I have posted two additional pages of photos. You can access them here:
Back from a week in Japan, and Hong Kong for the National Holiday here. Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hong Kong, Shenzen, Suzuka F-1 race, bullet train, sashimi, sushi, fresh oysters, good food, lots of fun. I'll be posting a page in the Travel Section with more photos.|
It's interesting to me now to contemplate that visit to Japan; my overall impressions are of cleanliness and neatness, politeness and good manners, uncrowded and relatively quiet, generally attractive scenery and pleasant buildings, good food, and very expensive.
I have often asked my friends if they are able to tell apart Japanese and Korean from Chinese people. Most say they can. After visiting Japan I can probably do that too. I might not be able to tell in any one case, but if I could look at a group of people from each country I would know who was who. They look externally similar to an inexperienced observer, but the facial and other features are actually quite different. It's surprising to me, but Japanese actually don't look anything like Chinese.
Japan is not crowded the way China is. It seems similar to any Western city or town in terms of the numbers of people you see everywhere. And the country is quite clean, even in the smaller places. Neat and tidy, with attention paid to small details, no messes left lying around. China is not so neat and tidy as that, in an overall sense.
Japan is quiet, compared to China. The streets are quieter, and the restaurants are VERY much quieter; people just don't speak so loudly. What a difference. Also, the Japanese are typically externally polite, sometimes too much so, whereas the Chinese can be rather more rude or at least more careless and casual, at least to strangers.
Japan is nice, but really really expensive, especially compared to China. My friend often told me that the salaries in Japan are 8 to 10 times higher than in China, but that the cost of everything is also 8 to 10 times higher, so it's the same. Now, I believe him.
Taxis and the subway trains are about 10 times as much as in Shanghai. Here, I can buy a single train ticket to cross the entire city for 7 RMB, or about $1.00. In Tokyo, no single tickets and a messy subway system so you have to buy tickets every couple of stops, at $2 or $3 each. It could easily cost 70 to 100 RMB to cross the city - $10 or $12. Each way.
Taxis are the same. Here, a very long trip might cost 150 RMB ($20), and a short one to my office only maybe 11 or 12 ($1.50). In Tokyo, that short one is more than 150 RMB and the long one would be 700 or more.
Inter-city train travel is the same. We took Japan's bullet train From Tokyo to Kyoto, about 2 hours and it cost about 1,300 RMB. In China I can take a faster train to Nanjing (same distance) for maybe 70 RMB, or maybe 120 if there are no discounts.
Flying is the same. We flew from Kyoto back to Tokyo (50 minutes) and it cost about 1,700 RMB ($250). In China, I can buy a round-trip (5-hour total flying time) ticket to Beijing or Hong Kong for less than that, maybe a lot less. A one-way flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong, about 3.5 hours, costs more than 15,000 RMB (about $2,000). By comparison, a return flight to Canada costs less than 7,000 RMB - $1,000. Total flying time - 24 hours.
In China, I can always get a 4-star or 5-star hotel room for maybe 500 RMB - about $60. In Tokyo the cheapest of these is about 1,500 RMB - $160 or $170. One night in Kyoto we stayed in a traditional Japanese hotel; nothing very fancy, but with the paper-box look and the tatami mats and futons on the floor, etc., and it cost 4,000 RMB - about $450, and it wasn't the most expensive one either.
Coffee in China is a sort of luxury good and the prices tend to be high - 20 to 30 ($4 or $5) RMB in the fancy coffee shops. In Japan, the cheapest coffee was 50 to 60 RMB, and everything was like that.
A friend asked me to buy some cosmetics for his girl friend because the foreign brands are quite expensive in Shanghai. For this reason, I often buy things in Hong Kong for my friends. But Japan is another world. Everything I could find, even in the duty-free shops was far more expensive than in Shanghai.
The existing Japanese inter-city train system has been very good and safe, with no problems or accidents, so they did well, but the technology has changed a lot since then and their bullet trains are not so fast by today's standards. They travel at 120 miles per hour - 180 Kms/hr or so, and that was probably very fast when they were first built but today they seem quite slow. I think Japan is building some faster ones now but that may mean replacing a lot of track.
The trains I take in China can all travel at 275 Kms/hr or better, and the government is building a new one from Shanghai to Beijing that will travel at 350 or more. And the Maglev cruises at 430 Kms/hr. I think the new European trains are mostly at this higher level too.
Trains are much more popular here for many reasons, but one is that the door-to-door travel time is much reduced compared to the airports. The train stations are generally right in the downtown so they are easy to reach at both ends of a trip, and often the destinations are in the downtown core as well.
By comparison, a trip to Nanjing for me means a 10 minute subway ride to the station, a less than two-hour train ride, and another 10 minutes at the other end to my hotel (if all goes well). So door-to-door maybe 1.5 hours. But flying means a 30 minute trip to the closest airport, one-hour wait to take off, a one-hour flight, another wait, and then another 30 or 45 minutes to the downtown. Door-to-door best case is maybe 4 hours.
The new train from Shanghai to Beijing is about 1,000 Kms, maybe 4 hours on a fast train, and only 2.5 hours by air. But if you miss the travel and waiting at the airports at both ends, the train will probably be better and faster. Plus it's a lot cheaper and you get to keep your luggage with you.