Big Things

When I said that everything here is smaller than in Australia, I was making a bit of a generalisation. While most things are, in fact, smaller, a few things are quite a bit bigger than we’re accustomed to seeing. Tokyo itself is the prime example. It’s a single city with the same population of the whole of Australia. That’s pretty big, no matter how you look at it.

The large number of people needs a correspondingly large number of houses, shops, cinemas, etc. and to fit all this in, most buildings are multi-storey. Not high-rise – usually less than ten floors, but still taller than the two or so we typically have in Australia. And multi-storey buildings necessitate multi-storey signs. Each building will have a big, vertical sign telling you what’s on each floor. You’ll have the name/picture for each shop, and the floor number in the corner.

This brings us to signs in general. There are heaps of them, and they’re big and bright. Parts of Shinjuku San-chõme are literally as bright as a winter day at night in the glow of hundreds of neon signs. It’s an awesome experience to stand and look at it. Words and photos don’t do it justice. You really have to see it to understand.

In Australia, I get a hard time for having a big 3G mobile ’phone, but here it’s the norm. A lot are even bigger than mine. The girls have proportionally larger cute accessories hanging off their phones, too. People really do use their phones to surf the Internet and read and write e-mail, so the bigger screens make the size worthwhile. Big screens seem to be popular in general here. There are lots of big TVs and big arcade game screens, too.

Speaking of which, video game arcades are way bigger here. You might have one floor of “UFO Catcher” machines (these used to be called “skill testers” in Australia), a floor of “print club” machines, two floors of video games, and two floors of “medal” (gambling) games. There are massive games allowing more than ten people to play simultaneously, with small individual screens and a big screen showing the overall state of the game; half-height games for small children; educational arcade games; the list could go on forever. I know, I’m an arcade freak.

Going off the geek track, fruit is big here. You get big apples, big strawberries and big oranges. Each one will be in its own foam cushion to protect it from bruising. Fruit is the one thing that really is grossly overpriced here. There’s not much land for growing it locally, and importing is expensive. But they make sure you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth by making it big and beautiful.

Department stores are huge here, and they have big parking lots to accompany them. (Did you know that a multi-story parking lot is called a “park city” in Japan? Gotta love the literal translations!) The department stores are often split across several buildings. It can be quite difficult to find what you want, particularly if you can’t read all the signs. It took us quite a while to find a place where we could by a kimono for Thanh.

Still vaguely connected to shopping, the vending machines sell big cans. In Australia, we get one size can of drink – 375 mL. Over here, there’s 350 mL and the big 490 mL size. The vending machines themselves are big, too. You can get hot and cold drinks. English slogans are often used to advertise food and drinks. They’re usually literal translations, like “Suntory Boss is the boss of them all since 1992” (Suntory is a beer company, and they also sell canned coffee under the Boss brand name).

The parks and gardens here are really good. There’s often an entry fee of about ¥200 per adult (about $2.20), but it’s worth it. There are beautifully shaped trees and bushes, flowering trees, lakes, bridges and ornamental buildings. They take better care of their parks here. Being winter right now, a lot of the trees have lost their leaves, so it has a kind of starkness to it. I’d love to come here again in spring to see the trees in full bloom. Some of the lakes have frozen over, and the ducks walk on the ice, occasionally falling over on the slippery surface.

To finish off, I just have to mention sumo wrestlers. They’re really big guys, and definitely Japanese.

This entry was posted on Saturday, 7 January, 2006 at 10:54 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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