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Hi Blog. Sunday Tangent time: I saw one of the worst Star Trek (TOS) shows ever (one that makes you say, “Give me my 50 minutes back!”, and no, it wasn’t “Spock’s Brain” — it was “Catspaw”; enough said). In the same genre of howlingly bad copy and information, let me send along this little ditty of Japan travelogue by a Ms Jolie Hunt, whose qualifications are, quote:
“Jolie Hunt travels on her own dime for more than 50 percent of the year. She is the global head of public relations for Thomson Reuters, appointed April 2008. Prior to that, she served as global director of corporate and business affairs for IBM Corporation She was the director of PR for the Financial Times. She lives between New York and London.”
Her “Catspaw Article” follows. Go to town on it. And better yet, follow the link back to The Daily Beast and see how fellow commenters go to town on it as well.
Why don’t we Japan-residents ever get any of these sweet gigs? At least they wouldn’t have to pay us intercontinental airfare. And we’d know what we’re talking about. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Gal With a Suitcase
by Jolie Hunt
The Daily Beast, undated, spotted by AG November 30, 2009 http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-27/gal-with-a-suitcase-2/full/
Welcome to Tokyo, home of Harajuku, supersonic toilets, and food that can make even the sturdiest stomach reconsider career options. Every traveler wants to visit Tokyo, but making the schlep (and it is a schlep, from virtually anywhere) is an entirely different matter. But believe me, it’s worth it.
I hadn’t been to Tokyo in three years and what struck me on a recent three-day visit was how the city seems vaster, yet more accessible for Westerners, than it did when I was last here. Now nearly everyone, from your cabbie to your masseur, can manage a few words in English. And speaking of cabbies, Tokyo’s are glorious. All wear white gloves, have doily-adorned seats, and accept American Express. And no more renting one of those weird cellphones when you visit; 3G now works here. All these comforts and conveniences have a way of making Japan feel less foreign—almost, I dare say, like any other major city.
This can be a chaotic, rebellious place, where fashionistas in Hello Kitty haute couture strut the streets of Shibuya, and young punks with 10-inch Mohawks screech from makeshift stages in grimy underground clubs.
Thankfully, what remains unchanged are the enchanting Japanese. Many of the clichés remain true: flawless etiquette in every encounter (even if I was occasionally called “mister”), exquisitely prepared food, perfect-in-every-way service, and masterful in the art of the business deal. I like that life here retains a tinge of formality, too. Take, for example, press releases, hand-delivered to all journalists in the Nikkei by a bike-messenger every day—no blast email, no fax.
But just when you think you’ve got Japan figured out, it surprises you. This can be a chaotic, rebellious place, where fashionistas in Hello Kitty haute couture strut the streets of Shibuya, and young punks with 10-inch Mohawks screech from makeshift stages in grimy underground clubs.
Before we get to the tips, one little bento box of warning: Tokyo isexpensive. If Sofia Coppola were making her movie in 2009, I’d propose the title Cost in Translation. The only place I’ve been that’s more outrageously pricey is Moscow, and you typically get caviar as part of that experience. If you’re on a budget, don’t come—you haven’t a chance in the world. Instead, arm yourself with the phrase takai neh (“How much?!”) and be prepared to shell out. GWS learned this lesson the hard way when trying to buy a basic hair band that would cost no more than $12 anywhere else, but here was quoted at $79. Suffice to say, I did not leave Japan with a new head accessory.
Park Hyatt remains a fave. It boasts jaw-dropping views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day, and the infamous New York Grill on the 52nd floor, which I tend to give a miss due to the oppressively loud jazz music. There’s a delicious breakfast at Girandole on the 41st floor, and big, heavenly beds in every one of the 178 rooms, including 23 suites. Skip the gauche, ‘70s-styled spa called “Club on the Park,” but do everything else. Service is mwah—superb concierge. Its location in the Shibuya area is a bit of a haul, but nowhere is perfect. Starting at 35,700 yen (about $400.)
3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Few do it better than The Peninsula, a three-minute walk from uber-posh Ginza, across from the Imperial Palace. The neighborhood is gorgeous, and the 24th floor’s restaurant, Peter, is a destination in and of itself. Also a big fat winner is their spa, Espa. 314 rooms and 47 suites, from 60,000 yen (around $685. Ouch.)
