Whilst waiting for my flight back home and looking at the beautiful sunset at the airport lounge, I shall sum up my experiences on this trip.
:: Trains. Japan has to have one of the best train transportation system ever. On this trip, we travelled from places to places via trains and buses. It's still rather expensive for each ticket but it's the cheapest way. There is the Shinkansen (USD$120 to Kyoto), J.R line, Metro Subway, Monorail, Odakyu line (To Hakone - we got confused and landed up paying more for our tickets!), Romance Car, Local Train (it's very slooooow), Limited Express, Skyliner.. and more. For those that I have mentioned, believe it or not, we took ALL of it -_- We managed to get around without speaking Japanese. We asked for help. On the buses, you board at the rear and exit in front and pay before you alight. Seriously, thank gawd for the trains which we depended heavily on. System is just amazing. And it's so CLEAN.
:: We felt like paupers in Japan. Everything is so EXPENSIVE. As mentioned previously, meals average S$16. Bulk of our money went to transportation and meals. Housing is terribly expensive. For e.g. USD700 per month rent for a 200sqft apartment! Movie tickets costs 3,000 yen i.e. 30USD!!! And it's on cheap nights! According to B.T's Japanese friend, A, whom we met up with in Tokyo, the average male graduate earns about USD2,300 monthly - starting pay.
:: I have never seen a country that is so polite. In the trains, there are 'Courtesy areas' which are designated for the elderly, expecting mothers, parents with young children and handicapped. In these areas, cell phones cannot be used. In the other areas, cell phones are to be turned on silent mode and you are advised to refrain from talking on the phone. NO ONE rushes into the trains. They WAIT for everyone to alight first BEFORE boarding. We loved it! In the long distance trains where food is being sold on trolleys, the waitress bows and announces before she enters and leaves.
:: It's hard to find a trash bin in Japan. None in the stations and few to be found outdoors. However, the place is CLEAN. No litter on the ground. It's quite amazing. People automatically keep their trash in their bags.
:: My greatest pet peeve in Japan is the fact that many people smoke and they are allowed to do so almost everywhere. In restaurants especially, I get annoyed when the table besides us has people smoking. It kills me appetite but that's the culture I guess.
:: Japan has an ageing population that is quite scary. It's something like a third are above 60 and the birth rate is 1.1 or something. In fact, everywhere that you go, you do see a lot of old people. Not in a bad way, but it does show the ageing population.
:: Food like I said, is so amazing. It's actually hard to find a place that serves food poorly. Everything tastes good. We tried everything except Yakiniku. Most of the food is rather healthy too. Although the scary fact is that stomach cancer is no. 1 killer in Japan. Or used to. Now it's lung cancer. But stomach cancer is from too much iodine in the diet. Everything is very tasty probably attributed to high salt usage in the food preparation.
:: Japanese are very fashionable people. I felt very un-stylish in Japan. Everyone is dressed very nicely and there is an unexpected twist in fashion style. The most fashionable winter wear right now is these 'shiny' down jackets as we both term it. Every one in three people that we see wears it. So much so that we both decided to get our own :P Yep. Complete with the fake fur decorated hoody. I thought wearing tights/leggings with knee high socks and warmers over was stylish, it's actually very common. I was glad that I could use my rarely worn boots in the cold. Also, if you want to wear dresses in winter, like I do, leggings/tights are the best especially in 3 degrees celsius.
:: I am still amused by the fact that the smallest note currency is 1,000 yen i.e. USD10 or SGD16. At one point in time, we had about SGD22 worth of coins!
:: Toilets. I never do talk about toilets except in Japan :P I love the warm seats and using the bidet and the cleaning spray. It's really amazing. Most toilets have it.
So that's some of the cool facts about Japan. Till I'm back, with the rest of the pictures and stuff :)