More Japan Trip Notes

June 13th, 2007 by Potato

Prices here are all tax-included as far as I can tell, which helps a fair bit. I took a look at the mini bar price list just to see what it costs, and like all hotels most of the stuff in there is ridiculously priced (300 Yen for a tiny narrow can of Coke that’s maybe 200 mL). Surprisingly, the bottled water was fairly reasonable at 200 Yen (well, reasonable as far as buying bottled water in Canada in a single bottle is; it’s still a really over-priced commodity). So far things do look to be expensive, but less so than they were in Dublin. However, as I think I mentioned earlier, nearly everything is cash-only. We took a small walking tour of the city (we only covered about 1 km x 1 km, which isn’t much) and didn’t see a single bank machine that would take visa, mastercard, interac, plus, or cirrus. We didn’t see any restaurants with credit card logos in the window, either. I think the next step is going to be finding a post office, which I’m told may give cash advances on Visa.

It’s amazing how different the simple things can be between countries, especially on different continents. The trees here are all a bit different, but what really got me is that there’s hardly any grass, mostly just moss grows in open spaces between trees. The space utilization is also intense: the view out the plane and the train showed that no space was wasted. There were hardly any yards around houses, and the very few that did exist were small. Farms and gardens come right up to a house, and rice patties are squeezed into any spare bit of land, even right up next to the rail tracks.

The cars on the road are all almost all a bit different than what we’re used to seeing. I only saw 2 SUVs all day, though there were a number of vans and vehicles that could pass for lowered SUVs — nobody seems to have been fooled into “needing” that much ground clearance. The cars seem to fall into two different categories: really aerodynamic models (lots of Prius, and other cars like that so it doesn’t look so out of place) and really exceptionally boxy ones (likely to maximize interior space).

The washrooms are strange, as hardly any so far have had paper towel or handdryers. I was told a while ago that the custom here is to carry small packets of paper towels/tissues around and to use those to dry your hands — at the conference hall, someone had put out a packet of paper towels for us, as well as a bar of soap: there were no permanent fixtures for either. So perhaps carrying your own soap around is the custom as well?

Anyway, I’m sure at least one of you is itching for photos, so here we go:

We visited a shrine and a famous, very old garden (and a large hilly one at that), and of course had to hit a sushi place and a bar at some point. To get to most of the restaurants we had to wander down these really small, narry, dodgey-looking alleys. We spent a lot of time getting lost in narrow back alleys :) Here’s the entrance to one we went down to get to the bar; trust me, it looks creepier at night:

Small alley in Kanazawa

This is an impressive looking stone support/drainage system for the hill a castle is built on (I first thought it was the castle, since the grove of trees at the top didn’t look large enough to hide one from the road… but it’s really actually a huge hill).

The stonework on the slope of the castle hill

When touring the gardens, we stopped by the pond to get our picture taken. A tour group came up, and had to wait for us while the person we asked to get the shot cycled through about 6 cameras to make sure everyone got a copy. I shot the people waiting instead (yeah, I take weird pictures sometimes):

A patient tour group

Then we toured a museum of some sort (I think it was local art and culture from ~1600 to present). I was impressed by the high-tech humidity control devices:

Highly advanced Japanese humidity control: water in glasses

Look! Duck!

Look! Duck! Quackquackquackquack

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