Okay guys, just went to Tokyo (and thus outside of Tohoku) for the first time. I’ll try to summarize it:
• You can easily walk from Shibuya to Harajuku, Shinjuku etc. It’s not far at all, but Google Maps really eats up your phone battery so if you can, use a different map service. Some of the famous spots, like Hachiko statues and Shibuya station or whatever, we actually found by accident.
• Tokyo has a constant “white mist” and feeling like you’re in a rainforest, both of which is actually SMOG. People from outside of Tokyo wear masks when they go there. I’m not sure I’m really allowed to upload/link photos here so I won’t. On top of that, there’s a TON of trash all over the ground everywhere, tons of homeless people and drug addicts and drunk people. This stuff magically seems to disappear a bit during the day, but if you go in the morning (5-7am) or evening that’s all you see. For example, we went to a few parks: they smelled like pee, had trash all over, homeless people were sleeping there, the smog was awful, etc. Most parks were actually closed and gated off in the mornings and evenings. There are also almost no trash cans and no benches in Tokyo, meaning almost nowhere you can just sit and rest at after walking all day, or where you can throw away your trash from whatever you bought at the convenience store.
• All the stereotypes and stuff you read online about how “Japanese people are silent in a crowd”, “Japanese people assume foreigners speak zero Japanese and also talk about you right in front of you”, “Japanese people are shocked if you hold hands in public” etc, this is apparently true of TOKYO PEOPLE. It’s certainly 95% not true in Sendai. People were super shocked when we said basic stuff like “good morning, thanks, excuse me”. It was so bad that after I accidentally bumped into someone and said “excuse me”, they literally whispered to their friend “did you hear that?! wow, they said excuse me!!”. When I linked arms with my wife so I wouldn’t get lost in a crowd (I’m almost blind so we do this kind of thing a lot), some girls went “FOREIGNERS! wow, look at that, so cute!”. That kind of thing has never happened to me in Sendai. And Sendai people certainly aren’t quiet in a crowd. In general, everyone in Tokyo seemed really depressed.
• Tokyo cashiers and shop staff in general basically mumbled, stared at the ground, assumed you spoke zero Japanese etc. Also there were no trays to put your money in in most of the shops, while every shop in Sendai has them. The people I thought acted like “normal Japanese people”, as in how everyone in Sendai acts, were in small, more unpopular shops, were old people or were low-level workers but not for shops - ex. street-sweepers and package delivery men. Most of the people I overheard talked fast and basically sounded like airheaded, snobby, rich brats, and this includes the foreigners too.
• Tokyo has a LOT more “foreign language” around; for example I went to the bathroom inside “Donkey Hote”, a department store, and the bathroom sign was in English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and maybe even more languages. A ton of ads and product packaging was in English and/or Chinese. Out of the actual tourists, most seemed to be English-speaking, Chinese-speaking and Indonesian/Malaysian. Menus and stuff had English on them too. In general Tokyo felt like the actual Japanese people were pushed aside in favor of the foreign tourists; however the Japanese people still didn’t actually know English.
• We saw love hotels, red-light-district shops, maid cafés, a male host going home from work, a female “companion” going to work, a burlesque show building, a bunch of bars, etc. All of this seemed extremely… grimey and disgusting. Even me who has an interest in stuff like maid cafés definitely didn’t want to enter one. Like, the people working there weren’t cute and their acting was bad, the building was dirty, the lighting was poor, their costumes were really cheap, all the while you’re breathing in that heavy smog, it was that kind of thing for every shop.
• Stuff in Tokyo was slightly more expensive and the selection for stuff like chain shops was exactly the same as in Sendai. So-called “huge shops” were the smaller or the same size as Sendai ones. For example, Tokyo Book-Off (used bookstore) had its cheapest section as 200 yen; Sendai is 100 yen. A secondhand shop had its cheapest stuff as 800 yen; Sendai is 300-400 yen. The convenience stores had bottles of tea for 100-130 yen on average; Sendai is 80-100 yen. For the salary for part-time jobs, the average in Tokyo seemed to be 1,000 yen; in Sendai it’s 800 yen. Grocery store food, as in raw wares (raw meat, vegetables etc) seemed to be the same price or cheaper as in Sendai; we assume this is because Tokyo people eat out instead of cook.
• Foreigners in Tokyo seemed to come in three types. One, tourists (who were often completely lost or in huge groups) who spoke zero Japanese. Two, people clearly living in Japan but who spoke almost zero Japanese - they normally had dyed hair, wore alternative clothing etc. In this group I saw a lot of YouTubers who did stuff like crowded in one section of the store to gush over secondhand videogames, which could’ve also been bought at any secondhand store in Sendai. Three, people who were native-level in Japanese but they were just drunk party animals and/or drug addicts (this type was the only type we saw from 5-7am).
• Tokyo seemed to have almost no JAPANESE food. In Sendai you see grilled meat, baked sweet potatoes, Japanese-style restaurants, traditional sweet shops and stuff everywhere. In Tokyo I saw basically none of this.
Overall there seemed to be nothing actually unique to Tokyo, unless you count certain events taking place there. Gashapon etc. were exactly the same as in Sendai. We didn’t even see any “Tokyo souvenirs”, they were just “Japan-wide souvenirs”. Most shops you want to go to in Tokyo, you can actually buy their stuff online or it’s sold in a chain shop closer to you - ex. according to English posts online Donkey Hote in Tokyo sells cosplay which is “super special and not done elsewhere”, which we did see there, but when I googled it later the cosplay brand’s website claims our Donkey Hotes in Sendai also sell the same cosplay.
One last note. Online we read all about stuff like “this bookstore sells English books!”. In fact the English section is really tiny, hard to find and super overpriced. One manga volume in English cost 1,600 to 2,000 yen, when the same manga in Japanese would cost 500 to 800 yen. So in general we found out that we can’t trust what anyone’s written online about Tokyo in English, because those people haven’t ever been to other places in Japan. I’d also advise you to never go to Tokyo if you can help it in general. However if you’re looking to get a work visa, you can very easily get hired at 2-3 different part-time jobs in the same neighbourhood in Tokyo and do things that way.
Eventually we’re gonna visit Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo (Hokkaido), Okinawa and stuff like that too so I hope those places are a lot better haha.