At Narita Airport in Tokyo, it wasn’t hard to get a metro ticket. But on the second day I kept walking back and forth between multiple arrays of different ticket machines and offices before I had figured out how to buy a simple one-way ticket. And each ticket machine looks and operates differently. Normal people would probably prepare some basic knowledge about the public transport in a place they’re visiting on their own. Not me! Had I spent five minutes googling “tokyo public transport”, I would have known that there were not one but multiple different companies operating the railway systems in Tokyo. So when you look at a subway map of Tokyo, you only see half the story.
In the first day, it sometimes took me ten minutes just to find out of subway stations. Then I finally figured out that signs with black text on yellow color always lead to exits.
The hundreds of JR (Japan Railroad) local public transport stations have a feature that kind of makes up for the confusion the different systems cause: Every station has its own 10-second audio jingle that plays at the platform every time a train stops there. What a warm welcome! It only gets annoying when you spend a long time at one station, confused and trying to find out where you need to go, with very limited WiFi and a depleted data plan on your phone.
Buying a long distance train ticket is very confusing. (I’m avoiding comparisons to the Deutsche Bahn since their ticket buying process is also messed up and always leaves you with the feeling of not having found the optimal fare.) Even when you’ve selected the exact route you’re going to take, the ticket machines lead you through at least four more screens where you can select all kinds of things. I’m not saying it’s terrible, it’s just different. The interfaces on these machines, just like on ATMs, feel like the digital stores on Nintendo consoles. There’s audio feedback for each tap, and they constantly talk to you. When paying, the machines encourage you to insert all your bills at the same time. And that’s handy because Japan – just like Germany – is still running on cash. Another technologically advanced society that somehow lacks behind when it comes to cashless payments.
You usually end up with a few tickets for one trip: one for the trains and then separate ones for the seat reservations in each train. And they all look the same. When going through the entrance gates, you have to stick the correct combination of tickets into the slot at the same time, not one after the other. This becomes normal after a few days, but I messed up in the beginning.
Visiting a Cat Café
Ignoring the many maid cafés, where you’re being served by young Japanese girls in French maid uniforms, I came across a cat café. A small fee per 30 minutes, unlimited coffee and other drinks, in a cute pastel environment on the third floor. Why not?
It was a very relaxing place, and I can imagine many people coming here regularly because the limited space in Japanese homes makes pets an unfulfillable dream for many.
If you’re wondering if you’re allergic to cats, this is the ultimate allergy test for you. I’m glad my cat hair allergy has slowly vanished over the last couple years.
I honestly believe the cats are treated exceptionally well here. The staff makes sure you know how to interact with a cat, and they always keep an eye on you. If the cats need a break, they can hide in an area without any guests, behind tiny cat-sized doors. So as a cat, if you’re a little cat bitch who likes to be petted by various different people every day and then just see them leave and never talk to you again, cat prostitution might be an option for you. I don’t think they’re only in it for the money.
Love hotels can be found close to the busy streets. Since Japanese teens, or people in general, don’t get a lot of privacy in their crowded living quarters, this specific kind of hotel is very popular. They usually have separate entrances and exits, and you never interact with another human being when checking in, only with a machine at the door.