After two days of non-stop walking, shopping, photography, and eating, I think it caught up with me on Wednesday. I woke up feeling less than stellar, so we decided to take it easy.
Since my fiancé’s parents were in Hawaii, we were taking care of their house and their two dogs. That meant two long walks and one short walk every day, and feeding them twice a day. We both love dogs, and it was nice to spend some time playing with them too. The parents’ house was right next to a park, which is convenient for walks, but I also took them around the surrounding narrow streets to explore. It’s less weird if you are walking a dog than just wandering the streets on your own, and it was a great way to talk with the other ladies on their morning dog walks. Small dogs are of course the most popular because of the small apartments and small houses that dominate Japan.
I like Japanese TV, and in my hometown in America and during my study abroad in Japan, I was always able to watch Japanese TV. Fuji TV and NHK are available in certain parts of America, especially California and Hawaii. My grad school is in a primarily white town, so there aren’t even Spanish-language channels. There are lots of dramas on Japanese TV, from romance to action. The popular one in December was Massan, or at least I noticed it most, because it was a story based on the relationship between a Japanese whiskey distillery founder and his Scottish wife. There are also lots of variety shows on Japanese TV, including game show types, street interview types, and even one where comedians force their famous guests to spend ridiculous amounts of money on things like suits, fish, and cars. Needless to say, I spent a lot of the day watching Japanese TV and we also rented movies from Tsutaya ツタヤ.
Tsutaya is a rental shop for DVDs, CDs, and manga. They usually have deals so that you pay less if you rent bulk (e.g. 5 CDs, 5 DVDs, etc.). You need to be a resident and have a visa like a student visa, or be a Japanese resident, to get the T card for rentals, but if you aren’t going to be living there for a long time you probably don’t want to rent movies and CDs and would rather travel anyways. You can’t use Netflix or any of those things from an American account in Japan, although they are coming up with a Hulu program with limited releases especially for Japan. DVDs and CDs are expensive in Japan, so rental is really the best way to go. You can buy off iTunes, but apparently my fiancé and I like “obscure” bands that are not on iTunes. The local Tsutaya is like any video rental store, but there are some bigger ones in Shibuya and other metropolitan areas that are more like a coffee shop space for drinking Starbucks.
I bought a few manga (comic books) in Yokohama and at the train station by our apartment because I don’t have a smart phone that works in Japan, and I wanted to have something to read on the train. Everyone on trains is using their smart phone, reading manga, or sleeping. My fiancé can finish a manga in like 10 minutes, but I realized that it’s because he buys the ones with not much dialogue and a lot of two-page single-panel spreads. I buy the girl’s comics, and with my slow reading speed, one manga can last me at least two days ^^
Manga cafes (マンガ喫茶店) and Tsutaya rental have made buying manga less attractive. At cafes, you can pay for a certain amount of time and read as much as possible during that time, or at Tsutaya you can rent a few books for a week and read at your leisure. This is cheaper than the $5-$8 you pay for a manga book, especially if you’re done in less than half an hour. My fiancé also reads one serialized comic out of a whole weekly book (like Shonen Jump), which means that he doesn’t want to pay for the whole book just to read the one comic. Instead, he just stands in 7-11 for 10 minutes and reads the latest update and puts it back. He scoffed at my manga purchase, but it’s totally worth it for me.
I also watched a little bit of Yokai Watch 妖怪ウォッチ – the newest craze in children’s anime, which is even taking over Pokémon in popularity! It’s definitely a children’s anime as far as the storyline, but since it has to do with ghosts, it is interesting to learn about the different Japanese ghosts that my fiancé grew up knowing about but that are completely new to me. And the theme song is so catchy. ウォッチッチ！
One thing I noticed about Japan is that even though the technology is very advanced, most things are still done with cash and not a lot of things are done online. While Amazon is popular, I was surprised that something like Netflix was not and that Tsutaya rental stores are still really common. Credit cards and international cards are still not widely accepted except in large stores in the Tokyo metropolis, and people still buy most things at the local store rather than having them delivered. It’s very common to carry large amounts of cash (and relatively safe since you don’t worry about being mugged), and to make large purchases like cars in cash. A Japan travel suggestion based on experience: bring more cash than you think you’ll need, and make sure your credit card has good international benefits (e.g. foreign currency exchange rates, etc.).
Thanks for reading! What kinds of Japanese media do you like? Anime, manga, live-action movies, music? If you’ve traveled in Japan, did you have trouble using credit cards? Did you think it was inconvenient? Are other countries as primarily cash-based as Japan?