Friday, March 4, 2011


It's probably one of the most expensive cities in the world. Food prices are high. Housing is high. It's expensive for Japanese. And many tourists have to shop around for hotels and restaurants they can afford.

Prices for comparable goods and services are almost always higher in Tokyo than in New York. Hotel rooms cost more, restaurant means cost more, and alcoholic beverages cost much more.

Visitors to Tokyo are sometimes shocked by the prices. A cup of coffee can be several dollars. A movie can cost twenty dollars. But at least the subway and bus fares are still reasonable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Population of Japan

It's over 127 million. That's seventh in the world after China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. The population density is about 865 persons per square mile or 334 per square kilometer. That figure is one of the highest in the world. When their first census was taken in 1920, the population was 56 million. It's more than doubled since then.

They have eleven cities with a population of over one million. The largest, of course, is Tokyo. If you include the suburbs, it has about twelve million people. It's one of the largest cities in the world.

Most of the population is urban. Between seventy-five and eighty percent of all Japanese live in urban areas. The cities and their surroundings are extremely crowded. But now demographers see a slight trend of movement away from the urban areas.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Size of Japan

It's about 144,000 square miles, or 372,000 square kilometers. That's about one twenty-fifth the size of the United States. Japan is an island nation. That figure covers the four main islands and roughly 3,000 smaller islands as well. The islands run in a general northeast to southwest direction. The length is about 1,860 miles, or 3,000 kilometers.

Less than twenty percent of their land can be used for agriculture. And about seventy-five percent of the total land area is mountainous. Most of the mountains are covered with forests.

There's not very much of residential land. Less than five percent of land area is suitable for residnetial use. That's one of the reasons that land is so expensive, especially in the cities.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquakes in Japan..

There are many earthquakes in Japan. Japan is located on one of the most active earthquake belts in the world. They have small tremors so often that they don't pay much attention to them. But they've had some terrible earthquakes in the past. So they're always aware of the possibility of a major earthquake disaster in Japan, especially those of them who can remember the ones they've had.

Tokyo had a major earthquake too. There was a major earthquake in 1923, called the Great Kanto Earthquake. It involved Tokyo and Yokohama. It was a terrible disaster. That earthquake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale.

There have been major earthquakes in Nagoya, ion Fukui, in Izu, in Hokkaido, and in Kobe- and others as well. And another major one in the Tokyo area is always a possibility. Most Japanese know what to do in case of an earthquake.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rainy Season in Japan

Japanese call it tsuyu. It lasts from about mid-June till mid-July. But it varies - sometimes it starts at the beginning of June. Or it might start later and last longer. It doesn't necessarily rain every day during the rainy season. And it's usually a gentle kind of rain. The rice farmers welcome it.

They have hurricanes too, but they call them typhoons. The typhoon season lasts from late August to early October.

It doesn't rain much the rest of the year, but it varies according to where you are - there are big differences among the four main islands. In general, however, the greatest rainfall will be during the rainy season and the typhoon season.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The best season to visit Japan..

Spring and fall are both good seasons to visit Japan. In spring, April and May are ideal. April is cherry blossom time, and May has almost perfect, mild weather. October is the best fall month. The weather is clear and lovely, and foliage can be spectacular. It's good time for sightseeing.

It is hot in summer, especially in the Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka areas. It gets really hot and humid.

About the winter, it depends on where you are. Japan generally has a temperate climate with four seasons. But this differs from place to place. Winters in Hokkaido in the north and on the Sea of Japan side can be quite severe, with lots of snow. Tokyo has relatively mild winters.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things I Miss & Don’t Miss About Japan!!!

I woke up yesterday and really missed the time I spent in Japan. I’ve been to a lot of places but I think that Japan has to be right there at the top of the list as one of the most interesting, vibrant and fun places to be in the world. Here is a list of a handful of those things, in no particular order;

1.  Weekends
Drinking less, exercising more (yoga, aerobics, hip-hop, swimming), eating healthy.

2.  Housewarmings, b'days, year-end-parties, Nomikai

3. The friends found, lost and found again!!

4.  Ease and speed of transport
I loved riding on trains in Japan. While I did do a lot of walking (average one hour a day) in Japan, for the most part the trains and subways were incredibly convenient. You can travel a long distance in no more than half an hour. From one corner of the JR Yamanote line, which will take you to almost everywhere you need to be in Tokyo, to the other, it’s only a mere 30 minutes. The shinkansen (bullet train, probably the coolest train on Earth) took me the 552 kilometers from Tokyo to Osaka in about 2 hours 18 minutes in total comfort.

