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2 Weeks in Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto and More) -- Part II

Author: GregW (More Trip Reviews by GregW)
Date of Trip: June 2006



Like accommodation and unlike food, finding cheap drinks in Japan is tough! There are places that charge as little as ¥300 for a drink, but many places you'll be spending ¥600 - ¥1000 for a pint of beer. I found I really had to look around to find places that were both cheap to drink and open to foreigners.

The best thing I can suggest is to fall back on that traditional college trick of "priming" before going out. Go to the convenience store, but a couple 500ml cans of Sapporo Draft One and drink before going out. This will get you primed up for a night out, but easily save you at least ¥1000.

On the plus side, when presented with the dilemma of "should I have just one more drink," the prices tend you towards the "no."

If you are in Japan in the summer, for an interesting experience, you need to check out the "beer gardens" that department stores set up on their roof tops. (An English language paper I was reading was making fun of the beer garden in Japan by questioning why putting a keg on a cement surface constituted a garden). They often have "all you can drink and eat" specials (timed for 60 or 90 minutes), and provide you with good beer and a do it yourself grill to cook your food.

Events

I've already mentioned the sumo and baseball. In addition, I would suggest going to see one of the "amusement centers" that are very prevalent in every city. These are a combination of video arcade, bowling alley, bar, restaurant and casino. They offer everything from video games to slot machines to Pachinko machines.

Pachinko is a form of Japanese gambling where you turn a little silver knob, and that shoots BBs out of the top of the machine. If you turn the knob too far to the right, the BBs run all the way down and out the one side. If you don't turn far enough, the BBs don't make it to the center of the machine, and fall down the other. If you hold the knob just right, though, the BBs will bounce off some nails, and if you are lucky, fall into a small slot where you will win 5 more BBs. If you win, you take your BBs and exchange them for money outside of the Pachinko hall (due to gambling restrictions).

The other experience is the onsen, or public bath. Most of the hotels have these, or you can head up into the central part of the country where mountain hot springs provide a natural version of this. One enters the onsen, gets naked and then squats on a stool. They soap up and rinse off using a bucket of water and a washcloth, and then, now clean, they enter the bath itself, of really hot water. It is a relaxing and liberating experience, and apparently one of the few places in Japanese society where you are free of rules, as long, of course, as you follow a set of rules in expressing your liberation. It's basically a unisex public hottub.

Clich here to return to Part 1.




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