An A - Z of Jo's Japan - Part One.
A is for Animation - is anyone not crazy about animation here? Whether it's comics or cartoons, everyone seems to be nuts for it. From the salaryman, reading his porno manga on the train, to the 18-year old school boy dangling his favourite Disney character from his phone; from the cartoon characters warning you against getting your fingers stuck in the train doors, to the cute character on the garbage vans. From his and her matching cartoon character clothing, to the old lady with cartoon characters dripping off her stationery. It's everywhere.
A is also for Apples - which are massive, often require two hands to eat and are the sweetest juiciest ones I've ever tasted. Yummy!
B is for Booze - now I have to admit that the last 16 months I've actually drunk very little, comparatively speaking thanks to studying for the Diploma and general tiredness / aversion to smoky places BUT drinking in Tokyo... shochu is probably my favourite drink. It's a clear spirit that can be made from various things like sweet potato, rice, barley. It can be drunk straight or on ice but is commonly used here as the base for cocktails. And it's bloody lovely. Bit of a gamble about the hangover though.
No post about booze would be complete without mention of the nomihodai which, roughly translated, means 'you are now challenged to drink as much as you can before your time runs out / you pass out and we'll take a ridiculously small amount of money from you to do it.' Nuff said. Wouldn't work in England, bars would be drunk dry. In Japan, the tolerance level is much lower. I'm sure bars shudder when a foreigner orders nominhodai.
B is also for Bikes - everywhere you go - bikes. Granny bikes mainly, with little baskets at the front, one gear and a self-locking device instead of a chain. And everyone cycles on the pavements, which can be rather annoying. Especially when it's raining and the cyclist is holding an umbrella. (see D is for Danger).
C is for Chan - which, along with Kun, San and Sama are honorifics added after people's first names. Except when they're used after the family name! Kind of like Mr or Miss. Except pets, kids (generally, although not exclusively, girls) and cartoon character are all referred to as Chan. Hello Kitty is Kitty-chan. Seriously. Kun is used for boys, San for adults and Sama for people who deserve a lot of respect.
C is also for Chihuahuas - Silly little bug eyed things that are not cute and can't cope with the Tokyo winters (but then neither can I) or summers and are generally carried everywhere anyway. In silly clothes. Okay, they're not that bad, but definitely not suited for Tokyo. Other than for the 'cute' factor. They're not real dogs though and, scarily, 'chihuahua' is also the second most popular search that has brought people to this blog.
D is for Danger - Tokyo is a dangerous city. You might step on a cockroach, slip off your stilettoes and sprain your ankle, break a nail fastening your designer bag, fall off your bike when trying to juggle steering with holding an umbrella and talking on your phone. You could be bruised by a granny's elbow as she charges past you at 20mph to nab a seat on the train or pass out from the salaryman's booze fumes on the train in the evening.
Okay. Tokyo is actually an insanely safe and secure place. I've not felt intimidated or worried for my safety here. I'll leave things on tables in cafe's while going to the toilet and know they'll still be there and, before my lovely green granny bike turned into a rusty mess, I'd happily cycle with things in the basket knowing they wouldn't be snatched. Heck, I'd even leave them in the basket while I went into a shop.
D is also for Dry Squid - love the stuff. Comes in a bag, very moreish - when it doesn't make you choke. Many hours of enjoyment come after eating it too, from trying to extract the strands caught around your teeth.
Part Two coming in next couple of days.