These are mine. Yours may vary. Mine suit someone for whom the initial charm of the city has worn off (drink and horizontal Orientalism), but is still able to enjoy what it offers (variety) and hopes to minimize the greatest annoyances (ignorant people and concrete). These have come by accretion the longer I spend here, the longer away from my own culture (Anglo/Western), the closer I get to pushing a salaryman in front of a train...
I would appreciate input, and if they are useful, or just funny, I'll add them to this list. It's my blog, so I'll alter them from the comments section to suit me. All of the borrowed ideas are in colour. Take my alterations or additions as responses. I did not intend this to trail off to nasty characterizations of Japan; however, it is something of an Anglos-in-Japan Godwin's Law.
There are strategies for the flâneur.
- Going out of my way to walk through a park with an acre of tree canopy: sometimes on a weekend and sometimes on the way home from work. Yoyogi and Meijijingu are prime for this, and there are others, but too few...
- Dropping into a Segafredo for a doppio machiatto on the way home from work sometimes as I know nobody else in the city who can make one.
- Do not attempt to put up with smoke. There is no such thing as a 'non-smoking section' in Japan if there is a 'smoking section' on the same floor. They understand ventilation about as well as noise control. If the smoking section is on the second floor of a shop the first floor will be smokeless, but there will not be enough seats as the first floor shares both seating and the work area. The locals used to chain smoke on train platforms, offices, cafes and restaurants: now they can only do so in cafes and restaurants, and do. Find smokeless cafes, bars and restaurants, as few as they are, and patronize them: Popeye's!
- A smartphone, or a pocket booklet map if you read characters. I long used the latter, but a smartphone in this address-randomized city is a revelation. So is 'streetview'.
- There are no interesting walks between Tokyo centres: blocks separated by noisome avenues are all low to mid-rise light industry and trailer parks, or close to as residences are shit.
- The locals are deltas. Do not go anywhere when all of the locals will. It will be miserable.
- Shopping mostly online, which is as true home as here: storefronts only have higher prices and less stock.
- It is simpler to find answers shopping by looking online than by asking a human. Remember how stupid people are at home? Now add language/cultural barrier...
- Never buy a Japanese-brand phone, laptop or other technology: too little English on the interface and manual; too little functionality outside of this Galapagos.
- Do buy Japanese cycling equipment: Shimano, Dixna, Sugino, Nitto and others are far cheaper here. Forget complete bicycles or frames, unless you are as petite as the locals.
For the 'social drinker'.
- Do not bother investing in friendships with locals who have not spent some time abroad, wherever; also true of locals in our own countries, for that matter.
- Beer is served too cold in N.America; it is served colder here. Just as well for the ubiquitous swill, but for the good beer go to Popeye's or one of the other craft beer places.
- Foreign beer and spirits are as cheap retail as local of the same quality, which begs the question: why pay the locals to imitate Scotch and European beers? Some do well at this, to be fair, but none make an Isla Scotch. I do believe in local beer drinking, as it seems absurd to ship ale across oceans.
- Never drink anything called a 'sour', and never drink 'sake'/nihon-shu unless you're sure it is the real stuff. If the 'sake' is warm best bet is it is bad. Industry 'sake' and shochu are poisons that will give you your worst yet hangover. Real 'sake' will give you less hangover than anything you've had yet. There is no good reason to drink shochu of any quality.
- Craft beer in cans is a damn shame.
Many strategies have to do with the trains.
- Never taking the last, or near to last, train home. Whatever fun I might have squeezed out of another hour in the evening is more than negated by claustrophobia and disgust with the smell of humanity, not to mention the worsened hangover from the extra drinks I had.
- It is worth paying a bit more in time and money to choose a commuting route to get on at a station where there may still be seats: where a train starts, further out of the city, from the far side of the Yamanote to where you are headed, or a local over an express train.
- Choosing said seat, decide if you want one nearer the door to exit more easily, or further from the door so you are not in the position where you can/should give it up to someone who entered who needs it more; few locals do.
