Friday, April 20, 2007

Tokyo - the big Mikan

I shall start off with a little Engrish gem I found that a new acquaintance of mine found in Thailand - it has not only funny Engrish but also funny Japanese!

And with that, I shall now talk about Tokyo since I was out there last weekend living it up. I've always sort of thought of Tokyo as like NYC with a whole bunch of Japanese people running around, which basically means it's just a big huge international metropolis and isn't really that representative of Japan as a whole. I never really enjoyed it that much when I lived right next door in Tokyo as a student, spending the vast majority of my time living it up and partying locally.

Now though, I'm starting to warm up to the place. I think there are 2 factors involved here - 1) I now have money. Tokyo is frickin' expensive to go out, so if you're on a tight budget then you may not enjoy yourself. Clubs are usually 2-3000Y at least to get in, and drinks can add up. If you just go for karaoke or some 2hr. all-you-can-drink deal like they have everywhere then it's roughly comparable, but you still have to pay to get around as well. A good night out in Tokyo usually runs you about 10,000Y (~90USD) - I think Saturday was about 15,000Y for me, and keep in mind that's with free accommodations since my friend Matt is such a nice and wonderful guy.

2) I don't live anywhere near Tokyo. The only time I go there now is to visit friends, or for the occasional convention, which is really just something for me to do during the day wasting time between the nights where I visit friends. It's vacation town.

There are some other factors in there as well, but I'd say those are the 2 major ones. Of course there's the fact that Tokyo is a place where you can find absolutely anything, including Mexican and some decent Thai and Indian food. And it's one of the few places with actual clubs. I've been to live houses for bands, but no good clubs in Sendai. That stuff was cool back in school, but because I was there entirely for the sole purpose of learning Japanese I cared more about the Japanese stuff than variety. Now I'd say options are good - have some awesome ramen or curry rice one day and a juicy Hawai'ian burger or good Pad Thai the next. Go to a hanami one day, then dance to some house music at Yellow the next. In the past I thought the international element of Tokyo meant that it was less Japanese, but now I'd say that Tokyo is very much a part of Japan. It's a sign of where Japan is headed, since things start there and trickle down.

I'd also say that the people there usually have a better grasp on the rest of the world than a bunch of people do outside of the big city. Just like anywhere else, if you live in a small town you're more likely to be slightly removed from the rest of the world and more interested in local issues. After all, everyone's really only interested in stuff that relates to themselves, whether directly or through someone else. Go ahead and think about it - it's true. I'm lucky enough to be in cahoots with people that have international ties despite living in the sticks due to their jobs, but some of the people I interact with around town have absolutely no clue about the world outside of Mr. Miyagi-land and what I tell them, which is basically why I'm here.

Tokyo though is where all international businesses in Japan have their headquarters, which means that there are plenty of well-off foreign nationals to interact with as well as plenty of people that go abroad themselves for business and bring back all these crazy ideas from non-Japanland. People there have more world experience on average, which makes it easier for foreigners to get along, especially if you haven't been here long but even if you have. Also, all the best and brightest aspire to move to Tokyo after graduation since that's where pretty much all the big jobs are.

So do I want to go live in Tokyo now? Well I wouldn't go that far yet, but I will say that I am now starting to understand what people see in it. Yes it's expensive and crazy and crowded, which can be bad, but it's also more diverse and crazy and crowded, which can be good. Yes it's a big crazy city, but that's not necessarily bad. I would say that given the right offer I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of a short Tokyo stint, but I could see myself tiring of it after a while. Hey, sorta like Japan! ;P

And with that, I make no guarantees I'll post anything in the next couple weeks as I'll be working pretty much non-stop... or at least be at work non-stop. Big event coming up.

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