There are a lot of WEIRD things in Japanese culture…cat cafés being one of them! Technically, the first cat café opened in Taiwan in 1998, and it wasn’t until 2004 before the first Japanese cat café opened up in Osaka. The popularity of cat cafés in Japan is attributed to many apartments forbidding pets, and to cats providing relaxing companionship in what may otherwise be a stressful and lonesome urban life. Other animal cafés include dog and rabbit cafes, are also common in Japan.
It’s really hard to navigate around Japan! Most small streets have no name, addresses refer to a series of concentric areas, streets are sometimes numbered according to when they were built rather than their location, and taxi drivers respond to landmarks not street numbers! Even with GPS assistance, I got lost countless times. I shouldn’t feel so bad though, because even locals need to ask for directions! Here’s an example of how complicated just reading it can be:
東京都 千代田区 丸の内二丁目 7番 2号
Apparently it encodes the:
- Postal code
- Prefecture: 都 (to) for Tokyo, 道 (dō) for Hokkaidō and 府 (fu) for Osaka and Kyoto.
- Municipality: Large cities use 市 (shi), most cities have wards 区 (ku), which can be further divided up into 町 (chō / machi) or village 村 (mura / son)
- City district: 丁目 (chōme)
- City block #: 番地 (banchi)
- House #: 号 (gō) Based on when the house / building was built or assigned in clockwise order around the city block.
- Name of place
What makes this even more difficult for a foreigner like me is searching Google Maps with Romaji (alphabets) and not getting exact matches! It can be very frustrating not understanding Japanese!
Japan’s Tsukiji fish market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and has rightfully become an extremely popular tourist spot. One of the main attraction is the tuna auction, where businesses compete for the best tuna in the world. Lines to observe the auction is open to the general public, and starts forming around 4am — but only for the first 120 people. Tips for getting into the tuna auction:
DREAM Since childhood, it has always been a dream of mine to visit Japan. My fascination grew from watching Japanese cooking shows (Iron Chef, Jiro Dreams of Sushi…), anime (Laputa, Nausicaa, Rurouni Kenshin…), drama series (Great Teacher Onizuka, Oshin, Yamato Nadeshiko…) and of course the ridiculous game shows! Even though there’s a Japantown in nearby San Francisco, it was never enough to satisfy my curiosity for all things Japanese. So finally, after all these years of dreaming, it was time to give Japan a well deserved visit! =) As I thought of all all the places I would visit…Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka….God reminded me of the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan. I remembered I wanted to do something then, but didn’t know how. Thankfully, God opened the doors of volunteering in a very surprising way: all I did was to be curious and asked around with friends…