It’s Been 18 Years!

17 Oct

Today is October 17, 2008.
I came to Japan on October 17, 1990…eighteen years ago today! Almost half my life.

When I came to Japan in 1990, I was twenty years old and knew basically nothing about this country.
When I first stepped foot alone off of that airplane when it landed at 成田空港 (Narita Airport, just outside of Tokyo), and I suddenly couldn’t understand even one written or spoken word…the culture shock began.

The food, the fashion, the trains, the language, the general atmosphere…everything was so different from what I was used to at that time.

But it wasn’t long before I became accustomed to Japan and began to feel at home here.

Alot has changed in Tokyo during these past eighteen years. Some of the differences between Tokyo then and Tokyo now:

When I came to Japan in 1990, there were no IC Cards, like SUICA, for the trains and buses (see my post about SUICA here).

And signs in Japan, even at the train stations, didn’t have any English written on them. I couldn’t read Japanese back then, so I would have to ask the train station staff how much the fare was and how many stops to the station I wanted to go to.
Ironically, now the signs with the train station names are written in both Japanese and the English alphabet…but I don’t need the English anymore.

The train stations in Japan didn’t have elevators or escalators…only stairs. When our kids were small and we used strollers to take them out, I had to carry the strollers up and down the stairs everytime we’d change trains or exit or enter a train station!
Parents of babies today don’t realize how lucky they are…there are escalators and elevators all over Japan!

The automatic ticket gates at train stations (that you put your train ticket into) didn’t exist when I first came to Japan either.
The stations had attendants who sold the train tickets and attendants at the gates with hole-punchers to punch the train tickets of everyone entering the station…and they collected the tickets from the people when they exited the station.
If someone’s ticket wasn’t enough to cover the fare, they’d stop them and tell them how much was owed…they were able to do this even during Tokyo’s rush hour!

Of course, there were no 携帯電話 (cellular phones) back then…so there were payphones everywhere. And most everyone had a phone card in their wallet.
If an announcement came on at a train station that said the trains were delayed, everyone would rush over to a payphone and stand in line to use the phone to call their boss!

Payphones and phone cards were so popular that it was common to see people (often illegal immigrants) selling unofficial (illegal) phone cards at a discount.
Everyone has a 携帯電話 (cellular phone) now so payphones aren’t all over like they used to be and phone cards don’t sell as well as they used to.

A few other changes I’ve seen are many banks have merged and changed names, イトーヨーカドー (Ito-Yokado stores) changed the logo on their signs, Halloween is becoming more popular (read my post about Halloween here), and the number of foreign visitors to Japan has increased alot.

Everything in Japan is just normal to me now. It has become home.

10 Responses to “It’s Been 18 Years!”

  1. Marilyn October 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Hi there, yeah this piece of writing is genuinely pleasant and I have
    learned lot of things from it concerning blogging. thanks.


  2. tokyo5 October 21, 2008 at 1:32 am #

    >A lot has changed here in 18 years too.

    I know. When we visited Florida a few years ago (my first time back there since I came to Japan)…many things were different!

    >I looked at your most recent blogs and saw the videos of the three guys with the drum, they were really good.

    Thanks. You mean the Taiko drummers on this post:


  3. Dad October 20, 2008 at 6:35 am #

    Hi Bob,
    A lot has changed here in 18 years too.Of course the technology and everything like that, prices have gone way up like groceries etc. I think the pace of things has gotten much faster, or maybe it’s because when you get older time seems to zoom by.
    I looked at your most recent blogs and saw the videos of the three guys with the drum, they were really good. I always enjoy all the things on your blog, keep up the good work.
    Love yall, Dad


  4. tokyo5 October 19, 2008 at 11:53 pm #


    I had intended to mention some of the restaurants and stores that used to be in Tokyo but are gone now…but I forgot to. (・。・)

    For example, Dunkin’ Donuts was here but it didn’t appeal to Japanese tastes, a Japanese hamburger chain called “Love Hamburgers” went bankrupt and the American chain “Burger King” bought out all their locations…but Burger King failed and closed up shop here too, the first time—Burger King has since come back to Japan with an better menu and seems to be doing OK.

    Also, a haircut at a barber shop used to be ¥4000 (about US $30 at 1990’s exchange rate)…at any barber shop. And a haircut took about an hour…it included a shampooing and a shoulder massage.
    Those types of barber shops are still in Japan…but now, there are places that offer a ten-minute haircut (not shampoo or massage) for ¥1000 (about US $9 at 2008’s exchange rate).


  5. bartman905 October 19, 2008 at 11:18 pm #

    Congratulations on your 18 years in Japan – wow! Thank you for sharing the differences between then and now, very interesting.


  6. tokyo5 October 19, 2008 at 10:00 pm #


    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my site again!

    You lived in Mississippi for thirty years? I was born there…but I don’t remember it. I grew up in Florida.

    In 1990, my employer at the time sent me to work in Japan. I liked it and decided to stay.


  7. mothernaturesgarden October 19, 2008 at 9:46 pm #

    I lived in Greenville, MS for about 30 years. What drew you to Japan? Wife? Job opportunity?


  8. tokyo5 October 18, 2008 at 1:12 am #


    That’s too bad that you weren’t picked for the Tokyo Marathon ’09. Maybe you can make it in 2010!

    You should still visit Japan! You’re coming to Asia next month…right? You should stop by in Tokyo!


  9. sfrunner October 17, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    Tokyo5, wow! Congratulations on 18 years! I remembered when I first visited Japan. It took me several days to get adjusted. By the end of a week plus, I wanted to stay longer but because of responsibilities back in the U.S., I had to return.

    Just to let you know, I didn’t get picked in the Tokyo marathon lottery. However, I’ll attempt to retry next year. Take care and have a good weekend!


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