December 09


Bikkuri shita! Part 1

Bikkuri shita! Observations from Tokyo Part 1

By: Meg Humphrey

You’ll find cultural differences wherever you go – even if you’re just crossing over into a different part of your home state (what’s up, Eastern Washington?). When writing this, I was a couple days into a stay in Tokyo, Japan. I tagged along with a friend and a group of her co-workers. This isn’t my first time in Tokyo and I figured that with what I know about Japan I wouldn’t be thrown into culture shock. Although my body is freaking out, there’s nothing that has blown my mind (except how AMAZING the Disney Stores are here), but there have been a few things that surprised me. Maybe I’m not the only one?


1. Nobody wears sunglasses. It’s been 50-60 degrees F during the day with perfect cloudless skies and I’ve only seen a handful of people with sunglasses on. The people I’ve seen sporting them also have a particular looks about them – the women have been very high fashion and the men have had a punk rock look. I brought my sunglasses because I read the weather was going to be awesome, but I’m hesitant to put them on because of some social taboo.

2. PDA is fairly non-existent. I know Japan as a whole is a more conservative culture, but I haven’t even seen one couple steal a kiss at a crosswalk. Even holding hands seems a little racy.


3. Clothing is very uniform. Despite the abundance of “crazy” fashion from Harajuku that we all see on the internet, clothing in Tokyo looks pretty much the same. We went to countless stores and malls and even through different target audiences, the cuts, styles, and colors were very much the same. I thought Seattleites were dedicated to monochromatic black and blue, but seeing the seas of grey-black-cream-navy in the train stations was staggering.

4. People don’t go jogging. Okay, this may be an observation because I live in Seattle and there are ALWAYS joggers out and about in all weathers, but I’ve only seem a few joggers around town and they’ve almost all been non-Japanese. Maybe people don’t feel the need to go out on runs when they’re constantly going up and down stairs in and out of the train stations (my calves are looking great thanks to that).


5. Coffee is very expensive! A cup of drip coffee (between 8-12 ounces) is around ¥350! Maybe those are just the prices in Tokyo, but that’s crazy. I do have to admit, though, that chains like Starbucks and Tullys have WAY better drink and food options in Tokyo. The “in” flavor right now is tiramisu lattes. Yum!

6. Produce is wicked expensive. This isn’t completely surprising as Japan isn’t exactly a bounty of farm land, but it still makes my eyes bulge out when I was out buying some groceries. Also not a surprise – it’s pretty difficult to go gluten or free in Japan, especially if you a) don’t know Japanese or b) don’t know how to use kitchen appliances. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying eating rice everyday way more than I should, but my body is definitely not getting enough greens and proteins.

7. People think my Vibram 5-Finger shoes look cool.