Ohayo Gozaimasu: Highlights From TokyoDecember 1st, 2007 by Michael Kwan
Traveling through Tokyo is quite the experience, especially since I haven’t traveled outside of Canada and the United States in over a decade. It’s almost enlightening to go to a place where most folks don’t speak English and those who do, well, they don’t speak it very well. You come to rely on body language and rudimentary sign language to get your message across.
Seeing how much of my freelance writing work surrounds the tech sector — cell phones, the Internet, computers, and so forth — that was where I gravitated in Tokyo. Near the Keio Plaza Hotel where I was staying (in the Shinjuku district), there were several pachinko parlors and casual restaurants, as well as a huge electronics store.
Yodobashi has at least seven floors of electronics and gadgets. On the main floor, you’ll find things like laptop computers and cell phones. Mobile technology seems to be very big in Japanese culture, because just about everyone owns a mobile phone with all sorts of high-end functionality. Most phones come with cameras, music players, GPS, true mobile web, and 1Seg mobile TV.
Speaking of stores with many floors, this seems to be the case in general with both the Shinjuku district and Akihabara Electric Town in Tokyo. The same is true of their video game arcades. If you’ve ever played Virtua Fighter 5, the Quest mode involves several Club Sega locations. These are for real and I visited a couple of them. Both of them took up at least four floors; the basement was my personal favorite because it was the “battle arena”, filled with all sorts of fighting games. They host tournaments too.
One general observation that I have about Tokyo is that despite having a very dense population of people, everyone seems to be very courteous toward one another. It’s not uncommon to see hundreds of people crossing the street at a time, but no one pushes, no one shoves. The same is true on the sidewalks and in the subway stations. Even when driving through the very busy streets of Tokyo in our tour bus, people don’t honk or cut each other off.
I found this phenomenon to be particularly impressive near toll booths. There could be three lanes of traffic heading in a certain direction and it would fan out into as many as eight toll booths. As you approach the booths, there are no lane markings nor are there any lane markings as you exit the toll booths. All the cars merge into one another back into the original three lanes without honking or rudely cutting anyone off. It’s really quite remarkable.
My only regret is that I only got to spend two or three days in Tokyo. After familiarizing myself with their incredibly complex subway system, I feel a strong urge to go back, enjoying the sights and sounds at my leisure rather than at the hurried pace of an organized tour. If you have a chance to visit Tokyo, especially if you’re a tech geek like me, I highly recommend you do it.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of this post, ohayo means “good morning” and gozaimasu makes it more polite. You have no idea how many times I heard that and arigato gozaimasu (“thank you”) during my trip. Japanese people are so well-mannered!