- Check the partition at the end of the bench beside the door. The end seat is the most popular as nobody sits on one side; however, if it is a short partition some ass will lean on it far into your space. If it is a tall partition it's gold; if short move along to sit against a pole.
- It is usually best to sit between women, when you can. They have narrower shoulders, do not open their knees as if they have an infection, smell better about their person as well as launder more often. They also brush their teeth and refrain from coughing and yawning open-mouthed.
- Any route which requires three trains is poorly planned.
- Any route which requires two train companies may be unavoidable; three is absurd.
'Internationalization', thanks to 'Stephan'.
- Try to avoid [Japanese men] as much as possible, [especially the middle-aged]. If you do encounter them, and get tsk'ed or stared at, immediately answer by doing the same, just longer/louder. They are not used to it and will lose any staring match. The scared expression on their faces is worth it. If don't give back, you will just get angry over time and one day you might hit one of them (don't do that - [the police are of the same genus]).
- If you still bother to learn Japanese, stop right now and start to prepare for your life back home or whatever place you move to next. Use the time more wisely by picking up a new skill or hobby. Or work out more. [Anyone worth speaking to in Japan already knows English from living abroad, or another language in any case. Moreover, never imagine that Japanese is for communication: the Japanese do not do that.]
- If you still think that living and working in Japan is better than whatever place you come from, you've either not seen the "Ura" yet or are already too far gone. [Or love concrete, loudspeakers and casual discrimination.]
- As you'll be going home soon anyway, don't bother to give lip service, i.e. answer the frighteningly simplistic questions you get bombarded with by the locals. Don't get entangled into their "like / not like" idiocy and always give long-winded, balanced, pro and con-balancing answers. They will be lost after a couple of sentences and never bring up the topic again, because they are so used to simplistic, fluffy conversation like "oishii ne" or "tenki ii da yo ne" or "gun chan kawaii da yo ne" or "mike-kun, osake sukii darou?" [I am going to start pretending to be Finnish without any English. The Japanese don't know that all Europeans, save the French, will speak English better than them (the French can, but are too petulant to do so).]
- Be careful who you fuck/date/marry. That delicate butterfly who laughs at all of your jokes and lets you do her 'nama'*? 'If it looks too good to be true, it is.' And class matters here too. Hope you can tell.
- Just because she says she 'went' doesn't mean she did. If you have to ask, she didn't.
Related 'internationalization', thanks to 'kathrynoh'.
- Best advice I got from a long-termer in Japan was to take everything Japanese people say at face value. Don't look for the hidden meaning, don't try to figure out what they really mean [you won't, and the effort passes no cost-benefit calculation: just because meaning's unclear, doesn't mean it's interesting].
Again, thanks to 'Stephan', there is Media.
- Never, ever turn on the TV. The repetitive childishness of it all will only work as a catalyst for the inevitable realization that the inhabitants of this country will never be able to speak about things in an intellectually stimulating way. You want to defer that as far out as possible. [Do not buy a TV, but rather a better computer for streaming. Tell the NHK collectors both that you do not have a TV, and that all Japanese media is shit, including what little they translate. They know it's true.]
- Don't bother to try to get your news from Japanese sources. There is no really independent press in this country anyway, so the little news from abroad that you get is hopelessly skewered to make Japan look good and abroad look bad. [When you need news, say during three meltdowns, you will get it abroad first, reported from Japanese news a day later once it is all over the Internet, and from the government a day after that.]
- Don't imagine coming to Tokyo already crazy is going to work out well.
- You are not the 'Karate Kid', and neither are your sensei. The shit they teach wouldn't work in the real world, or by them in it, without the credulousness of the Japanese for arbitrary authority. It's the opposite of MMA.
- Same goes for Buddhist enlightenment. And for god's sake, stay away from Soka Gakkai: Buddhism's Mormons.
*Since I have an idea of what you'll get from a search for "do her 'nama'" I'll save you the trauma: without a condom.