First Reactions: Life in Tokyo

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I have been here almost 2 weeks and there are things I see / experience here that sometimes delight me and at other times flummoxes me!

  • The very first thing that hits you is the size of apartments. When we entered our company provided accommodation, we were at a loss initially on how small a 2 bedroom apartment can be. A 1 bedroom place is less than 45 m2 (about 485 sq ft) generally and 2 bedroom places are 65 m2 (650 sq ft) perhaps.
  • Ignoring the actual size, the furniture and layout is designed in a way to make the space feel more spacious than it is. You won’t probably feel cramped in an apartment that’s the size of bedrooms in India.

  • Everything comes in small sizes. The convenience stores are small, the supermarkets are small and the pack sizes are small. Of course this is a comparison to what you find in US. But even the number of options or brands for a product are usually much less than a consumer economy like US or even India
  • Stores are kind of specialized. Most small convenience stores only have food items and no real grocery selection like fresh fruits and vegetables etc. Most supermarkets may only have fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. If you really want to shop around for shampoo, you probably need to go to a drugstore. Or a megastore / mall kind of shop.
  • Everything is in Japanese. Unlike India or US, even the remotes of TV, the TV menu language, microwave buttons or the toilet seat instructions, everything is in Japanese characters. I definitely wasn’t prepared for this and this one hits you hard. You need to do use google translate to figure out how to turn the AC on for that matter.
  • It’s hotter than Seattle here in Tokyo. It’s very humid too. But so far it feels more bearable than Delhi. The weather so far has alternated between hot and humid days to pleasantly warm days.
  • There are a lot of people. The crossing that you might have seen in a lot of hollywood movies including Tokyo Drift is right next to the Shibuya station. There are some times when I feel more than a thousand people are crossing the street in all directions at the same time. It’s hard to walk in this part of Tokyo without bumping into people I guess.
  • The trains that I have been on so far have been okay and not stressful at all. It’s not nearly as crowded as Delhi Metro and definitely not as unpleasant as Delhi metro.
  • The public transit in Tokyo is phenomenal! People live their lives by train stations. Every part of city is connected to a vast grid of subways, metro and trains mixed with some buses. Using trains is really comfortable and convenient here.
  • Lines. Just long lines. I see people lining up outside of music stores in a very orderly fashion perhaps for a new release. I see people lined up outside of a small lemonade store. Just today I saw people lined up and I don’t know what for. When people get on an escalator or a walkway they just move to left to let others use right side to pass. People will go back 50m from an escalator to get in the line in the right fashion. It’s something I didn’t think humans are capable of doing. Yet people do it here, day in – day out.
  • Electronics in general seem to be expensive. Though i haven’t bought any yet, just comparing them with the prices i remember definitely makes me feel that Electronics and gadgets aren’t cheap here!

I learn something new every day here. Its been a mixed experience so far: the joys of learning and getting things done on one side, and the frustration of not being able to communicate and understand the language on the other side. I will keep sharing my experiences as we go along.

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