Archive for June 1, 2010


Japan is one of the cleanest places that I’ve ever seen. In the three weeks I’ve been in this country I’ve only counted about eight pieces of trash on the street. It sounds a bit hard to believe but it’s one hundred percent true the streets here are just that clean. Now here’s an even bigger brain teaser, there are barely any garbage cans anywhere in Japan. Oh you may find one or two in the train station or near a vending machine, but don’t expect to find one on the streets, your chances are slim to nil. I personally like it though, the lack of garbage cans helps to keep me traveling light because I don’t know how long I’ll have to walk with an empty soda can in my hands or wrappers from whatever candy I’ve purchased. Also with how clean the streets are I can’t even find the urge within myself to litter, I just don’t want to ruin I good thing. Now if only we could figure out how to psychologically stop people from littering so America could have cleaner streets.

Streets High-up View

Streets High-up View

In Akihabara it is not uncommon to see Japanese women dressed as French maids handing out fliers on the streets. What are these fliers advertising you ask why a maid café of course; but what is a maid café? Our class traveled to Akihabara and successfully figured out the answer to this question. A maid café is a cosplay restaurant serviced completely by women dressed as French maids. Upon entering the maid café our ears were graced with the sound of happy euro-beat style electronic music with high pitched cheery singing in the background. The music was adorable and made it hard not to smile while we waited for what happened next. Waitresses brought us our menus and patiently waited while we attempted to translate it. The interesting thing about the maid café is how the food is served to you. Maids bring out the items one at a time and for each item you have to perform the maid café cheer. You do this by holding your hands in the shape of a heart and repeating after the waitress. It was very cute but a bit of a strange way for adults to act and probably the slowest way to serve a meal. One of our classmates ordered the special lovers spaghetti plate which interrupted the order of the café. Our class was called up to take a picture with the entire troop of maids. Overall it was a fun, if a bit awkward time.

Mural

Wasn't allowed to take pictures of the Maids

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a practice that dates back to the ninth century when tea was first brought to Japan. On our travels in Japan our class was able to take part in one of these Japanese traditions. We were brought to a room on the 65th floor of a very nice hotel in Tokyo, where the tea ceremony was to take place. The tea room was beautifully decorated in traditional Japanese fashion; large stones formed a path across a room filled with wet tiny white rocks. Removal of our shoes was a requirement before we could venture inside towards the straw floor where the ceremony was to take place. The straw floor was refreshingly cool a great contrast to the humid summer day happening outside. Before we began the hostess informed us that the straw mats were cool in the summer and warm in the winter that’s what made them the official floors of the ceremony, neat! The hostess then handed out sweets that were represented by shapes of the season and truthfully they were a bit too sweet for my tastes. We learned that the reason sweets are handed out in the tea ceremony is to combat the bitterness of the green tea. Every movement the hostess made in the preparation of our tea was carefully a recreation of her ancestors of old from pouring the water from the hot boiler to the way she stirred it with the straw brush. When the tea was presented to me I bowed as was told to show my appreciation. In my opinion the tea didn’t need any sweets to counteract it, the tea was probably some of the best I’ve drank in my life.

Pre-Tea Snacks

Pre-Tea Snacks

Kobe!

It was around 7:30 P.M. and a group of my classmates as well as myself were waiting patiently for our professor to meet us in the lobby of our Osaka hotel. We were about to make a 65-80 dollar investment on one of Japan’s most famous meals, Kobe Beef. Actually to call Kobe a meal is an insult; it was a delicacy of flavors that danced around enticing the pallet. Walking into the diner I didn’t think much of the place, it was small and shared resemblance to the greasy spoon diners back home. As we sat down at the bar like counter there were only two options placed in front of us, a small set for 6500 yen or a medium set for 8000 yen. Anybody who didn’t know what they were into would’ve left that diner faster than they entered. We finally finished ordering our sets and that’s when the fun began. The chefs at this place must have studied a long time because every action performed was synchronized. The steak was placed methodically on the skillet which was then garnished with onions and steak fries and the wine turned up the heat turning the dish into a pillar of flame. Skillets were removed from the heat source still aflame and put out with a few light flips from the chef. All of our steaks were placed in front of us still sizzling with an aroma indescribable by words. All you needed was a chopstick to cut the steak it was a tender juicy masterpiece. Kobe Beef is a must experience for anyone in Japan no excuses, if you come here you must get some.

Kobe!

Kobe!

When it comes to food service Japan is one of the best countries. Servers are always polite, clean, attentive and fast. The cherry on top for this countries’ food service industry is when it comes to the issue of tipping. It is considered rude to tip your waiter or waitress so therefore, you never have to leave a tip, prices on the menu are the prices you pay! There are even restaurants where the server is cut out entirely and replaced with a ticket selling vending machine. Patrons only need to deposit their money and choose from the nicely pictured menu. This system is great because it allows you to order at your own pace. If you’re in a hurry just pay and hit the takeout button, if you’re just on a casual stroll hit the dine-in button. The kitchen staff is incredibly fast at these vending diners, patrons usually receive their food within 3-5 minutes of their order. This may seem like magic but after my friend Pochin and I gave a closer listen we heard whatever we ordered announced over a loud speaker in the back. This is what prompted the chef to start cooking before we even sat down and handed him our tickets. Overall I feel the food service in Japan trumps that in America because the service is better and I don’t have to leave a tip to ensure it stays that way.

Good Food Great Service

Good Food Great Service