1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Claska is, strangely, one of the only designer-boutique options in the city. 12 rooms (nine Western, three traditional tatami style) and a hopping lobby scene, but you must book early. It’s out of the way, but it’s reasonable: rooms from 12,600 yen, or approx $120 for a single.
1-3-18 Chuo-Cho, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Robataya. You just have to. This Roppongi institution is the ultimate in kitsch dining experiences. Western faces line the small, den-like robatayaki restaurant, where two large Japanese men kneeling over a grill will cook up whatever fresh food you’re in the mood for. It’s utterly delicious. I recommend the Kobe beef skewers, fresh shrimp, and any type of veg. Be prepared for a loud welcome and a wacky host called Suzuki. It’s expensive, naturally, but it’s the best meal I’ve had in Tokyo.
1F, 7-8-4, Roppongi, Minatuo-ku, Tokyo
Make your reservation now at Aronia De Takazawa. This stunning restaurant is impossibly delicious and is fully booked far in advance. With only 10 seats, it has some of the most palate-pleasing fare Tokyo has to offer. Set menu, so your only job is getting in.
2/F Sanyo Building, 3-5-2 Arasaka, Minato-Ku, Tokyo
Their mantra is simplicity and their food lives up to it. Promising an “alluringly comfortable time,” Higashi-Yama’s 10-course tasting menu is a veritable sashimi-gasm. No English menu, so just nod and smile. Closed Sundays.
1-21-23 Higashiyama, Meguro-Ku
Set your alarm for a visit to Tokyo’s infamous Tsukiji Market. It’s worth rising in darkness to spend an hour or two slinking amongst the frenetic commercial activity of this working fish market. The tuna auction takes place from 5 to 6:15 a.m. and must be seen to be believed. Be mindful of mad fishermen on moving vehicles; they do not stop for tourists. And dress accordingly—this place is covered in slime. Wear with old sneakers or boots and be sure your trousers don’t drag. I couldn’t bring myself to eat sushi this early, but if you’re game this is the freshest catch on earth. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays.
5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045
Meiji Shrine and Harajuku. A trip to the Harajuku area is daunting, but if Gwen Stefani can do it, so can you. Elaborately costumed Japanese teenagers converge here every weekend in a bizarre Japanese youth-culture ritual that has no parallel anyplace else on earth. Tucked away on the opposite side of the Harajuku train station is one of the city’s hidden gems, the Meiji Shrine. Set in a serene park oasis in the middle of Tokyo, a visit here gives visitors a real sense of history and traditional Japanese culture. On a weekend you may witness a wedding, or families paying their respects at the temple, or—my favorite—beautifully attired children in kimonos and slippers.
Once you’ve found Zen, venture into the chaotic experience of Takeshita Street. A guidebook I read aptly called it “a conveyer belt of black hair.” If you’re brave enough to shove your way through the crepes-eating teenagers (yes, crepes) you’ll be rewarded with sensory overload in its purest form. Push through to the end and you’ll come out to Omotesando Hills, where top-brand shops abound. If seeking a late lunch, one of the few options past 2 p.m. is Sin.
Not leaving yourself enough time to get to and from the airport. It’s two hours from Narita International into central Tokyo. Cabs cost $300, or there’s the limo bus that stops at the big hotels.
Beware of eating at places without prior recommendation. Oftentimes you’ll be given a set menu, which offers little choice for diversion. GWS spent many nights staring in horror at plates of indistinguishable fried creations, or worse, raw ones. (Is that uncooked chicken?) Your Japanese hosts may be confused by your reticence. My advice? Be gracious, and carry a granola bar.
Jolie Hunt travels on her own dime for more than 50 percent of the year. She is the global head of public relations for Thomson Reuters, appointed April 2008. Prior to that, she served as global director of corporate and business affairs for IBM Corporation She was the director of PR for the Financial Times. She lives between New York and London.
Now read the comments up at the site:
33 comments on “Sunday Tangent: Headachingly bad Japan travelogue by Daily Beast’s “new travel columnist” Jolie Hunt. Go to town on it.”
I see she’s corrected some of her spelling mistakes after reading the comments left on the site…. I believe it originally mentioned Omotosando hills
This ersatz ‘Travel Columnist’ is not much of a gourmet.
What can you say. Almost every sentence is wrong or ludicrous in some way. But having read the comments on the other site, I almost feel sorry for her. So, in her defence, about this line:
Instead, arm yourself with the phrase takai neh (“How much?!”) and be prepared to shell out.
