I have always thought of myself as a fairly good traveler. I am good in new situations, pretty adaptable when it comes to schedules, and not-super-afraid of trying new things (food, music, words, whatever). But I must admit that I am somewhat defeated by Japan.
1) Body clock: Physically, it has taken a toll on me that I never would have predicted. Usually, at conferences, I have this super-powered energy allowing me to attend early panels, chat with people all day long, karaoke in the evening, close the crazy country and western bar, and then do it all again the next day. In heels. Here, though, mostly I sleep, or think about sleeping, or wish that I were somewhere that people sleep so I could too. My body feels heavier here--eyelids, feet, hands. I am moving more slowly. Today, for example, I got up early to finish my presentation (which went really well, btw, thanks for asking). Came back to the hotel to have a quick lie-down and slept for FOUR hours. Right now, at 11 PM, I am ready to sleep again. Jebus.
2) Weather: This is the hottest place I have been in awhile, and I lived in Austin for five years, people. The combination of time change and heat and humidity is a perfect storm.
3) Trip stats: Culturally, (and this is going to sound ridiculously obvious) this place is way different. On the subway, almost every time I ride it, I am the only Westerner. And the subways are crowded. Don't get me wrong. People are wonderfully friendly and helpful. The streets and trains and parks are beautifully maintained (but how weird is it that I'm kind of looking forward to the nasty dirty smelly NYC subway system--ahh, familiar stinkiness). There is such care that goes into the practice and process of living near other people. That being said, though, I am not a natural part of this picture. And that is sort of tiring. I know people who are huge japanophiles (there's probably a better word for that). I don't really know alot about the culture--don't watch alot of anime or read many Japanese novels (Murakami notwithstanding) or know very many of this words. The next time I come to Japan, I will do more prep work.
4) Food: Oh my god, I love eel. I have always preferred tuna in American sushi places, but the eel here (both unagi and anago) is unbelievably good. Like, hurt yourself eating plates and plates of it good.
5) Human contact: Tokyo is better experienced with someone else who speaks your language. Traveling in Japan by myself, as opposed to traveling in Europe alone, is a much lonelier experience, so the next time I come to Japan, I will travel with another person. Wanna join me?