自転車全力でペダル。[UPDATED]

Bicycles are as much a part of Japan as samurai and Pocky. In a country where cars and their associated costs are expensive and public transportation only goes so many places, bicycles are an affordable means of faster-than-walking transportation. They’re ubiquitous to the point that people are allowed to ride their bikes on the sidewalk, and pedestrians will unconsciously move aside if they hear a bicycle bell. That’s not the only difference, though. Continue reading

On smoking. [UPDATED]

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A bank of vending machines just down the street from my apartment.

There was a time in Japan that smoking was rampant, much like it used to be in America. It’s still a prominent-enough part of their culture that when written, the word “tobacco” uses hiragana (たばこ) rather than katakana (which makes it feel like less of a loan-word). “Everyone smokes in Tokyo,” someone told me once, and while that’s something of an overstatement, I do see a larger number of smokers here than in Nagoya. Then again, it’s a massive city, so I’m not surprised. I have noticed over my visits here that while America continues to increase anti-smoking laws, Japan hasn’t quite gotten there yet. Continue reading

Caution: Narrow Road.

Japan is not really wheelchair-friendly.

It’s strange, because cities are pretty well set up for the blind, with textured strips tracing sidewalks and train platforms, and braille used in the usual places.

If you’re confined to a chair, though, there are far fewer concessions. You get your own space on the bus, but not much more. Ramps aren’t common and low steps between rooms are. The most obvious hindrance, though, is how narrow store and restaurant aisles are (and, in big cities, how crowded). It’s often tricky just walking through a specialty shop without knocking stuff off the shelves; I can’t imagine trying to navigate a chair through. (I feel especially bad for wheelchair-bound otaku.) And crowded trains? Forget it.

I can only imagine chair users here have to quickly learn which businesses are compatible and what time they’re not busy, as well as try to find someone to get things from those tiny shops for them. That or just shop online.