I just returned from an unforgettable trip to Japan with my family. While it was a family vacation, I managed to explore numerous guitar shops and experience the metal bar scene that I had heard so much about. The people I encountered were overwhelmingly polite, well-mannered, and incredibly helpful. Japan’s public transit system was impressive, surpassing the somewhat lacking infrastructure of Brisbane and Sydney.
Now, let’s talk about the food. It was a bit of a mixed bag. I had some of the most exceptional BBQ and sashimi I’ve ever tasted on one night, but on another, we were served plates that still had the remnants of the previous diners’ meals. Disneyland and other tourist hotspots were not only expensive but also incredibly crowded. I’d say, unless you have tweens who are really keen on going, it’s not worth the hassle.
One of the most surprising aspects of the trip was the cost of groceries and consumer goods. Prices were significantly lower than their Australian equivalents. For example, a 700 ml bottle of Jack Daniels was around $25 (compared to the usual $65 AUD), and a can of Coke cost about $1.40 AUD or even less. This made me question why groceries in Australia were so much more expensive.
But the price differences didn’t stop there; I was blown away by the cost of top-shelf guitars. In Australia, a new Music Man Stingray would set you back nearly $5,000 AUD if you could even find one. In Japan, they were priced at $2,900. It left me wondering where the extra cost in Australia was going. Additionally, the selection of instruments in Japan was truly impressive. The guitar stores around Shibuya outshined anything I’ve seen in New York, Los Angeles, Brisbane, or Melbourne. They had an abundance of Gibson and Fender guitars, and the real gems were the Alembic, Aria, and even a Status bass, for which I made an offer.
The staff at the record stores were exceptional too. I picked up a few records at CoCo Isle (I’m a fan of dub and calypso music), and Nancy Guitars felt like a rock ‘n’ roll museum.
Overall, I highly recommend a trip to Japan. However, it’s important to note that there are a lot of touts and less-than-reputable characters out at night, and they are easy to spot because they aren’t Japanese nationals.