We had booked a small apartment in Shinjuku-ku. We took the train there and walked the last few hundred metres.
“Can you tell me how to get to this address?”
“This is close by, let me walk you to it”
“Please don’t trouble yourself. Just show us the way and we’ll manage”
He kept on walking ahead of us anyway. Pointed us towards our apartment. Before we could thank you, he bowed his head. “Arigatou”, he smiled. “Arigatou”, we bowed back.
The Japanese are the masters of fitting everything perfectly into a tight space. There was a washing machine, a clothes rack, a wardrobe, a kitchen sink, a couch, a coffee table in an area that was small even by a cramped city standard. But you couldn’t find a single thing out of place and it made perfect use of every space. Japan outdoes everyone when it comes to toilet seats. Push of a button and the seat is warm for you to sit. Water jet can be synced to the music on your phone. The last bit might not be true but with the Japanese, you never know.
My first impression of the Japanese, apart from the fact that they are very organised, was that they don’t talk much on public transport. The phones are always on silent. The trains are crowded during office hours but there’s no sound of chatter. Are the Japanese a cold lot? Far from it, I would say.
We had got a Japan Rail Pass before landing in Japan. It allows you to travel on all trains managed by Japan Rail barring a few. It sounded a bit expensive but when I looked at the rates of the tickets here, I was happy that I got the pass. I had heard a lot about Shinjuku and Shibuya, the Golden Gai and the iconic crossing so we left early to just walk around the area and explore. The Golden Gai is a series of small alleys with even smaller bars. Bars that can sit 4-5 people at a go. Since the place is small, most of the bars levy what is known as ‘otoshidai’ which loosely translates into a seating charge. Most of the local bars here in Japan do charge a seating charge but it is very minimal. Tipping in Japan is considered to be inappropriate so you would never mind paying that minimal amount as seating charge. Though these bars at Golden Gai aren’t exactly the izakayas (local Japanese bars) which have more Japanese flavour to it and a lot more food choices. This area is typically filled with backpackers and tourists who have read about the charm of Golden Gai.