*Warning*- There will probably be a large amount of text with no pictures. Don't say I didn't warn you.
So I know I said "within the week" but that quickly turned into "about a week and a half later", oh well.
And here I am, the day-before-the-day-before another bogus holiday trying to think about what to write to you guys about my travels abroad. Its hard to sit down and analyze a trip while your on it, and at the same time hard to think about it once the jet lag has already disappeared. So instead of trying to get all philosophical on what I saw, experienced, and learned- I'm just gonna go ahead and be generic and do a little thing I'm going to call
Tips from a guy with Orange hair of things that may or may not help you if you ever go to Japan!
- Be Polite dammit! As you've probably heard, the Japanese are very kind and polite people (for the most part, you know there always has to be an exception to the rule). I mean seriously, they have an entire intricate system set up for how you properly bow to great someone. Every time I purchased something I did a small bow and spoke one of the two phrases I learned for the trip "arigato gozaimasu" - which I was told was a more extreme form of "Thank you". When I did, clerks cracked a smile (some waitresses let out a small giggle) and I got the feeling that they appreciated the effort.
A side note- as you walk around you might notice that some people are wearing face masks, I was told that you're supposed to wear one when you're sick so that you lessen the chances of getting others sick. So when I had a slight cough one day I actually went out and got a mask. It may be a little hot in those things, but I guess if they're willing to try to keep their sick germs off of you, you might want to consider keeping yours off of them.
- Don't go for one thing. When talking to my friends, I tend to hear a lot of "I want to go to japan for this specific thing", and what that translates into is "I want to cut myself short". Don't just plan to go to a bunch of concerts, or only go visit conventions, or only go to arcades or electronic stores. Point is- there is a lot to do, from enjoying the beautiful gardens to using that 20 bucks you set aside to try your hand at pachinko. Don't sell yourself short and plan on only doing one kind of thing, which more or less leads into the next point
-Plan Ahead! One of the things I'm grateful for is that the professor that took us had a game plan. Anytime she saw that we had a morning before, or an afternoon after a company visit- she had picked a place on the way for us to go visit. We went to Nakano Broadway after a visit to Toei, had Taiko drum lessons after Telecom, had karaoke reserved after our visit to Namco-Bandai, took a trip to the Ghibli Museum before heading to Xbox Japan, and on all but one of the free days had plans to go to the touristy spots like some of the famous shrines and temples (whose name I unfortunately never learned) and Tokyo Tower. If we didn't have any of that planned, then I would have spent like 4 days just going to the same 3 busy areas of Shinjuku, and I would have gotten bored. It makes sense- if you plan something to do then you know you're going to do something.
-Go with others One thing I learned in my solo trip to NY last year is that when you travel to someplace that is new to you, you should probably be with at least one other person. There's a certain satisfaction that comes out of saying "did you see that?!?" to a friend. You will be seeing things for the first time, and you're going to want to share the experience with someone, and your going to want to talk. When we were on the train, we were always talking about something we saw, the ads on the train, the food we had had, the stuff we had purchased, anything. It was a wonderful experience to have a bunch of friends around to talk to while there.
-It may or may not be cool to take pictures. Most places will have signs telling you you can't take pictures, but some might not. I learned the hard way that not all stores allow you to take pictures of them. At first you'll notice I took pictures inside of everywhere, but after I realized that it probably wasn't a good idea I stopped. If you really must snap a photo- I suggest you ask a clerk or attendant if its alright. They're usually nice about it (at least they were at the Pokemon center). As far as non-stores, try not to take a picture inside a temple- its pretty prohibited to photograph the giant golden Buddha.
-Take Cash. Yes the exchange rate is kinda messed up now with the weak dollar, and you will probably end up doing your monetary conversions at 100 yen = 1 dollar, and that will in the end slightly affect your wallet, but believe me- its MUCH better than having the bank charge you 3% of every purchase because they feel like it. Sure some places take credit/debit, but its always best for you to carry cash. A lot of places actually don't care about your card. I was surprised when one of the McDonalds I visited didn't accept my card, but I had the cash to pay for my meal anyway. Exchange your money at your bank or Currency Exchange before you go, then pretend that little box in your suitcase is a bank and make daily withdrawals. This also leads to the sub point Save money to Eat! You don't want to starve because you blew all your dough in Akihabara. Which leads to sub point Don't spend all your dough in one place! You will see new things everywhere you go, so you might want to plan to only spend so much at one place so that if you find something awesome in another you have no problem making the purchase.
-Keep your luggage game on lock Shipping is expensive, and one of the best ways to not pay for shipping is taking full advantage of your 2 checked bag + 1 carry on + 1 laptop bag policy that most airlines have. What I did was put a smaller luggage case inside a bigger one, and I probably should have also packed a duffel bag inside of that. Use the biggest bag for the boxed statues/toys/action figures/big games, the smaller one for Manga, properly folded clothes, and books, the duffel for dirty clothes, and the laptop bag for anything you want to make sure won't break.
-Don't assume One mistake that one kid made was that he assumed that all Japanese people loved Americans. Not true, I'm actually inclined to believe that most people around the world hate us. One guy I met certainly did not like us as he tried to add extra 0's to prices and talked under his breath. Unfortunately the kid didn't learn from his mistake and probably still thinks that the kindness he experienced was because they love us, when in reality the people were just generally kind and he was being both embarrassing and kind of a jerk.
-Girls have feelings. I know a lot of people love going to foreign countries with nothing other than the intent of getting laid. The problem with that is that people (especially women) actually have feelings, and simply using them for a good lay makes you an asshole. Don't think that women are just going to fawn over your americanness (unless of course you're a blonde dude with dashing looks in which case they will). Besides, if you go there and just hit on women all day you're probably giving the impression that that's all Americans care about is getting down and dirty, and that's not true.
-Have fun That's self explanatory.
-Don't write a blog every night about what you did You'll end up like me, blabbing on not exactly able to make sense of what just happened. Then you'll post a lot of text that few people will actually read as everyone else just jumps straight to the link of the-