The crow population in Tokyo is vast and diligent in its search for sustenance, most easily found in the garbage. Those who fail to protect their plastic bags may discover the contents strewn all over the place. You can see flocks of the crows whenever the weather clears. But you can always hear them. That raucous crowing echoes from the tall buildings so that it is hard to tell how many birds are involved, or just where they are. It took me quite awhile to get one to sit still long enough to take a picture!
I recently discovered this interesting tidbit on the National Geographic website: "The crows that live in Tokyo use clothes hangers to make nests. In such a large city, there are few trees, so the natural materials that crows need to make their nests are scarce. As a result, the crows occasionally take hangers from the people who live in apartments nearby, and carefully assemble them into nests. The completed nests almost look like works of art based on the theme of recycling. (© Yosuke Kashiwakura)"
As we were getting up this morning, I felt reasonably sure that my futon moved a litte. An earthquake? Jay said of course not, that those instants of vertigo were more likely caused by the building's swaying in the fierce winds for which Tokyo is known. But in an earthquake, he told me, the safest place to be is in the subway. This was so counter-intuitive that I checked it out with Mishu once I returned from my morning walk. She not only confirmed it, but also went on-line and reported that there have been SEVEN earthquakes in Japan since I arrived, though most were far from Tokyo and quite minor. This morning's quake, though, was here, and it was something like a magnitude 3.6. I'm hoping that's as close as I get to experiencing the earth moving!
But for those who want to know more, I found this on japan-guide.com: the "shindo" scale for measuring earthquakes is more commonly used in Japan than the Richter scale. Shindo refers to the intensity of an earthquake at a given location, i.e. what people actually feel at a given location, while the Richter scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake, i.e. the energy an earthquake releases at the epicenter.
The shindo scale ranges from shindo one, a slight earthquake felt only by people who are not moving, to shindo seven, a severe earthquake. Shindo two to four are still minor earthquakes that do not cause damage, while objects start to fall at shindo five, and heavier damage occurs at shindo six and seven.
That was the mistake that I made!
Ueno park has many interesting museums and all of them were closed on Monday. It so happened that we decided to go to Ueno park on a Monday, so we missed the museums, darn!
Carry your passport with you everywhere you go.
When we were in Tokyo, we were approached by police at 2 train stations, one at Shinjuku station and one at Shinagawa. I think the police have periodical checks now and then. They are probably checking for people who overstay/illegal immigrants.
They ask you for your passport politely. I wonder what would have happened if we didn't have our passports with us!!!
I found Roppongi similar to Las Vegas. There is lots of flashy neon signs and North American brands and chains. I felt like I was no longer in Japan. There are lots of aggressive ethnic men that try and get you to go into clubs. I heard from a friend who lives there that they encourage you to go in and do not let you leave until you spend a certain amount of money. There were lots of foreigners in this district.
You may like this sort of thing, but if you would rather not see the sleazy side of Tokyo (and not spend a small fortune), avoid these places. As you walk down the street at night, you may be approached by a shady character speaking in low tones. At first you might think he is selling drugs, but he isn't. He's trying to lure you into his trashy nightclub where pseudo-strippers/prostitutes will chat with you and solicit you to buy them absurdly priced drinks.
I know this because our Japanese host brought us to one of these places. It came about so quickly we weren't aware of what we were getting into until it was too late. We were all very uncomfortable, not because we're prudes, but because it just felt really sleazy and we had no idea where it was headed. I told our host as politely as I could that it wasn't really our scene.
So, if you would rather not partake in this sort of thing, avoid the pushers and if your host starts chatting with one of these guys, politely interject and tell him it's not your scene, though you appreciate the gesture.
If you go to Tokyo in the Christmas/New Year period, be careful because many museums or palaces may be closed...like the Emperor's palace in the center of the city, which was closed down so we could not visit the gardens. This happened also in other Japanese cities we visited.
I found that on the weekends, the restaurants at all the shopping malls were FULL and there were long queues of people waiting to get into some of the more popular outlets (such as the Ramen Outlet at the foodcourt in Aqua City Mall which is pictured. This was snapped at after 2.00pm and we were indeed very hungry).
If you or your kids are the types that can't wait or suffer from gastric, try to bring along some snacks. The other option is to go earlier, to beat the peak lunch and dinner hours. Don't say that you were not warned!
All over town, you wil see signs talking about massage or "special service" with pictures of good looking ladies. Don't be fooled...you get more than straight massage in those place.
Seems like they are legal because they are everywhere...expecially close by "love hotels"
I added a pretty cool link on love hotels...
How high is too high? In Japan, you're taking your life into your own hands if you choose to eat more than enough sushi. But to stack your sushi plates at a height equivalent to your eyebrows is a risk I'm not sure many of you can afford. Notice the art this man practices. First of all that's a lot of sushi he must have eaten. Second of all, his chopsticks are pointed at the sushi, not at the photographer. And third, well, it should be obvious, his plates have not reached his eyebrows yet.
Be careful if you are used to addresses and cities with square blocks with correlative numbers.
Here you won't find that.
Take Tokyo as an example, this city is divided in many ku s and each one is divided in many areas. Each area has many blocks with numbers, in each block you have a number for each house, so you have not the common address like 3175 Moreno St., the addresses are like :
Tokyo-to (name of the city)
Shibuya-ku (name of the ku)
Nishihara 3-1-10 (name of the area 'Nishihara 3', number of the block '1' and number of the house '10' with the name of the bldg. if there is one).
How to get to the place you want to go? Well, first get a guide, second try to get a japanese friend who can help you, third as you can see in the pic, you have these little signs everywhere, not always but most of the time, on it you have name of the area and number of the block, you must find the house. The problem is that these signs are all but the numbers in japanese. Unless you can read some japanese...Good luck!
Official Sites: TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT:
JAPAN RAIL PASS:
JAPAN TRAVEL BUREAU:
JAPAN GUIDEBOOK IN ENGLISH:
Another important advice: Please try NOT to look 'lost'.... like that clueless looking gal in the pic below. :-( Even if you've lost your way (and no thanks to ALL the Japanese road signs and signboards), do PRETEND to look as if you know your way... even if it means you have to move around in circles 3 dozen times? Sigh. We really don't want these cool Japanese to think of us (read: me) as a thoroughbred country bumpkin. Not good for our ego at all.
When all else fails, PRETEND to be an eager tourist and start snapping pictures.... :-)
I brought my own water, though I did not encounter many bad experiences, other than I thought the Japanese people were real racist. I encountered many racist snears and remarks in english or Japanese. A dear gay friend of mine was discriminated against in the most horrendous way. That experience for him made him very uncomfortable,and I really sympathized with him,and I also thought the Japanese were very homophobic in that respect,too bad for them.
The authorities have decided to tolerate tents in the parks for homeless people...they are not part of the attractions...let them live in peace !
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