Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tokyo Japan: A culture of cute

For the past couple of days we’ve immersed ourselves in shopping, hanging out and soaking up the culture. One of our biggest sources of entertainment has been cruising the shopping areas. This is because they are air conditioned, as we can only deal with the heat and humidity for short periods of time. Actually, in Tokyo, everywhere is a shopping area, from the train stations to Seibu, one of the biggest--if not the largest--department store in the world. We’ve visited Kiddyland (a six story toy store devoted to every imaginable toy), Tokyu Hands (a combination of Home Depot, Michael’s and Fred Meyer) and department stores like Seibu. At Seibu they even sell small live squirrels in the pet area. Cute, fuzzy tiny squirrels that look just like the millions of other cute furry things for sale here.

The Japanese are known for their hard work, their long hours on the job and the seriousness that is needed to become a major economic world leader. This seriousness, however, seems to be balanced by a never-ending embrace of all things cute. From Disney to Snoopy to Hello Kitty (all familiar to our American friends), the Japanese buy towels, keychains, toilet seat covers, toilet paper covers, rice pots, kimonos, fans, dolls, cell phone covers and everything else with cute characters embossed on the fronts.

While here we’ve discovered some really wild things that have been cutified. (Is that a word?) A ball of dust, a radish, raccoons, a small fire (his name is Calcifer and he’s from the Miyazake movie Howl’s Moving Castle) and the oddest one in our book: a whole cartoon based on a talking singing bag of caramel popcorn, complete with video and matching stuffed toys. Go figure.

At Disneyland the thing to do seemed to be buying a set of character ears (Pooh, Rabbit, Piglet, Mickey...), and wearing them around. Now, I know many Americans do this while out at the state fair, or a renaissance faire, but usually it’s the young ones doing it. Here we spotted men in their 30’s who were sporting tigger ears on the top of their heads!

My only question is: where do they put all this stuff that is bought??? We have seen no single family homes here. There are hundreds of thousands of apartment buildings, but they have to be on the average pretty small. There's a lot of recycling and separation of trash that goes on, but it still seems like the country's waste stream must be quite large.

All this cute does not come cheaply either. We knew before coming here that we wouldn't be able to stay for very long because things were expensive, but we are finding that we are spending about $100 more per day than we originally planned on. We are not doing the backpacker's route (we are in a business class hotel, albeit a very simple one) but neither are we spending extravagant amounts (no drinks at the Park Hyatt where Bill Murray hung out in Lost in Translation). Fact is, the cleanliness, terrific infrastructure, goods and service have to cost something. Tipping is not done, waiters and cab drivers are expected to give good service, with no extra financial motivation, so the costs of doing business must come out of the price of goods. That said, we are leaving Tokyo tomorrow before we go broke, and are taking the shinkansen(high speed, efficient bullet train, tickets for the three of us cost $334 and Dylan is half priced) to Kyoto. Two days in Kyoto, one in Nara and then onto Hiroshima before we head to Busan Korea.

Yours in Fluffydom


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