Dear esteemed readers of Believeitohrnot,
Hello from Sendai, Japan, population 1 million plus.
Sendai is in the north of Japan and suffered a lot of damage due to a massive earthquake in 2011. We’re leaving tomorrow to visit another small Japan traditional Inn (ryokan) and then we’re hitting Tokyo for a week before we board the cruise ship.
This blog post is about toilets, trains and other random stuff you might find interesting.
First, let me start with some potty talk.
Japanese toilets are a complicated subject. You might have heard this before but it’s true. Japanese toilets do a lot of things besides serve as a “business vessel”. Every toilet I’ve run into, even ones in public restrooms do a lot of magical things. I’m not making this stuff up. They really do.
Here are some:
1. First, when you sit down you are treated to a heated toilet seat, every single time. Sometimes you can adjust the temperature. Sitting on a heated toilet seat is a very pleasurable experience.
2. Second when you start doing your business a song starts playing so you don’t have to hear your loud disgusting potty sounds, and so others don’t have to hear your sounds. Cool, right? Sometimes the ditty is a tropical rain forest composition, sometimes it’s the sound of water running, and sometimes it’s just lovely calm muzak type tunes. You never know what you are going to get. But it’s all calming and pleasurable.
3. You always and I mean ALWAYS have buttons to clean different parts of you. There are often so many buttons (all in Japanese of course) that I don’t know what they really do. Sometimes Western style hotels have the buttons in English over them so I know they can 1) clean your backside 2) clean your front AND you can have the toilets spray at different temperatures and at different strength levels varying from strong to very gentle.
I’m sure they do many, many other things and we have 11 more days to figure them out! Also, every single toilet I’ve encountered even in public places like train stations are spotlessly clean and they never run out of toilet paper. I don’t know why they can’t be like this in the United States. After dealing with the stench and filth of Mexican bathrooms for months and months on end, this is very refreshing. Mexican bathrooms are horrible.
Traveling on trains in Japan is a real pleasure and going to the train station is even a bigger pleasure.
Japan train stations are phenomenal. First, they are just huge. I mean massive. Even the small train stations are large by U.S. standards. Most are located in corners of shopping malls so there is always awesome shopping to be done while at the train stations. Imagine floors and floors and floors of great shopping. And each train station usually features no less than 15 high-quality restaurants, some where you can buy beautiful and very inexpensive bento boxes to take-away. Don’t want bento? How about some fresh ramen, udon or tempura? Don’t want that, how about some sushi? Not in the mood for sushi how about a delectable fruit and ice cream parfait? These multi-purpose stations are simply amazing. You can eat, shop and drink coffee until your heart’s content. We always try to get to the station 45 minutes before our train to check them out.
It’s very easy once you get the hang of traveling throughout Japan, but it is daunting at first. To help make it easier and less expensive, we bought a 21 day Japan Rail Pass in Korea since tourists cannot buy them in Japan. You have to buy it before you get here. Once in the train station you simply located the JR counter, you wait in line for about 45 seconds (they have tons and tons of agents working there) and you tell the polite agent where you want to go next and around what time. Then the agent prints out a 1/4 sheet of paper with the draft itinerary which you approve. 45 seconds later you have a reserved seat on the bullet train. if it’s a local train, no reservation is needed. It’s the easiest thing ever once you get the hang of their massive system. Navigating the subway stations are a challenge because they are so huge, but with practice it gets easier and Captain Andy has a great sense of direction so we’ve managed to get around just fine.
Ode to 7-11!
In the United States and in Mexico 7-11 stores are great places to pick up Cokes and chips and maybe a pack of gum. In Japan, 7-11 stores at completely different and they are on every single corner. People go to 7-11 stores to buy real food, well-made food, that’s healthy and fresh. Because eating out in Japan can be expensive, we have found 7-11 a good and relatively healthy alternative for eating healthy and cheap lunches. You can get freshly made bento boxes with fish, rice and pickles for about $6 and they will heat them up for you.
You can also get small salads, tons of various types of fish cakes, fried chicken, steamed chinese buns, freshly made sandwiches and other treats.
It’s not the best food in the world, but it’s not the worst food either. I’m always impressed with the variety, selection and freshness. They do so much takeout that they have to keep fresh food stocked. They also have tons and tons of rice balls that make for a cheap and very filling snack
I haven’t figured out the various kinds of rice balls they have yet, but I like the ikura ones the best (filled with salmon caviar).
In addition to 7-11 there are also other places that sell cheap take-out food like 7-11 and they are on every corner. They are called Family Mart and Lawsons. Both are very similar.
We are still having a great tip and my next blog post will be from Tokyo before we board the Celebrity Millennium.