Big in Japan

Posted by on January 28, 2015 at 9:50 pm :: No Comments

FYI, this is a rare Jason post. Be prepared.

Earlier this month, I headed to Japan for a few days of work. I was prepared for the business and technical aspects of my journey but I wasn’t as prepared for what it would be like to actually be in Japan. There are quite a few differences between the U.S. and Japan, especially for a computer geek such as me.

Viewing the Tokyo landscape from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, all I could see was structures to the horizon and beyond.

Viewing the Tokyo landscape from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, all I could see was structures to the horizon and beyond.

Tokyo was my first stop. Tokyo is one massive city, the largest on the planet. There, the buildings sprawl out without end and the streets seem to go everywhere. You don’t really understand just how big this city is until you observe it from the top of one of its huge skyscrapers. I went to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which has 360-degree views, and all I could see in every direction was skyscrapers, concrete, and more buildings.

Senso-ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, dating back to 628.

Senso-ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, dating back to 628.

You’d imagine that the WiFi access would be excellent in such a place, where so many people are packed into a small area. Well, there was WiFi hotspots everywhere in Tokyo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read any of the SSIDs and had no idea which ones were safe and secure and which were fake. Working in computer security has made me very cautious/paranoid about connecting to potentially malicious hotspots. My solution was to only utilize WiFi at the hotel and use cellular data as little as possible to save on my phone bill; it still ended up being over $400.

Mt. Fuji offered the only hint of nature's presence beyond Tokyo.

Mount Fuji offered the only hint of nature’s presence beyond Tokyo.

I also traveled to Sapporo and liked it more than Tokyo. Sapporo wasn’t quite as big but it was still a massive stretch of buildings. It had a very interesting underground mall, the largest mall I’ve ever been in. The people in Sapporo were extremely friendly, although practically no one spoke English. Everyone was willing to help any way they could and you didn’t have to go far to see a lot of sights.

This was my absolutely favorite meal in Japan. Who wouldn't want delicious Sapporo Ramen for lunch?

This was my absolutely favorite meal in Japan. Who wouldn’t want delicious Sapporo Ramen for lunch?

You can tell I really did enjoy the miso ramen.

You can tell I really did enjoy the miso ramen.

Do you enjoy and eat seafood? What would you envision if you were asked this question? I thought of flakey halibut and roasted salmon. Let’s just say that “seafood” means something else in Japan. I went out with some business associates to a very nice seafood restaurant in Sapporo. The meal consisted of 10 courses of authentic Japanese-style seafood: raw fish, tentacles, octopus eggs, sea urchins, and who knows what else. I probably wasn’t the best person to take to a fancy seafood restaurant like that.

Imagine this Sapporo TV Tower as a cartoon character. That is how all the signs represent the TV towers in Japan.

Imagine this Sapporo TV Tower as a cartoon character. That is how all the signs represent the TV towers in Japan.

Overall, my business trip to Japan was interesting but I’d much rather stay in the US. Japan was a crazy and hectic place, although very welcoming even when incomprehensible. It’s a different feeling being in a city with millions of people and yet not being able to speak to a single one. If you do go to Japan, I’d recommend learning a bit more Japanese than I did before going, which was none.

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