The Japanese system actually covers the entire nation rather than just one metropolitan area. Even without using the shinkansen one can easily traverse the country without a car. They run on time. They're everywhere and thus extremely convenient. Unless you're way out in the countryside, you just don't need a car.

5.  Great food…all the time.
Food, Food, Food and more secret home recipes, sushi, natto, sasimi, ramen, all seafoods, takoyaki, tempura …N Starbucks coffee, macDonalds, KFC, Yoshinoya.

Onigiri is always on the top of the list of things I miss in Japan. There's just something so perfect about a ball (or triangle) or rice, some dried seaweed and a little salty fish filling. It's been called "Japanese soul food" and I have to agree.

On a hot day, there's nothing better than a mug of cold Japanese draft beer. It's light, refreshing, and served so cold ice crystals form on the head.

One of my favorite cheap meals was chicken karage at a 24-hour place.

Food is a huge part of the culture in Japan and one of my personal highlights from the time I spent there. Sure, Japan is the greatest culinary city in the world but at the same time, there’s fantastic food in nearly every major metropolitan city. The difference is…you can get totally decent food at just any hour. Many Tokyo restaurants are open very late; there are all-night cafes all over the city.

6. Fashion
I love all that stuff but more than anything, I love the fashion mentality of Tokyo. It seems as though everyone has put serious thought in what they put on that day and everyone is immaculately put together. I, of course, due to the heat and humidity was usually wearing light t-shirts and shorts and as such.

7.  Security
You really don’t have much to worry about. You could leave your luggage in the middle of a busy street and it would probably still be there hours later. Children and women can walk down alleys in the middle of the night without worrying about their well-being.

8.  Interesting…ness.
Every day, I had an adventure. I don’t think I remember any time I was really bored. I could walk out my door with no idea what was I was going to do and end up exploring all the great stuffs in the massive city. There’s also so much history everywhere.

9.  NHK
NHK is Japan's public television service and it's a giant organization that offers thousands of programming every day across its different channels. There are no commercials so their programming is not restricted to what appeals to advertisers. In particular, their sports broadcasting benefits greatly from the lack of commercials.

10.  Washlets
I would move to Japan just for the utter luxury of the hands free, automatic wash, rinse and blow drying of your crevasse from these super toilets. フォームの始まり

11.  Shopping Arcades
Every Japanese city of note will have at least one (but typically many more) of these small streets jam packed with stores, restaurants, bars, pachinko parlors, etc. Often they include a roof so that foul weather does not deter the activity, which make them valuable conduits for getting around in the rain. These places are almost always crowded and very bright, day or night, which in my opinion gives them an exciting yet completely secure feeling.

12.  Karaoke
Japanese karaoke is sung in a private booth rather than on stage in front of strangers. Safe experience of gathering your friends into a soundproof box. The song selection is also much more diverse, including thousands of English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean songs! These places offering unlimited drinks to help the music flow.

13. Cherry Blossoms
They may only bloom for a few weeks out of the year but these beautiful trees literally transform the entire nation of Japan. They smell terrific too.

I was lucky enough to witness the cherry blossom in full bloom the first time I visited Japan. Sakura, as it is known in Japan, is the nation’s favourite flower and blooms for little over a week in spring. Cherry blossom viewing parties known as ‘Hanami’ are held during this time and it is custom for friends and family to gather under the trees to eat and drink.

14. Service
There are a number of expressions and customs that simply make everyday transactions feel more pleasant. Enter any restaurant, retail store or even convenience store and you will be promptly greeted by every employee you can see. When you leave, regardless of whether you bought something or just used the restroom you will be thanked for your patronage. Train conductors, bus drivers are well-dressed and polite at all times. Set foot in a hotel lobby carrying anything larger than a purse and the staff will immediately sweep in and offer assistance. Not a single one of these hard working folks expect (or would even accept) a tip. Ice-cold Oolong tea is waiting for you when you take a seat and your food is delivered within minutes of ordering.

