2015 in review

Little things


  • During my stay, it gets dark by 6PM.
  • Mostly buses as public transportation. The trains are available only for longer distances.
  • Tank Juice bars, Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s everywhere.
  • The convenience stores or mini-marts are called ‘Superette’.
  • When the bus stops and the door opens, people say ‘thank you’ to the bus driver before alighting. Fascinating.
  • The whole CBD is a liquor band area.
  • No liquors are allowed in the taxi.
  • Use MetService for more accurate weather forecasts.
  • Use AT HOP card for the public transportation.
  • The letterboxes in front of a lot houses always mark ‘No circulars’ or ‘No junk mail’.
  • The Sky Tower has different lightings at night. It became red during the Anzac Day.

Düsseldorf and Cologne

  • During my stay, sunrise around 6AM but sunset around 9PM.
  • Most pedestrian traffic lights have red and green lights. In Düsseldorf, there’s an additional intermediate yellow light.
  • When you order plain water, there’s always two options; carbonated or still.
  • I feel that nature is quite well-blended into the city. Grasses on the train tracks. Free-roaming geese in the parks and lakes surrounded by people and buildings. Rabbits in the parks with kids’ playground.
  • There are more bikes there than in Düsseldorf but the lanes are slightly less organized than in Berlin.
  • More tourist-friendly, for some reason.
  • If having a yellow light in pedestrian traffic lights sounds weird to you, Cologne has two red lights and one green light. A little googling reveals that it’s probably for backup in case one of the red lights stops working 😅
  • Most of the stairs have bike rails, so called the bicycle stairway.
  • Quite random when I saw a bus called MEGA-Partybus.


  • I heard this few times from other people but never actually believe them much. The first time I take a metro there, I saw poo stains in the train. On the second day, I saw actual poo in the train. It smells. After a few days of taking trains, I sort of got used to it. Oh well.
  • The word ‘soldes’ is like everywhere. It means ‘sales’ in French.
  • ‘Pain’ means ‘Bread’ in French.
  • Graffiti everywhere.
  • Bike rentals everywhere.
  • Prepaid data plans are quite expensive.
  • There’s a “red cross” at the rear of the red lamp of the traffic light. If red lights up, people at the back can see it lights up. Not sure why…
  • Public toilets are really, really hard to find. Even if you found one, it might be closed ಠ_ಠ
  • Some train stations have pretty neat typography on the signage.
  • Use Navigo pass for public transportation. Hat tip to Alvin!
  • There are condom vending machines in some Metro stations.

Tokyo and San Francisco

  • Some of the trains have station announcements in Mandarin and Cantonese languages.
  • Most restaurants provide a basket under the seat for you to put your things like backpacks and hand-carries. Pretty neat because I don’t have to put my backpack on the floor which may be dirty sometimes.
  • Convenience stores like Lawson, 7-eleven, Sunkus, FamilyMart and Matsumoto Kiyoshi are everywhere. Starbucks and McDonald’s too.
  • Ask for ‘eigo menu’, which means ‘English menu’.
  • Some stores are still selling CDs and Blu-Rays.
  • Coin lockers are everywhere.
  • Yellow tactile pavings are everywhere, which is meant to assist blind or visually impaired pedestrians. I felt that the pavings became like a divider for walking directions, in conjunction with the arrow signs on the floor to indicate the direction.
  • Pedestrian traffic lights have progress bar indicators for both red and green lights.
  • Got to say, the stores in Akihabara are very overwhelming for me.
  • Pachinko everywhere.
  • In the trains, there are sections at the top of the seats where you can put your stuff like bags or backpacks.
  • Seems like all ramen restaurants have vending machines for ordering before taking a seat.
  • PASMO or Suica card for public transportation. Both can be use as digital wallet to buy things too.
  • For some reason, whenever I visit some nature places in Tokyo, I always notice spider webs.
  • A lot of Japanese working men wear formal suits. Regardless of how hot or cold the weather is.
  • I saw some people still use flip phones.
  • Some businesses display their opening times with AM/PM before the time, like ‘AM 11:30’. If it opens until 1AM, it might even display ‘25:00’. Yeap, confusing indeed.
  • There are diamond marks on the road, which indicates crosswalk ahead.
  • Surprisingly there are a lot of Japanese people in touristy places. Even more than foreigners, perhaps.
  • Some stations like Shibuya and Shinjuku are a bit confusing because they have so many inter-connecting lines with different exits and entrances. It’s kind of like multiple stations combined into one.
  • LINE chat is everywhere. Almost on par with Twitter and Facebook.
  • When it rains, I saw a lot of people use transparent plastic umbrellas. Later I realised that most of them bought the umbrellas from convenience stores. I personally find it weird that even though their jackets are hooded, they still use the umbrellas anyway.
  • I tried a few of the ‘pocket wifi’ and data SIM card solutions, such as Global Advanced Communications, Sakura Mobile and eConnect Japan. So far all of them works really well, and can be delivered to the airport or your hotel. Most of them need to return back the device or SIM card before you leave. I particularly prefer eConnect Japan Prepaid SIM because it seems to be the only one I found which doesn’t require returning and is disposable.
  • When you buy cup noodles from convenience stores, the cashier will give you a pair of chopsticks, with a handy toothpick.
  • Smoking is prohibited on some (or most) walkways. Thus there always the designated smoking areas for people to smoke.


Life goes on




Product engineer. Anime watcher.

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Lim Chee Aun

Lim Chee Aun

Product engineer. Anime watcher.

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