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Japan, 2017...

First impressions
Tokyo
Kyoto
Nara
Osaka
Himeji
Hiroshima
Kanazawa
Village near Narita
Random observations

Japan: images and observations

My family and I visited Japan in October 2017; these pages records my impressions, both photographically and verbally.

While Japan is about as far north of the equator as Australia is south of the equator it is hard to imagine two countries being more different topographically, geologically, demographically, climatically and culturally. Where Japan seems to be made up of small flat plains, either along the coasts or between ranges, and steep, geologically new mountains, Australia is mostly huge plains and undulating country and old, worn-down mountains. Where Japan is very crowded Australia is sparcely settled. Where Japan is well watered year-round, Australia is dry for a significant part of each year if not year-round. Where Japan is culturally very much a part of the Orient, Australia is Western.

On these pages I have concentrated on what I found particularly interesting, surprising, or different to Australia. This is the starting page of the series, there are separate pages on Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Himeji, Hiroshima, Kanazawa and a Village near Narita where we spent our last day in Japan.

The images are generally shown in chronological order within each page; most were taken with an iPhone 7; some were taken with a Canon PowerShot S3 IS. I continue to be surprised and pleased with the quality of the images acquired using the tiny camera in the iPhone.

This page written 2017/10/01 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke)
 
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First impressions

Kingdom of the spiders?

 
Spider

Bush spiders

We flew into Narita, one of Tokyo's two international airports, on the evening of 2017/10/08. I am an early riser; this is one of the first views I saw on going out of the Narita View Hotel (where we stayed on our first night).

This sort of spider seems to be common in vegetation in Japan; there are very similar ones in similar situations in Australia.

Photo taken 2017/10/09
 
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Cobwebs
One of the hotel garden beds was covered with cobwebs, all loaded with dew, making them conspicuous.

Also notable in this photo is the ginkgo tree, which while they don't handle Australia's dry climate well, are commonly grown in Japan, particularly, it seemed to me, in temple/shrine gardens.

We only stayed in Narita for the night; we caught a morning train into Tokyo where we met the rest of our family.

Photo taken 2017/10/09

 
Narita View Hotel

Narita View Hotel

A view of Narita View Hotel itself and its extensive grounds. It was a beautiful morning as can be seen, with low mist and a clear sky; no wind.

The hotel also had a small area of trees with a walking trail through it.

It was very convenient for us because it was close to the airport and Japan Rail railway station (at the airport) and there was a free shuttle bus that got us there and away.

The first impression of the weather turned out to be rather misleading; we had little sunshine in our three weeks in Japan.

Photo taken 2017/10/09
 
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Random observations

Vending machines

 
Vending machines
Vending machines were common in Japan. Like the subject of rubbish the vending machines and their contents tell us something about Japanese society.

Not only can one buy hot and cold tea and coffee from vending machines, one can also buy alcoholic drinks. We heard the question asked, what is to stop minors from buying alcohol from vending machines. The answer was, 'but that would be illegal'. The Japanese are generally a very law-abiding people.

Photo taken 2017/10/12



Japanese food

 
Lunch
We loved eating Japanese food, but did have trouble finding restaurants when we wanted to eat, especially ones that had space to accommodate our group of nine. Many restaurants only had seeting for a dozen or so people, many only served take-away food. We found restaurant food prices to be similar to those in Australia.

Generally we had breakfast and dinner in our AirBnB accommodation, and bought lunch out. We usually found that there was a supermarket where we could buy food to heat in our accommodation within easy walking distance.

Bread was interesting; it was typically available in packages of about a half the size of an Australian loaf. These were pre-cut into four, five or six slices; even the loafs cut into six had rather thick slices. There was very little choice; almost all bread was plain white, although French-style bread sticks were sometimes available.

Cheese was generally available only in very small packs, often of individually wrapped small pieces. (Overpackaging was typical in most of the things we bought or considered buying.) Only once did we find (in Hiroshima) a place that specialised in imported foods that had packs of cheddar cheese as large as 500 gramms (at a price more than we would have paid for 1 kg at home.

Most restaurants had an English version of their menu. However, when food such as this, came we often didn't know what the individual items were.

My wife, Denece, is in the foreground in this photo, Beth, Anna and Shayne's arm are visible in the background.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
'English' menu
An interesting drinks menu. The title states 'Drink Menu' in large English print, with 'We serve alcohol in extra charge', and something else that is illegible, written on the bottom, everything else in Japanese. Not of much use to anyone who does not read Japanese!

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Power lines

 
Power lines generally run down the middle of Japanese city streets. They spoil many a view.

As can be seen in the high-resolution copy of this image, many of the actual power conducors are supported by a steel cable; the power lines, the support cables, and the wiring that joins them together all add to the clutter.

Photo taken 2017/10/13



Graffiti
 
Graffiti
At the end of the holiday I didn't remember seeing any graffiti in Japan, and none of the family did either. Going through my photos I came across this shot.

It is notable that all the graffiti is confined to the rubbish bin. It seems that most Japanese are responsible in their behaviour and consider their community in their activities. My impression is that Australians are more inclined to think selfishly.

Photo taken 2017/10/12.

Rubbish

Rubbish bins are few and far between in Japan; toilets are easier to find – but that's another subject. Yet, while there are few bins, there is less rubbish on footpaths and roadsides than there is in Australia.

Generally rubbish must be sorted into at least three types, as suggested by this bin; and exactly what is included in each of the three types seems to vary from place to place. If a householder does not sort his rubbish correctly the garbos may refuse to pick it up.

Given the difficulty of disposing of rubbish one might think that packaging on goods from stores and supermarkets would be minimised. Quite the contrary! We were continually astounded at the level of unnecessary packaging that we came across in Japan; it is bad enough in Australia, far worse in Japan.



Overpackaging

 
Packaging
If I was asked to pick one thing wrong with Japanese society I might well say overpackaging.

As and example: I bought the little package of pickled daikon, top right on this photo, at the Kyoto Golden Temple souvenier area. The bloke wrapped it in the paper (bottom right), put that in the plastic bag (bottom left) and then that went into the paper bag (top left). There was no need for any packaging other than the inner plastic wrap.

Overpackaging to this sort of degree was very common. We refused packaging many times, but a lot of the time refusal is not an option.

Also see rubbish, on this page.

By the way, we ate some of the daikon, but through out most of it; it must be an aquired taste.

Photo taken 2017/10/14
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Breakfasting alone

Most days we breakfasted in our accommodation, but one morning in Tokyo we had breakfast in Deny's, on the bank of the Sumida River. Many Japanese were doing the same thing; it was interesting that most of them were breakfasting alone.

Birds

Most of our time was spent in the cities, so we could not expect to see a huge variety of bird life, but we were surprised how few birds were to be seen. Crows (or ravens) were faily common, we also saw sparrows, pigeons, a few herons, kites, a couple of phesants (in a country area), and, I think, ducks. We also recall seeing a few small birds we were unable to identify in various gardens.

From memory, and looking through my photos, it seems that there were very few water birds on the ponds within gardens.

A far greater variety of bird life would be seen in most Australian cities.




Index

Birds
Breakfasting alone
Food
Himaji
Hiroshima
Kanazawa
Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto
Kyoto
Kyoto railway station
Meiji-jingu Shinto shrine, Tokyo
Nara
Village near Narita
Osaka
Overpackaging
Power lines
Random observations
Rubbish
Senso-ji Buddhist Temple, Tokyo
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo
Shinkansen (bullet trains)
Stone slab bridge
Tiny gardens
Tokyo
Vending machines


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