John Curtas is …


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Dateline: TOKYO

Traveling is living intensified. – Rick Steves

 When you’re in a foreign country, it’s like you’re a little kid again: everything is frightening and fascinating. –  Hugh Alexander Curtasimage


1) It’s time to forget Pearl Harbor; the Japanese are a lot friendlier than Germans.

2) Tokyo is the world epicenter of sensory overload. Nothing you have seen or heard prepares you for the bombardment (poor choice of words) of lights, people, and urban intensity.

3) Tokyo Station makes Grand Central look like  Wichita on a Sunday.

4) That said, it’s a very quiet for a place that’s moving 30 million souls around.

5) They’re not very big in the hips, butts, or breasts (and you’ve never seen so many bowed legs in your life), but Japanese women don’t know how to dress poorly.

6) The men aren’t far behind.

7) African-Americans are rarer in Tokyo than a Republican in Botswana. In three days we’ve seen two black people. One of them was a chef in a kitchen.

8) New York: 20 million people, 20 million stories. Tokyo: 30 million people, one haircut.

9) You’re as likely to find bad fish here as you are to find good sushi in Souix City.

10) There are no fat people in Japan, except Sumo wrestlers. The only slobs we’ve seen were all speaking English. American English.

11) It takes a braver soul than I to figure out the Tokyo subway system.

12) Every eatery gives you a wet hand towel (terrycloth in nicer places, packaged in cheap ones) to use as your napkin throughout your meal. You’re supposed to wipe your hands (not your face) with it as it is presented, and then keep it next to you (rolled or folded) throughout your meal. Few guidebooks tell you this.

13) If you want a shitty meal in Japan, go to a lower-end Belgian, French or pizza place. (Don’t ask.)

14) If you want a good dessert in an izakaya (Japanese gastropub), go find a French bakery.

15) It’s not hard to find your way around generally, but it can be impossible to find an actual address.

16) Not having to fool with tipping is a refreshing and liberating way to travel. Tipping sucks.

17) There is no street crime here. No one locks up their bicycles and Tokyo is the only city I’ve ever been to where joggers leave their handbags and backpacks on park benches while they run around the Imperial Palace park.

18) American tourists are far less comimon than I thought they would be; most of the Anglo-European types we’ve seen strolling around have been Italian or Aussies.

19) You may have loved your meal, but good luck trying to find out even the name of the place where you just ate it.

20) Sitting on a toilet here reminds me of the first time I ever strapped myself into an airplane cockpit. 

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