Topic Index
Japan
Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo

Japan is one beautiful place. Everyone is well mannered. They bow. I saw someone bow to someone's back as they were leaving. The highest form of respect. I don't think it gets any higher then bowing to someone who doesn't know you are bowing to them. I was confused because they have many ways to say thank you. They say it fast and say it multiple times. Multiple thank yous from multiple people per transaction. All transactions were formal by placing coins, bills or card on a tray. Never in their hand. Sushi was by far the least common food I saw available. Japanese food like Takoyaki, while something of their own, is exactly what you might eat at a US state fair. Lots of junk food or comfort food. Ramen, fried pork, beef and butter chicken curries. Lots of Japanese owned versions of western food. They are incredible at baking. They've taken things and improved on it. Tasty croissants. Drip coffee dialed to perfection. The subway while confusing at first is extremely easy to get around. I looked forward to riding it everywhere.

Food was less expensive then I thought it would be. A few things are expensive but I found it to be very cheap for most things or equal to the states. Most expensive pint was $6. Most of my meals $10. Gyoza set with beer $4. Average subway ride $1.50. Many parts of Osaka felt similar to New York, Montreal or even some neighborhoods of Portland. But then you have these significant districts and characteristics that are truly original to Japan. You have to get into the mindset that what you are looking for is possibly vertical. The bar you want might be on floor 3. Or the best restaurant in the basement. If you've been wanting to go don't let the rumour of it being expensive detour you.

Notes & Tips
ATMs & Money You can only get cash from a 7Eleven ATM with an American debit card. Sounds weird but it's true. They're in some stations but mostly above ground in actual 7 Elevens. Having cash on arrival is nice. 
Osaka Osaka was perfect. Easy access to all spectrums and less shock than Tokyo. I stayed in Awaza neighborhood at Rock Star Hotel. Couldn't recommend it more. 15 min walk from center of Namba. Quiet, Families on bikes, neighborhood gems. Reminded me of certain neighborhoods in the US Northwest or quiet parts of Montreal. Osaka's food is tip top.
Transportation The subway concept is simple but can be confusing with little English printed on signs. Pick the stop you're going to. On the map it will tell you how much in JPY next to that stop. Insert coins in and get a ticket. Keep it for exit. Kyoto has 500 JPY all day bus. In Tokyo cabs averaged .5 JPY to every mile. 2 miles was 1,000 JPY. I paid $95 USD from Shinuku to Haneda airport because trains weren't running at 5am for me. A subway would have cost $14.
Kyoto Quiet small town vibe with a nice downtown. Don't stress about seeing everything. Pick a few temples that seem of interest and hit those. Hotel Anteroom in Kyoto was perfect. Similar to something like an Ace hotel. Great night cap bar. Great breakfast. Access to bus and subway. Amazing ramen a block a way.
Food can be really affordable but for sit down restaurants (with waiter, not a ramen shop) plan for higher costs and definitely book ahead for one that's highly rated.
Tokyo So badass. So overwelming. Pick a place you want to go opposite of where you're staying and just walk to it. You'll see all new things over the course of that 1hr+ walk. I stayed in Shinjuku in both AirBNB and at Granbell hotel. AirBNB is too much hassle. Look up Tsukiji Market hours. 
Gallery & Narratives
All images copyright Michael Madrid 2017. Ask for a print. I'll mail it to you. madrid@entrauge.com