Several people point out that takai ne(h) doesn’t mean “how much?”. But she used an exclamation point, making it into a rhetorical question that means “that’s way too expensive!” So it can just about be regarded as a possible translation or a thing you might say to yourself in those circumstances.
I love the idea that everyone became able to speak English in the three years since her last visit. But surely the funniest bit is where she says, “Just when you think you’ve got Japan figured out, ….”
amateurish reporting indeed. She should have stuck to writting a real trip journal instead. Nice face though, looks like Nelly Furtado
Tokyo’s just like a regular major city now! And now that Japan finally has 3G cellphone networks… wait, what? But, the city is just impossible to visit on a budget, what with $600 hotel rooms and $80 hair bands. Where was she shopping for hair bands?
It is bad, but if you’re a very rich ex-pat with no common sense or limit on finances it may make some kind of sense. I’ve met many a person like this on my travels and they generally seem to have no concept of the fact that Japan is a completely different place from their homeland in many ways. She also seems to completely miss the point of Japanese food, preferring to venture in only “safe” areas. Re: “My advice: Be gracious, and carry a granola bar” Kind of a bizarre thing to say when you’re supposed to be enjoying the cuisine of some of the best restaurants in the city. Definitely a rich tourist orientated post, as it had me scratching my head in confusion every second sentence!
And her comment about being more accessible to Westerners is probably her assuming that the abundance of said “Westerners” means they have the same rights as everyone else. But in Shibuya and Harajuku, what else would you expect? There are so many tourists in these places that they do have a certain atmosphere in some areas but to the visitor they seem no different to anywhere else unfortunately…
Maybe if she goes out on a weekend evening to Roppongi she’ll see some stuff she wouldn’t expect or want to believe in this “perfect” city…I know I certainly have over the years! To quote her, beware of going to places without prior recommendation!
“food that can make even the sturdiest stomach reconsider career options… My advice? Be gracious, and carry a granola bar.”
Yup. That about sums up the whole thing, how appropriate it brackets almost the whole article. Really though, it’s the experience most Western business executives expect.
“Japan? What, did you draw the short straw or something?”
(Real quote, CEO of a huge American international company. Goes on regale us with his “experience” with the food).
Racism / Xenophobia / Closed Mindedness isn’t solely the purview of (some) Japanese 🙂
“arm yourself with the phrase takai neh (“How much?!”)” LOL. Perfect, what more needs to be said 🙂
So the background is she’s very rich and gets the kinds of “jobs” that rich trust-find kids get (the ones that don’t involve any actual work or responsibility, just lots of meetings, conferenences, travel, and networking to find the next “job” before your employer wises up to the fact that you don’t actually DO anything), advises us about going to 5-star restaurants that us commoners can’t afford, remains totaly unaware of the Tsukiji tourist controversy and just fuels the flames, and doesn’t let her apparent total lack of Japanese language skills factor into any of her assumptions (J restuarants just give you set menus?). Ugh.
Did she get paid to write this?
cabs to tokyo 300$???? the k’sei skyliner is only ~20 🙁 …guess she chose the wrong form of transportation.
Meh, it wasn’t all that bad…just more of the same cookie-cutter travelogue junk anyone could find in a guidebook or airline magazine. Not so awful, but not particularly interesting or inspired, either.
When worse comes to worse, you can always settle for the good-ol’ Maccy-D’s you can find at every corner of the town… Better (IMHO) if you can find a Burger King, but if you like Wendy’s then too bad, since as you all know they’ll be gone after this year…
I love how they’ve been hiding Meiji Shrine! But why was there nothing about demure Geisha-girls ot conductors shoving you into the trains? (Maybe she took a nap after being the only person not eating “fresh sushi” in Tsukiji Market.) And why nothing about anime and manga? She could have recommended the sue-kee-yah-kee if here tastes weren’t so highbrow. And most of all, I miss discussion of “the bullet train.”
Pretty poor stuff, but there’s loads of it about and I’m afraid it is exactly what many overseas publications want when they commission articles on Japan. That’s especially true, as Carl@10 says, in the case of airline mags (and some guidebooks; some are good, some are bad IMO).