Some places may opt for a ticket system, where food is ordered on a machine that dispenses printed tickets. These are then given to the chef who will bring your order as soon as you can say “itadakimasu!” (Thank you for the food!).

15. Convenience Stores (Combini)
If all else fails, you can pick up some real decent onigri (rice balls), noodles or bento boxes at one of many convenience stores. In all honesty, you couldn’t possibly be more than 30 seconds from a convenience store at any given time. I’ll always remember the friendly chime and the “Irashaimase” every Combini.
16. Kotatsu
While heating during the winter in Japan leaves quite a bit to be desired, kotatsu is completely awesome and something I wish I had back home. When the cold would set in around December, I’d throw the quilt over the table and tried to have everything I needed within arms-reach because I wouldn’t leave until March.

17. Stationary:
Maybe I’m weird, but I’ve always loved shopping for school supplies, and Japan is a stationary junky’s dreamland. Even relatively small stores have pens that come in 17 different widths. There also all the wonderful stickers, notebooks, and file folders that have any animal, character, or famous landmark you can imagine on it. I’ll especially miss the greeting cards.
18. Souvenir snacks:
I think most of us think of “souvenirs” as tacky little trinkets we give to friends who probably will put it in a box and never look upon it again. But in Japan, the word for souvenir, “o-miyage”, also means little individually wrapped treats. Every little town has them in all shapes and flavors. They can be . . . interesting, like say a sembei with a slice of octopus baked in, but it’s a perfect gift for co-workers.

19. Cleanliness
Japan is a clean place. Everywhere I went was clean and tidy, it made being in a foreign country so much more comfortable and adds to the great impression of Japan everyone leaves with. Japanese take off their shoes as soon as they enter. Homes have a kind of entry hall called genkan which can be very large or quite small. They leave their shoes in the genkan. Then they step up from there into the home. Japanese do the same thing in some Japanese-style restaurants too.

20. Customer service
When entering a shop or restaurant a chorus of “irasshaimase!” can be heard, which literally means, “come in!” and as when you leaving nearby employees all thanked you with “arigato gozaimasu!” and a smile.  Everyone is incredibly polite and I even found myself taking up some of the mannerisms, bowing my head to shop assistants as they greeted me.
21. Shinto Shrines
They give me such a sense of awe, as well as peace. I like Buddhist temples as well.

22. Hot Spring Bath
A hot spring is so much more than hot water or a great way to relax.  Japan is a volcanic country and natural hot springs are to be found throughout the islands. Not only are the baths a place to relax and to socialise, but the water is naturally full of minerals, which can treat a wide variety of disorders including skin problems. 

ANd why not a 23,

23. Matsuri (Festival)
There's nothing like a Japanese festival, or matsuri.

There's a lot to miss about living in Japan, but there are some things I absolutely do not miss at all..


1. Being Stared At
If you're not Japanese in Japan you're different, and that means you'll get started at. It's not done with usually, just curiosity and you do get used to it, but you forget how nice anonymity can be once it's gone.

3. Summer
Oh God, summer is hot and humid in Japan.
4. Drafty Apartments
Japanese apartments are not built for living in, obviously. They're built to hold up the roof and that's all. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

5. Being Excluded
This is part of the whole being different thing. If you're not Japanese then you can never truly fit in. It's one of the prices you have to pay for living there.

6. Mosquitoes
Japanese mosquitoes are sneaky. They attack low, bypassing your head and going straight for your legs. Before you know it, you've been bitten 10 times. And the bites scab over, leaving gross little marks. At least there's no malaria.

7. Expense
Although I've
written to the contrary Japan is still an expensive place to live, mainly because there are no budget-priced items. Everything is made in-country and the price strictly controlled by the government. Good for Japanese business, bad for the consumer.

8. Being Illiterate
As much as I love the challenge of learning kanji, it's frustrating and embarrassing to not be able to read at a functional level. Ordering in restaurants often exposed this, with me reduced to pointing at things in the menu I couldn't read.

9. Typhoons in Tokyo
Most typhoons hit Japan between May and October with August and September being the peak season. The big typhoons can blow roves off and make things fly through the air and crashing into things.

10. Earthquakes
Japan has a History of deadly earthquakes. I might not be the only one that is scared of earthquakes.