What I want to tell you about Tokyo

Look, I’m not the most well-traveled guy in the world. But I get around. I’ve been to four continents, a lot of top tourist destinations, and a few unusual ones. I’ve eaten gumbo in New Orleans, pad Thai in Bangkok, fish and chips in London, French onion soup in Paris, and lobster rolls in Maine.

Tokyo is very, very different from those places. I’ve struggled to figure out how to explain it, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Throughout Tokyo there are drink machines, squat, refrigerated vending machines selling small bottles of various beverages for a dollar or two. We often bought water and other drinks: citrus soda, apple juice, iced green tea. It seems like there’s always a drink machine when you want one.

That’s not the magical part. Lots of cities have vending machines.

At a typical Japanese vending machine, you can pay in three ways: coins, transit card, or 1000-yen bill. About a dozen times during our trip, we slid a piece of paper money into the slot on the front of the vending machine, and not once did it ever spit the bill back at us.

That is Tokyo: the least annoying place I’ve ever been.

You know how at a good restaurant–the kind that is in love with making customers happy, not in love with itself–it seems like the staff knows what you need a moment before you realize it yourself? That’s Tokyo. The trains don’t stop in the tunnel without an explanation. We never had trouble finding something good to eat, usually within a few paces of where we were standing. And Tokyo is the most walkable place I’ve ever been in my life.

Tokyo has ruined me. I had a list of other places I wanted to go on future trips. I crossed them all off and just wrote Tokyo six times.

More soon, including Iris’s favorite food of the trip: grilled chicken tail.

12 thoughts on “What I want to tell you about Tokyo

  1. mamster Post author

    The guy in the black hat is awesome!

    I’m not saying Tokyo is perfect, but the fact that one of the first complaints here is “the cat that lives near my house ignores me” says a lot, don’t you think?

  2. nomitai

    Tokyo is awesome. My other half is still hooked on Japanese vending-machine beverages he tried for the first time six years ago. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

  3. Erica

    When I spent six weeks in Japan in college, I thought the ending machines where you could buy beer or vodka on the street to be an interesting concept…..

  4. Jenne

    I love Tokyo too, but if you think it’s never annoying, you clearly haven’t lived there. :-)

  5. mamster Post author

    Jenne, do tell.

    My point wasn’t that Tokyo isn’t annoying at all–just that it’s so much less annoying for the vacationer than Paris or New York that it might as well be in a different universe.

    Some things that were annoying: smoking in restaurants; DisneySea; boat ride canceled due to high winds (although the high winds were pretty awesome); bean paste. If you like bean paste, I envy you.

  6. Johanna

    I lived in Tokyo for three years and can second Jenne’s comment! That being said, I really really do miss the on-time trains and the vending machines (among other things:). I especially loved being able to get a hot milk tea out of a vending machine on cold winter days!

  7. Michael

    Tokyo is at the top of R and my list, outside the trips we go on for my conferences. It was a blast reading your tweets and I look forward to more details about the trip as they come along…

  8. ginny

    put Seoul at the top of the list…we just left after living there for 2+ years and Texas is totally reverse culture shock, mostly in a bad way :(

  9. Fuji Mama

    I’m shouting out a big “Amen!!” to this post. We moved back to the US from Tokyo almost 2 years go. What’s worse, is that we moved to Southern California. The reason that this is worse, is because on the “Rude-O-Meter,” California is much higher up, than say places like Memphis, TN, or Salt Lake City, UT. I’m still shocked by how rude people are and how bad the service is after having been spoiled in Japan!

Comments are closed.