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Sengaku-ji and the 47 Ronin »« Our Favorite Shibuya Sights

Meet the Tokyoites

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Over the course of two equally fun and frustrating days, Jürgen and I set off into the streets armed with pens, paper and a bilingual list of questions for the people of Tokyo. Not many in Japan speak English, and those who do are often reluctant to reveal the fact, so we knew this might be a difficult task. It was. But it was also entertaining, and gave us a cursory peek into the lives of the people who call Tokyo home.

Kozuwe was sitting outside at a Starbucks when we approached her. She started skeptically, unsure of what we wanted (perhaps thinking we were Mormons?), but soon warmed up and was kind enough to answer our questions.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a receptionist at a hotel here in Tokyo.

What’s your favorite food? Sushi, and particularly tuna.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ginza.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? There are so many great restaurants, and the shopping opportunities are incredible.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Way too crowded.

What kind of music do you like? I love R&B and Hawaiian Music.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The pyramids in Egypt.

We learned quickly that Japanese businessmen are not the most approachable people on Earth. Over and over, we were brushed off, before even able to begin a conversation. They are just too busy! But Takashi proved to be an exception. He had finished lunch and was more than happy to stop and chat with us.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a computer engineer.

What’s your favorite food? Probably what I just got done eating: curry tonkatsu!

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ginza is the best.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s a very safe city. Generally, you don’t have to worry about crime.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Traffic jams, and the amount of people.

What kind of music do you like? I listen mostly to Rock and Roll, and would say that Sting is my favorite artist.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? The Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia [this answer got a big reaction from us… we’ve been there and loved it!]

Makoto was chilling on a bench in the park. A young, nicely-dressed guy, not currently doing anything, he was a very tempting target.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a clothing salesman.

What’s your favorite food? Ramen is the best!

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Harajuku [which makes sense for a young guy into fashion]

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? For such a big city, it’s very clean and safe.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Everywhere you go, it’s crowded.

What kind of music do you like? I’m into rock, and my favorite band is Radiohead.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Rome, Italy.

Sakue was walking through the park with a friend, and her eyes lit up when we approached. Her English was excellent, and she had a fun, outgoing personality. Chatting with her was easy.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I help people out in their homes. [“And,” her friend spoke up, “she’s a jazz singer!”]

What’s your favorite food? Tuna sushi and soba.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? I love Asakusa and the banks of the Sumida River.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? The people here are so kind and friendly, and most are willing to help strangers. It’s a strong community that we live in.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? It’s crowded! [We weren’t surprised that this was turning out to be the most popular answer to this particular question!]

What kind of music do you like? Well, I’m into jazz, since I do sing it. But my favorite artist of all time is the great Elvis Presley.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Switzerland!

We stopped these two schoolgirls at the base of the Tokyo Skytree, and gave them a chance to practice their English. They were up to the task!

Where do you work, or what do you study? We’re both freshmen in school.

What’s your favorite food? Akane: My favorite is sushi, and I prefer tuna. Eriko: I’d say Miso Soup.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Akane: Nishonbashi. Eriko: Asakusa

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? Akane: The customer service is really good here, and very friendly. Eriko: The city infrastructure is great. Trains are almost always on-time and it’s easy to get around.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Akane: Once in a while, you encounter rude people. Eriko: I wish there was more green space, more parks.

What kind of music do you like? Both: J-Pop! Akane: SMAP is my favorite band. Eriko: But Mr. Children is better!

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Akane: Singapore. Eriko: Cambodia

We thought that Ueno Park would be a great place to interview people, but it was the opposite. Everyone there was on their way to the zoo or a museum, and the only people sitting around outside were drunken bums. So when we finally saw Yuko and Hidehiko sitting on a bench, we weren’t about to let them get away without answering our questions! Yuko spoke better English, and did most of the talking.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I work at a ceremony hall in Arakawa.

What’s your favorite food? There’s a few… yakitori is my favorite, then soba and sushi.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? I love Ginza and also Omotesando. And Asakusa is wonderful.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s amazingly safe here, and I love that.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? The city is too noisy.

What kind of music do you like? I love jazz, and my favorite artist of all time is Billie Holiday.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Perth, Australia… our daughter married an Australian, and that’s where he’s from.

We knew that we’d have luck with Emika. She and a friend were standing on the side of the street, asking people to write on a poster about what they’re thankful for. Here’s the deal, Emika: we sign your poster, you answer our questions!

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’m a medical representative.

What’s your favorite food? Ice cream. Does that count? [Yes, but what kind?] Matcha-flavored.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Omotesando.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? There are new things here all the time… new restaurants, new shops, new trends. It’s fun!

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? The crowds.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I love pop… Britney Spears and Rhianna. As for Japanese music, I’d say Ayumi Hamasaki is my favorite. [We mentioned that we’d never heard of her, and Emika was shocked.]

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so somewhere way up north. Canada, maybe?

Yoshi was pacing back and forth outside Ueno Station, apparently waiting for someone. Oh, Yoshi, it’s us you’re waiting for, isn’t it?! He seemed ready enough to interrupt his lonely vigil by chatting with us.

Where do you work, or what do you study? I’ve just started in a position doing Market Research.

What’s your favorite food? Chicken yakitori.

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Shibuya is the best.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s very clean here [many responses throughout the day were nearly unanimous; there’s a general consensus that Tokyo is clean and safe, but too crowded.]

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? Too loud.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I’m into J-Rock and my favorite artist is B’z.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? Italy.

We finished our interviews in Ningyocho, where we had a difficult time finding anyone to answer our questions. No one spoke English, or they didn’t have time. Yuka saw us trying to talk to people, and came over to ask if were lost. Well, not exactly, but while you’re here…

Where do you work, or what do you study? My husband runs the Ningyocho Imahan restaurant [a famous Tokyo institution], and I take care of the flower arrangements for all our branches around the city.

What’s your favorite food? Sukiyaki is my favorite, but I also love sushi… and hamburgers!

What’s your favorite place in Tokyo? Ningyocho.

What about Tokyo makes you most proud? It’s safe and clean. People are kind, and the drivers are considerate.

And what do you like the least about Tokyo? The pace of life here is very hectic. People are always busy, all hustle and bustle, and nobody has any leisure time. There are too many cars, and not enough green space.

What kind of music do you like, and who’s your favorite artist? I like classical music and jazz. I love Yumi Matsutoya.

If you could visit one spot in the entire world, where would it be? I really want to see Italy… or London. My son is in Connecticut, and that sounds like a wonderful area, too.

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3 comments »
  • June 21, 2014 at 10:47 amMsPe

    Wow, great Interviews with great people. As gorgeous as the places, buildings and nature is… i am always more interested in the people. Don’t know why. So thank you for that! (And Inwould love to meet Makoto ;))

  • July 2, 2014 at 4:31 pmeatprayjade

    I loved these interviews, even if there were some similar answers, the diversity is still so refreshing!

  • May 2, 2015 at 5:14 amPatrick Harnett

    What a great project!  We find people all over Japan are usually friendly, but, as you say, can be reluctant to try their English (probably better than my Japanese.I found the “what are you most proud of” very interesting – I’ll have to try that with my Tokyo friends when I see them next 🙂

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Meet the Tokyoites Over the course of two equally fun and frustrating days, Jürgen and I set off into the streets armed with pens, paper and a bilingual list of questions for the people of Tokyo. Not many in Japan speak English, and those who do are often reluctant to reveal the fact, so we knew this might be a difficult task. It was. But it was also entertaining, and gave us a cursory peek into the lives of the people who call Tokyo home.
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