Usually I would say don’t rush to blame the writer. I’ve had quite a few experiences of really poor edits/wholesale rewrites that have had me using incorrect Japanese, have got place names and basic geography wrong, have added sweeping generalizations and even whole new and irrelevant sections, have added flowery and inapropriate adjectives etc etc etc. But in this case, given just how naff it is, it really does look like the buck should stop with the writer.
Yes, it definitely reaks of a middle aged tourist with more money than sense and a rather conceited idea about what the rest of the world should be like. So many – and I hate to stereotype, but particularly American – tourists seem to think that countries should exist to be quaint sightseeing spots that see to their every home comfort; never mind that Tokyo is home to 12,000,000 people who have a rather different culture.
I’ve read similar travelogues about London, and after having lived there for two years I began to wonder if they were talking about the same city. Maybe you get a different perspective as a tourist to that of a resident, but I had no trouble finding cheap and decent quality pubs, restaurants and things to do in London (okay, so as a student I tend to go for the lowest price possible, but still…)
I visited Tokyo last year, about the time when the GBP started to freefall. It was expensive in the same way as London is: at face value. Step off the beaten track, walk into some side streets, and you’ll find how the locals manage to shop and feed themselves without breaking the bank.
None of this is to even mention her spelling mistakes, her bizarre idea that everyone can speak English, and her upturned nose as regards Japanese food.
Post none, some, or all of this if you like, Debito. I penned it when I first arrived in Japan in 2003 and sent it to my friends. Ms Hunt’s ‘travelogue’ reminded me of it.
I have, over the years, read many e-mails from people who have gone overseas. The majority of these e-mails have been awful, so I would like to share with you a wee something I have put together that should save you the bother of ever having to read such pieces of unmitigated codshit ever again. You should with some relevant alterations – such as replacing ‘temple’ with ‘monument’, for example – be able to use this in the place of any e-mails sent from anywhere in the world.
I have worked hard to bring you this so if you would like to send me money then do so.
Typical e-mail from person overseas.
well, what a great time i’ve been having!!!!! There’s so much Culcha in this Country. were too begin? I arrived 5 days ago so I will give you an inventry of all the things I’ve done and use up as much of your Hotmail memory space as I can.
On the 1st day i went to a temple and it was just awesome to see all this stuff from the Edo period. The Edo period was this time in japan in the 1700’s when Japan just closed itsself off to the rest of the world. Ive learnt so much history since I got here that I’m now fully qualified to lecture sixteen shades of fu ck at you til ur brains rot from boredom. Or maybe it was the 1600’s.the next day I visited some markets. these japanese people are sooooooo polite and freindly. I bought a piece of dried fish in a vaccum-sealed bag for 1200yen (about $NZ14 – you probably don’t care but since I left home on Wednesday I’ve become a self-proclaimed international currency and futures expert and i’m going to amaze you with my knowledge of foreign exchange rates). I tried to barter the old lady down but she drove a hard bargain!!!!!!!!!!so much Culcha.
the next day i visited the tallest building in Tokyo and it was unbelievably high!!!! So high if fact that I’m going to take this opportunity to construct a laboured and irrelevant simile in order to compare it with something back home that’s not as high, and tag on a bunch of exclamation marks in an attempt to make this pile of poo that i’m writing seem interesting. This building, called the Tokyo tower makes the auckland sky Tower look like a childs’ toy!!!!!!!!!!!!then the next day I decided to find some bars because its important for me to show you that i’m really a bit of a wacky, zany boozehound who cuts loose from time to time, rather than a dull old felcher. The drinks here are really expensive!!!!! You would hate it here,…. [insert name of obnoxious drunkard back home]….!!!!!!It cost me 800yen for a pint of guinness ($NZ10.64.333333333) although I could have gone to a non-touristy place and got a local lager for 400yen but then who wants to be surrounded by a bunch of [epithet deleted]? Not me, thanks.
Well, on Tuesday morning needless to say (but I will say it in the form of a blokey understatement), I wasn’t feeling to chipper!! I thought i’d better take it easy so I went to an art gallery for the first time since (i was fu cked senseless by boredom when i was at) high school, and WOW!! it was awesome!! The best thing about it was that it gave me a chance to tell you that i’d been to an art gallery. afta 15 minutes in the art gallery i went for lunch and (cue “I-dont-know-how-it-happened-but- probably-it’s-something-to-do-with-my-wacky-zany-good-time guy-attitude” tone) I ended up in another bar!!!I met this guy Tony and he was cool. so on the next day we hit the big smoke and got lost at tokyo Station. The place is MENTAL!!!!!!! We could of read all the signs which are conveniently bilingual, or asked one of the ladys at the information desks who speak better english than us, but our attention spans are far too short to register anything worthwhile so we walked around like retards speaking to each other in loud voices and doing our best to look like crazy lost tourists.
