What A Difference A Decade Makes.
We last visited Tokyo August, 2005. It was the first city on our epic trip around the world, and while it’s been a decade since we’ve been here, most of Japan seems exactly how I remember it. After a week here though, there are some changes worth noting. So, in the spirit of David Letterman, here are the Top Ten changes we’ve noticed while in Japan.
10. Technology. Since this is one of the most technological countries on the planet, advances are a given, but when we last traveled here, we didn’t have iphones, texting was something that was just starting to happen here and not even seen in the U.S. and there weren’t data plans. We had to figure out everything the old fashioned way, with guide books and paper maps.
9. More technology. There have even been leaps in technology in the past two years since we lived in Europe. Our apartment here in Tokyo came equipped with this amazing invention called the mobile wi-fi device. It’s smaller than my phone and lets me access wi-fi without having to figure out an overseas data plan. It helps us use all the technology that we take for granted. Genius.
8. Less smoking. Seems like there are either fewer smokers or there are more rules against it, but we’re seeing a lot less smoking this time. There are dedicated smoking areas now and signs on the street forbidding smoking while walking.
7. Guys wearing shorts. We barely saw men wearing shorts on our last trip here, but now, especially on the weekends, Andy is no longer the only guy flashing his bare knees on the subway. Still, don’t see women wearing shorts, but they do wear short skirts.
6. More Asian tourists. We’re seeing more tourists from other parts of Asia now. Maybe they were here before, but if there were, we didn’t pick up on the different behaviors of the Koreans and Chinese from the Japanese.
5. More ice!! Maybe someone got the memo I sent in 2005, begging for more ice in drinks, or maybe it’s the influence of Starbucks, but there seem to be more places that offer ice in drinks.
4. Spending power. The dollar is stronger than the yen right now, so that 800 Yen (about $7) lunch isn’t such a bad deal.
3. Facebook. Thanks to our ever-growing connectivity around the globe, I can wake up and see what everyone else is doing and feel like I’ve never left home. That is, until I walk out the door. I can also post updates which for better or worse, allow me to share in the moment how our trip is going. I’m glad we didn’t have Facebook when we did our year-round trip. There’s something to be said for virtually as well as physically casting into the wild blue yonder without a trace.
2. Tsukiji Market. Back in 2005 it was possible to show up at the largest fish market in the world, wander the stalls and if you were lucky, attend a tuna auction, without having to camp out the night before. Due to an insane amount of tourists, like us, the market has had to crack down and limit access to everything. Now tourists are only allowed after 9 am, when most of the action is dying down.
1. Us!! The biggest change we’ve noticed on this trip to Japan is us! Not only have we traveled to over 30 countries since our last visit here, and have also lived abroad, but we’ve had much more experience traveling through Asia. While things don’t intimidate us or scare us as much, we are also no longer constantly wowed by all we see. Are we jaded, or just wiser? Dylan is no longer a pliable and impressionable eight year old, but a fully formed adult with her own thoughts, ideas and fancy camera, so she’s giving us a level of feedback we didn’t have before. We have a greater level of comfort diving into different situations, and inherently “get” how things operate in Asia.