Hello people, who may or may not like Japan, this is for you! This time, I’m producing content a bit different than the normal.
Recently my friend, Eggs Benedict, recently came back from Japan and of course, I want to hear about his experience there so I asked if it’s okay to interview him for chickenstarrocket.com. He agreed but asked that I use an alias.
Let’s start off with the basics. How long were you in Japan and what areas did you visit?
Eggs Benedict: I was there for 2 weeks to study abroad with 1 extra week for leisure travel. I stayed in IIdabashi which is a district in the middle of Tokyo.
Why did you go to Japan?
EB: It was a study abroad program. In the morning, I would do assignments with Unity and in the evening I would do homework related to what I did in class but slightly modified for a challenge. I wanted to go there for many reasons. One was I grew up watching anime and Studio Ghibli films. Another reason is I have a vast appreciation for different cultures. I feel like there’s a fascination for Japan in America. America imports many of its products from cars to technology to entertainment. I personally felt it was a must-see place and wanted to see the similarities between America and Japan. I loved picking out the similarities between the two countries.
What was your favorite part and why?
EB: The Meiji shrine for sure. I went twice. It’s set up as a primeval forest with the shrine in the middle. The resounding forest is teeming with life, there’s a giant tree pathway and it’s easy to get lost in your head in a very good way. All of this was surrounded by a bustling city. There’s a major reality distortion from the minute you walk in. Meiji shrine is massive and simple and yet ornate which comes from the influence of the Meiji era. I don’t know a lot of the history but the era saw a lot of industrialization and growth. Overall, a very soothing, peaceful place. I also went to the Osaka aquarium. It was f###ing amazing. It cost $20 for over 2 hours of entertainment. There were so many sub-areas where you could experience different kinds of sea life. They had a wide variety of sea life, from otters to nurse sharks. My favorites were the giant whale sharks swimming about.
Where did you stay?
EB: It was a really low-budget hotel next to a canal where you share really small rooms and outdoor bathrooms.
What was your first impression walking out of the airport?
EB: Crap! I have to go through customs. I’ve only been out of the country once on a cruise. So having to fill out the slip and declare all of my food and stuff was overwhelming. Once I got out of customs and actually got to be at Haneda airport, it was much better. The airport was massive. It had 4 stories above us with lots of restaurants.
How was the flight?
EB: When I got on the plane, the flight was huge and there were a ton of people. However, it was very clean and had lots of space. Overall, a great experience.
Did you visit any cafes? Which one was your favorite?
EB: I visited 2 cafes: an owl and a maid cafe.
At the maid cafe, I got a passport to dreamland and had to bless food with a cute ritual from the maid. It was so much fun! There was another student with me who seemed like he was questioning his life choices while we were there. The food was shockingly good. The maids spoke pretty good English which was nice as I don’t speak Japanese.
The owl cafe was very surreal. When I walked inside, I didn’t expect the owls to be loose. At the entrance you pay a fee, you get a 15-minute introduction–which includes safety–then you get 45 minutes to hold two owls. If the owls are bigger they are attached to a glove. If they are smaller, you get a leash with the owl attached.
What’s something that they do in Japan that American’s don’t?
EB: When I went to go see Detective Pikachu. No one laughed out loud in the theater and everyone sat through all the credits, waiting until the lights came on to get up from their seats. There was also so much gambling. There were Pachinko machines, Sega has crazy arcades with mostly claw machines and gotcha machines. Japan is really good at turning ideas and products into sellable content. For example, if I wanted to commoditize a character, I’d be making merchandise or some means of money from that IP.
Did you go to any shrines? What was it like?
Eb: I went to several.
Usually, there’s a well at the entrance with ladles. You scoop up water and wash your hands, then you pour a SMALL amount into your hand and spit it out onto the area under well. Blessings are sold and come in all kinds from good driving to wealth to good testing. Gates are meant to be cleansing or filter for bad spirits to stay behind from what I’ve heard. They say not to step on the middle beam because you are destroying the protection the gates bring.
Kinkaku-Ji shrine was very gilded and was a weirder experience. It’s one of the more famous shrines in Kyoto. For a very holy place, there were lots of vendors beyond your standard blessings. They sold ice cream, sake with gold flecks, mochi.
Ueno Toshogu Shrine was one that I skipped going to museums for. “Thousand Gates Temple” may not be the official title but it might as well be as there are sooooooo many.
During the study abroad part, I went to Shinjuku which is known for being the most Tokyo area of Tokyo. It’s a mix of traditional and modern and population density. Hanazono Shrine is located dead a## in the middle of this. It has staircases in front of it and you aren’t supposed to sit on it but there definitely were people sitting on it which I thought was funny.
Did you go to an onsen (hot spring)? What was it like?
EB: Nope, there were many around us and there was a day where study abroad and I went to an area near Mount Fuji called Fujiyoshida-shi. I especially wanted to see Fuji, but it was cloudy and so we saw a sliver of the base. I was p###ed.
So the group went to a theme park, called Fujiyoku island instead. We waited in the singles line and saw people taking off their shoes to get on this roller coaster which seemed like a bad omen for me. The platform lowered beneath them and the train went backward and it was then I wondered what I signed up for. Later I looked it up and it turns out this is one of two 4-D roller-coasters in the entire world. The whole ride lasted 2 minutes and it was quite the experience. Have I mentioned I had never been on a roller coaster until then?
What was the food like?
EB: There are vending machines everywhere and they range from unreasonable to reasonable prices. They have a vending machine for a wide variety of food from booze to tea to coffee.
I really grew to appreciate 7/11 because it has the cheapest Pocari Sweat. It is only available in Japan and it’s like Gatorade but not as intense. I made a trip to 7/11 every day.
Alcohol culture is very different out there. There’s a lot more leisure way to it. Nobody asks for ID. You can get a 4-liter bottle at Walmart-like stores. Many of the restaurants are bars anyways and thus how you consume is different. I had sake with sushi pretty much every night. Open container laws are chill there too.
Overall, food is weirdly cheap but what you do get is very high in quality.
Would you go back to Japan? If yes, would you want to live there or just visit?
EB: Yes but only to visit. I think at the end of the day there are places in the US that I could seriously see myself living a whole lot more.