For the next fifty lines i will tell you all about Tony and some other people of no consequence to anyone who hasn’t met them. I will do this in a very dull fashion in order to completely alienate you from both the characters and the context. Blah blah blah….50 lines later…
Well, i’d best sign off now coz this is costing me a fortune (300yen or $NZ4.63.57454 per hour) and I have some grossly exaggerrated platitudes to finish with to show what a great guy I am.
I love you all soooo much and miss you all heaps and think about you 24/7 and thanks soooo much for all the emails, Mum, and I’ll see you when I get back on Saturday.
Local and misspelled foreign farewell
P.s. Sorry about the spelling and grammar but i’m in a rush and that’s always a good excuse for being illiterate in the native language of my birthplace.
I think the problem with this was that it has been written by a person who clearly doesn’t have a ‘budget’. Global head of PR for Thomson Reuters? She would have to be earning upwards of $200k a year. I’m not bothered about her earning money but she is a poor choice as a travel writer. She would want to be able to relate in some way to the vast majority of her readers who can’t afford to spend 300 dollars just to get into Tokyo without mixing with the people.
One other thing…..travelling on her own dime for 50% of the year? How does that work? I doubt the head of PR in such an organisation has time to take 6 months off each year NOR are Thomson Reuters sending her around to the world on business and making her pay?
It smelt a fair bit of BS to me. I could have written that article by leafing through 3 pages of my Lonely Planet guide
@andi “I hate to stereotype, but particularly American – tourists seem to think that…”
If you hate to sterotype, don’t do it. Just because for many people anti-Americanism is the the socially-acceptable form of discrimination doesn’t excuse it, and does not make you look good. I’ll happily shut up if you can cite a peer-reviewed paper than proves most asshole tourists are American citizens.
And on a website that does its best to expose discrimination, no less.
I haven’t posted on this website for maybe a year (still a decent site though) but I just had to this time when I read your comment today. Thank you!! Having lived in Japan six years, I know from experience how some foreigners, even a few Americans, easily show their anti-American feelings. I’ve been to parties, for example, where I’m introduced to someone (NJ) who immediately gives me a sour look after hearing I’m an American. Once I was even kicked.
Your post makes a point about anti-Americanism rarely voiced it seems, even on this website. Kudos to you, sir.
I’ve always enjoyed all the folks who come out of the woodwork on other people’s (great, good, mediocre, bad, or truly horrible) travelogues. This isn’t a guide for anyone it’s her experiences. Arguing about that is like saying “well, I’ve never experienced discrimination in Japan so it must not exist”.
She’s a woman with no budget who’s there to see what she wants to see, stay where she wants to stay, and shop where she wants to shop. I wouldn’t expect her to be spending the night in a budget hotel or eating noodles at a vendors cart.
But I love the fish market, it was one of the highlights of my first trip to Tokyo with my wife (and her first trip to Tokyo as well) – why should a tourist care about some controversy? It’s really cool if you haven’t been before.
In all honesty, the only time I’ve had a “set” menu while dining at a high end restaurant in Tokyo was the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten (when we saw the prices we almost walked out, our bill for 3 people was over ¥100,000, thank god for expense accounts).
And I am one of those people who will try to eat anything – which my hosts generally find amusing since they will often go out of their way to test that (the first time I had sashimi that had been swimming when we walked into the resturant and then started to wiggle as we were eating it along with the fish trying to breath I’ll admit I turned a little green and needed a LOT of beer, the next night the guy put the fish back in the tank and let it swim around which turned me equally green, the live baby octopus in Osaka were my favorite – one of my hosts got ill eating those). Some people aren’t…
— Actually, it is a guide, isn’t it?
“Sunday Tangent: Headachingly bad Japan travelogue”…
— Would “Headachingly bad Japan guide” inform your assessment of this piece better?
Oh calm down and get a grip. I made a small jab at American tourists. I haven’t refused you a job, insulted you in the street, or attacked you, so leave the label of discrimination for something more serious than cross-pond poking fun, please.
