Gain a better understanding of Japan and its people: The Gaijin Guide.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


After days of hitting the pavement in job search mode I decided to take a day off relax and discover. I decided to just walk, not expect anything. Just walk and let chance take the wheel...

I walked for a while and soon found myself surrounded by tall trees and standing in front of a huge "Torii" (a traditional Japanese gate found at the entry to a Shinto shrine).

This was the last thing I would have expected to discover while just outside the centre of Tokyo! I had stumbled across the Meiji Shrine. It was quite the sight amongst the one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

The Shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife. I walked through the park, the size of this place is indescribable. I soon found myself in the main courtyard of the Shrine itself.

Surrounded by the walls of the shrine and the temple buildings. I had the incredible timing to witness a traditionally dressed Shinto Wedding Party walk through the temple court yard. Like a welcoming gift the wedding party paraded past.

Other Guide Book Worshipping Tourists snapped photos. I became slightly angry, this wasn't a tourist attraction, this was someone's wedding - have some respect.

The shrine and park grounds are extremely well maintained. The Shrine is located in a forest that covers an area of 700,000 square-meters (about 175 acres). The forest contains 120,000 trees of 365 different species all donated when the shrine was established.

I took my time walking around the gardens, sat on the grass and recharged my batteries. Sitting in the middle of this oasis you forget that you're in the centre of this modern day metropolis. A true contrast between the bustle of the city and the wind through the leaves of the shrine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

1 iN 6.6 BiLLiON

Tokyo makes you think... in the scale of things I am but one person in a world of billions.

As I sit here and sip my Starbucks Chocolate Mocha looking at the Hachiko Crossing which is in front of the Shibuya Station. This station alone sees 2.4 million people on an average weekday.

Or that the world's second largest train station Shinjuku Station sees over 3.5 million people a day. You can't help but feel like a tiny speck in the universe. What impact will my life have on the world?

I think about all of the people I have met in my twenty something years of existence. How many of those people did I really get to know? Would half of them even remember my name if I saw them today on the street?

In my entire lifetime will I even meet a quarter of a million people? All of the people walking past me now, they have their own family, in-laws, work colleagues, a circle of friends. They are the centre of their own world.

The idea of fate, destiny and the law of attraction seems to make more sense when you're staring at half a million people dodging each other in a crowd. Six degrees of separation says that everyone is an average of six "steps" away from each person on Earth...

If I disappeared right now, would anyone even notice? If each of those people gave me one yen I'd be a millionaire in a day. We are all consumers, brain washed by advertising. Working jobs we hate to pay for crap we don't need...

Monday, March 10, 2003


Travelling - the chosen pass time of Generation X. No other generation has had the means nor the sheer will to escape their home country. Australian's are every where; London, Tokyo scattered all across the globe.

I wasn't your average tourist, doing as instructed from an over priced, glossy, picture filled guide book.

"Tourist X" packs as much value into their plane ticket price as possible. Jamming every second of awake time with the sights written in black & white. Pausing only when for posing for pictures, catching their breath between the forced smiles. Setting alarms, scheduling every second, arriving home more exhausted than when they left. Gobbing down food between queuing up to buy tickets to see attraction number 5 on their "to see" list.

I wanted more from my travels, I wanted to see the real Japan. The gritty, unshaven man behind the mask. I didn't come here to see the sights - I came here to meet the people. In less than a week here I could sense that everyone was wearing a mask, almost a bred in trait. The culture has you keeping your interself in check. Doing what is polite and expected. I knew this because this was something I did everyday.

I can see myself fitting in here...

Sunday, March 09, 2003


I've been here for two days now with limited understandable human interaction. I've always enjoyed my space one way or another, it wasn't a burden to bare.

You gain focus, clarity when you find yourself away from what you know and understand. The fog of judgement and fast food opinions offered by your fellow country men soon fades away. Now its about the simple things. The kindness of strangers. A smile from a pretty girl. Single serve tomato sauce.

Here we were standing in front of the two most magnificent human construction feats I had ever seen. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Standing at 243 meters or 799 feet tall. Matt videotaped his travels, eyes down the lens, capturing the moment he stood under the tons of steal reinforced concrete.

I met Matt in the Capsule Hotel last night. I asked if he needed a hand with finding his way around. He was back packing through Japan, a kind of post-university rite of passage. Another 'prove your independence' thing I didn't understand. My new found travel buddy & I walked around the business end of Shinjuku. Matt with his nose in a Lonely Planet travel guide we checked out the more interesting buildings in the area.

We had lunch, we placed our order by pointing at the plastic models in the glass cabinet below the cash register. Its almost like Japan was designed with Gaijin in mind. Have I mentioned that I have never mastered chop sticks? This was rather obvious to on lookers...

Matt suggested that we do some more sight seeing tomorrow, but I ensured him the job hunting must continue...

Saturday, March 08, 2003


Shannon had connections, job leads - everything was in place. That was until twenty four hours before I departed. He couldn't meet me at the airport, the job lead had dried up. Too late too pull out now...

Japan was the land of opportunity for blonde headed Gaijin, well for Gaijin full stop. Doors of employment opened at every turn. No training, no four years of blood sweat and partying at University. Big dollars, big life styles - little effort.

One job listing agency on the internet had over 13,000 listings just for foreigners. It all seemed too good to be true.

I always nailed job interviews, its just a matter of being the guy that they're looking for. Programming yourself to display the game face that fits the position. The night before the interview I'd sit down and analysing what skills the role would require... Then its all big grins, strong eye contact and firm hand shakes... done deal when can you start?

The problem was Tokyo was in the middle of a too many Gaijin not enough jobs issue. I could nail an interview if I could only get one...

Friday, March 07, 2003


Here's a summary of my first twenty four hours in Japan:

Thursday, March 06, 2003


The Capsule Hotel is what I expected. I had researched them online before leaving the comforts of home.

I now realised that Shannon and I had already broken the house rules, by wearing our street clothes up to the capsules after I checked in. You are meant to get changed into the hotel robes in the lower locker rooms before hand.

It was good to catch up with Shannon again. We'd only had short phone calls since him leaving in January, four months ago. He's really excited to have someone to share this amazing place with. I'm happy to have someone to rely on for advice and guidance while settling in.

I don't normally rely on others, you can't be disappointed that way. . So this was new ground for me.

I survived my first public shower. It was almost refreshing in the fact that something like that is so common place here. Not an issue, no one battered an eyelid. Such a different culture, back in Australia you'd have people freaking out at the thought. Its probably the first point of difference that I can report without a doubt. Public nudity is common place, acceptable and pretty much expected in Japan.