On Monday on the way back from Tokyo, my ANA flight, much to my delight, flew close by Mt Fuji. I happened to be on the left-hand side of the plane by the window and thankfully had my camera with me, so I had plenty of time to snap off a bunch of good shots. The only problems involved the sun shining on the plane from that side and reflections from the window, which I had to counter by holding up a blanket. The weather was so clear that despite the snow on the peak, the walking trails could clearly be seen. Click on the image for the full gallery.
I do a fair bit of driving, often over 300km per week, so I encounter quite a few weird vehicles and people on the roads. Here are some:
First up is an ancient Nissan Cedric wagon which was being driven by an elderly man with elderly male passenger. Not entirely unusual, though the age of the car is somewhat. The weird thing was the police lights, which were flashing. The car had no markings whatsoever indicating that it belonged to any company or organisation. I thought of handing this photo into the police in fact, because back in Oz you can’t have flashing lights on a car without authorisation, but as they didn’t have a siren on and were driving normally, I ignored it like everyone else did.
Going surfing? This car is obviously done up to promote a company, but you have to admit, it’s quite cute. Occasionally I see them around town look rather plain, but it was unexpected to see one done up this way.
Wait, that’s not a Lexus! It’s a clever idea though. I think Toyota should just ditch the inferior Lexus CT250H and re-badge a Prius instead, to be honest. It looks a lot cooler.
Many people in Japan ride around on scooters, as you don’t need a motorbike licence to do so. Women from young to old often do on the huge variety available. What do you don’t see so often is a woman on a larger bike, especially on a huge bike such as this.
Over here in Fukuoka, there aren’t as many fast or interesting cars compared to the other big cities of Japan, though it’s possible to encounter the awesome Nissan Skyline GTR, I’d never seen a Nismo GTR before. More awesome than awesome? I very much wish I’d had my regular camera with me when I encountered this in the car park.
There are weirdly named shops here too. This “Moto Garage” sign has a most interesting description in English.
I came across a guy who was wheeling his food cart through a major intersection one time too.
I found a car with a sofa on the dashboard too.
If you are familiar with American cars, here is a Chevy lowrider. You can just make out the group name badge behind the rear windscreen. Usually Japanese lowrider cars are Hondas and similar, which I admit looks very odd. I can’t help wondering if his number plate is the actual year of the car. Someone who knows Chevys well will have to tell me.
So that’s my recent collection of the weird and wonderful I’ve come across out on the roads of Fukuoka.
Almost as soon as I made my previous, long guide of tips for Westerners visiting or coming to live in Japan, a bunch of people pointed out a number of things I’d forgotten to mention.
Except for major roads and route numbers, Japan doesn’t have street names. No wonder, with the way things are laid out, with millions of tiny streets, it’d be impossible to think up names for all of them. So how do you find where you’re going? Japanese addresses are written in reverse of addresses in Western countries, starting with the postcode, and followed by prefecture (ken), “city” (shi/ku — think council region), suburb, and then numbers indicating the section (ch, block, building number and then extras such as floor, apartment or room number.
This means in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, if you catch a taxi, you may very well find the driver unable to find where they are going, though newer taxies have satnav, many older taxies do not. This is a good time to pull out your iPhone or iPad and help the driver find where they are going. Did I suggest getting a SIM card for your iPhone or smart phone at the airport on arrival? You really do want to be able to use Google Maps or similar while you’re here.
Depending on location, garbage is separated into burnable and non-burnable at the very least. There may be other divisions, such as paper, cardboard, cans and bottles, batteries and “large, unburn-able” items, such as electronics. You can’t just toss everything into the same bin. Make sure you understand how the garbage is separated where you are staying, especially if you are staying with a host family. They will be annoyed if you throw the wrong things into the bin, as the garbagemen will do things such as flag the bags with a big and embarrassing notice if you screw up.
Allow me to illustrate with a picture.
Japanese people have shorter arms than Westerners, so while you may enjoy shopping at places such as Uniqlo, you wont enjoy having otherwise good-fitting clothes look like this. While not a problem with jeans and pants, which are sold in different lengths, I strongly suggest bringing some good-quality shirts and sweaters and the like from your home country to avoid having to deal with this.
Suits, here, while less of a problem, are sold, sometimes, sold with pants that are intended to be fitted on the spot. It’s possible in some stores to buy pants and, through the store, have them taken up if required.
For women, most Japanese girls, despite the huge increase in junk food consumption, are relatively skinny, so finding fitting clothes if you’re anything other than a stick figure back home is going to be a bit of a challenge, though less so than, say, a decade ago. Beware that it’s not rude to comment about someone being fat, so be prepared to feel insulted and demeaned.
The standard voltage in Japan is 100V, with sockets using US plugs. However, while your laptop charger and the like will very likely work here, quite a lot of electronics here is only wired too work at 100V and may fail if taken back home. Consider this before buying any local products that aren’t sold internationally, such as hi-fi.
The standard Japanese keyboard uses a QWERTY layout but all the punctuation is located on different keys compared to the US ANSI standard. In addition, the layout of the overall keyboard is a little different, including keys to switch between Japanese language functions. It can be very annoying trying to type on a Japanese keyboard only to accidentally change the input language to Japanese via one of they keys either side of the space bar.
If you’re a Mac user and need to buy a computer, you’ll be happy to know that Apple stores, both physical and online, stock US keyboards. However, other brands often do not. If you’re buying anything else, check, if necessary, that the language and menus can be switched to English. Cameras are fine (as most models are international), but, last I checked, only Canon printers can be switched to English.
That concludes Part II. Have you been to Japan? Is there anything I haven’t mentioned here or in Part 1 that I should add?
A good article from the Japan Times on Why good Wi-Fi is so hard to find in Japan.