As if “anti-Americanism” even adversely affects you in any way.
— Okay, your points are made. I’m drawing this thread of the overall discussion to a close. Anything else on “Anti-Americanism” here will be deleted.
Chuckie – your faux e-mail had me roaring with laughter. Thanks for making my day 🙂
Yeah, this article sucks. But, the part about 3G is obviously just a typo, laziness, or she knows nothing about tech. She was probably meaning to say GSM, which is relatively new to Japan. Now, she can bring her designer phone and use it on softbank.
Not all the bad writing on Japan comes from overseas.
From Japan Today, Dec 14th: “For gaijin, being nude in front of the same sex is embarrassing, especially for men. We fear that another guy will check out our family jewels. With this, I think gaijin miss an important and fantastic part of Japanese culture.”
— Yep. Never said it did. Have been quite critical of uninformed writing about Japan for many years now. Criticize it when you see it. It can even be fun — hence the Sunday Tangent status.
“‘We fear that another guy will check out our family jewels. With this, I think gaijin miss an important and fantastic part of Japanese culture’”
BWHAHAHAHAHAHA, oh man, I don’t even know what to say other than: Debito-san, please give us a nice “Just Because” article in JT about how we’re all missing out on this fantasic part of Japanese culture. And please use the term “family jewels” repeatedly. It’s almost X-mas, is that too much to ask for?
— Tatemae: My JBC columns come out the first Tuesday of the month. I won’t make it in time for Xmas.
Honne: I just can’t be bothered with the bullshit perpetrated by idiots, with even more idiotic editors asleep at the wheel letting this get through. Bob Neff has apparently written the definitive book on onsens in Japan. I have written the definitive book(s) on how G-men will sue for the right to enter an onsen, even if that means their “family jewels” are on display.
You can call it whatever you like. As far as it goes it seems to me that this is not meant, in any way, to be a “guide”. It is her experiences, preferences, and suggestions. I don’t know about you but I’ve never stayed in a $600 a night hotel room (even on business). I doubt she left Ginza/Harajuku on her shopping excursions. Somehow I don’t see her eating at the same sort of places that I prefer to eat. Nothing wrong with that.
Of course even some of the comments to her page are wrong (or maybe whoever it was who has lived in Tokyo for 20 something years has forgotten that unless your hotel is right next to the Tokyo/Shinjuku station the limousine buses are usually faster and drop you off at the front door of your hotel rather than dealing with connections/walking/which exit do I take/finding your hotel when you can’t read the street signs/luggage etc.)
I understand a general tendency to mock those who have some rosey preconceived notion about how Japan is all super polite helpful people, kids in strange costumes, women in kimonos, anime, and other weird wonderful things – and I enjoy the mockery as much as anyone. I also enjoy it when Japanese ask me about their preconceived notions of the USA/anglo foreigners (now if I could just convince my wife to start telling people those rumors are true instead of busting out with a good belly laugh, but I digress).
It just seems a bit harsh to be busting on her travelogue like it was a lonely planet guidebook or something. Now busting on her poor writing skills – I can’t throw stones perhaps others can.
Since I find myself procrastinating and spending a bit of time on the site today I may as well chime in on this one as well. I am in the camp that wonders if the author actually visited Japan.
I found the article to be very elitist and a terrible and inaccurate depiction of Japan. I think we are all aware of Japan’s pitfalls but this gives me a chance to something I really like about Japan….the way we can eat over here….and I am not talking about someone that spends there time in 5 star hotels.
Running my business here I have had the chance to travel all over (from Kyushu up to Hokkaido). My best experiences in Japan have been in the small local eating establishments (a small yakitori-ya or sushi-ya as one example). It seems that the author implies we may want to avoid these places unless someone recommends them to us.
I have visited many such establishments (and I am very guilty of liking to try the local sake in the places I visit – had a bit too much earlier this week in Niigata) and I have found that the “masters” of these establishments, more often than not working with wives..kids..etc.., are about the friendliest people I have ever met either inside or out of Japan. I learned Japanese by going to these places..these guys were patient enough to endure me and often curious enough to engage me. I have never encountered any type of discrimination in these places and more often have been welcomed as a foreigner in a really good way (not the “oh you can use chopsticks” type of way).
