There are vending machines everywhere in Tokyo. Many are installed outside, on public pavements. And they all appear to be well maintained, well stocked and operating flawlessly.

There are no signs of vandalism, burnt out lamps, scratched glass, or any other signs of people behaving badly towards these machines.

Is this a sign of civilisation? Where people have moved to other forms of expression beyond wanton damage?

Tokyo is proving surprisingly easy to negotiate without knowing any Japanese at all. All the important stuff like train announcements and maps are presented in English as well as Japanese.

Partial understanding without sufficient cultural context is an ongoing a source of amusement however: I watched a dramatic movie about a woman and her heater last night…

I can “read” the kanji characters which are used sufficiently in many printed material to enable a contextual guess at the meaning. It is interesting how automatically I lock onto these legible parts and start to draw meaning from them, out of the sea of hiragana and katakana which my brain cannot decipher.

I guess this shows how in many (all?) cases of communications we never really real every word, and instead rely on key marker words/symbols and a contextual understanding to draw a comprehension.

Perhaps my ability to get by this way actually discourages me from learning Japanese properly. Is this what happens in Singapore with Singlish?

Everyone is exceedingly polite. It is incredible how much a difference this collective nicety (even if sometimes it is only on the surface) makes to the entire experience of the city. Is this saying inauthenticity can sometimes be positive?


I am still amazed by the relative quietness of Tokyo compared to Singapore and Sydney. Even in the busiest of hard-surfaced shopping centres, people spoke and did what they do quietly and calmly. It is incredible to experience.

Regular announcements on the trains remind passengers to turn their phones to silent mode, and to refrain from conversations when seated near the priority seats. In 48 hours in I have not heard a single phone ring in public, despite seeing loads of people using their phones. Maybe people do eventually evolve out of the banal interest in ring tones, or loudly sharing their conversations with others?

Most places don’t play music! Not in lifts, cafes, shopping centres, department stores, toilets or restaurants! What a relief! Where piped music was played (so far, a Starbucks and a parking station) the volume was comfortably low and subdued.

Is there some global noise index for cities?