To those of you not living in Japan that may have read this article, DO NOT take this woman’s advice. Venture out and look for the “hole in the wall” in the back alley and take the plunge inside. More likely than not you will be treated very well, experience high quality foods that cannot really be reproduced by the larger chain type establishments, and have a time that you will not forget.
There is one place I like to go in Kumamoto where the master’s primary hobby is running a small izakaya…his primary trade is making hankos….in his izakaya his hobby is to carve wooden fallac symbols. They made great omiyage for some guys I was hosting from The Netherlands…but oh that is another story….maybe one for the book I would like to write some day….(by the way Max Danger is old and outdated – anyone up for collaborating on a 21st century version?)
Anyway – the author’s perception is shallow….but I really must thank her for offering me the chance to reflect on some of the really unique and great experiences I have had in Japan.
Sorry for rambling…have a nice day
I think this article was some kind of Artificial Intelligence experiment gone wrong. Or maybe it was a success, considering that it just barely passes the Turing Test.
Not sure what to say.
I shall have to start at the top I suppose.
First: I assure you, all those things she described have been around well more than the last three years. I’ve been in the country since ’04… They haven’t changed. And as for the occasional guy calling her Mister… Hate to say this, but if they know the word they know what it means. This is a country where masculine and feminine are not conjugations, they are dialects. I suppose it is easier to call it quaint than it is to accept that you have been insulted.
I can’t comment on hotels, but I can definitely comment on food: Those little wholes in the wall that only have set menus are some of the best places to eat, quality wise, price wise, atmosphere wise. More importantly, they are Japanese, not a western restaurant pretending to be just Japanese enough for the tourists.
Narita international to Central Tokyo is 45 minutes if you stop at every vending machine along the way to refill on caffeine. If she isn’t willing to take the train, then she is not willing to actually report on Tokyo.
And a follow up to Dough (Post 28), when he says hole in the wall… You can take that description literally. Some of the best food is located in some of the scariest looking places. 🙂 I love living in a country where it is actually safe to not only walk around the back allies, but also eat the food there!
haha… I’ve visited Japan 5 times in the last 10 years, and I meet this sort of person every time on the way into Tokyo from the airport- they give themselves away when you hear them mutter “why isn’t my Blackberry working?!” (real quote from two different occasions- you’d think they’d bother looking into international roaming…). Honestly, aside from ‘little’ things (fingerprinting, insanely increased police presence during the G8), nothing has really changed from a tourist’s point of view at all. Well, Akihabara gained an absurd amount of McDonalds, but apart from that…
Her “If you’re on a budget, don’t come—you haven’t a chance in the world” line absolutely cracks me up. I’ve stayed at plenty of hostels that are as cheap as ones in Australia, and easily twice as good (cleaner than most peoples homes!). Sure, it’s not as cheap as travelling through Asia, but it’s certainly not terrifyingly expensive. Plenty of us ‘backpackers’ lived off only a handful of yen a day. Maybe we just forgot to sign up for the hair band shopping tour…
I have a problem with ragging on her for the food thing- what is wrong with some of you people? You sound like ultra-nationalists. “YOU DONT LIKE RAW FISH WHY DID YOU COME HERE!” etc.
Some people just don’t like raw fish! Don’t equate Japan with it please- there are plenty of other dietary choices. I personally can’t eat cooked fish no matter how hard I try and get ignorant comments from Oyaji: “oh, we Japanese LOVE cooked fish”.
I think her recommendation of carrying a granola bar and being polite to the hosts was very smart. My parents visited Japan and had trouble with some of the dishes as they are different from the pasta we usually have at home. This would have eased their hunger instead of asking to go to McDonalds after! (No we are not American so no ridiculous stereotype-casting please.)
As for the other stuff she wrote… flame on!
Laden with just about every cliche I know about Tokyo. It’s just a profoundly rubbish article.
Interesting comments to a wholly uninteresting article…
Rob, your comment about the JapanToday article… I think many of us forget that gaijin when used in English has a different meaning than when used in Japanese by a native speaker. So too are the uses of ethnic (to describe food), exotic (ask a Japanese person), and so on.
As to the various ex-pat bashing comments: I see this everywhere, not just among Caucasians in Tokyo. Japanese employees of major companies outside of Japan tend to huddle together, sending their kids to the Japanese school. This is not particularly rare when you look around the globe. Get over with it. Leave them in their bubble. Maybe they are not suited for life in the local culture/economy…