Curiouser and Curiouser
Japan Day 2
Thursday, October 10, 2002,09:22 p.m.
I woke up and showered. The room was very nice, two twin beds, not surprising. Twelve TV channels in Japanese, plus CNN International and BBC. The toilet was one of those Japanese contraptions with a built in exhaust fan, seat warmer. and a switch that causes warm water to be squirted at your butt. The Japanese take hygiene seriously. Before every single meal, you get a warm cloth to wipe your hands and face.
At breakfast I wasn't yet up to exploring so I went down to the hotel coffee shop with its English menu. My mushroom omelette came with...french fries. The little McDonald's type ones. Guess they haven't learned about hash browns there. I ordered coffee then realized it was 600 yen - about $4.80. Oops.
I still had time to kill so I walked along the looooong moving walkway to Sakuragi-cho train station. Incredibly busy, like every train station I was in, but not as bad as I expected. Nobody using a bar to cram people into the cars.
I went to the office to do some training of the local staff. Lunch at Skylark - sort of a Japanese diner. I had no idea what to get so I ordered "kyo no ranchi" aka the daily special. Hamburger patty, chicken nuggets, rice, and miso soup. Hmm. Not the purest Japanese meal, but a start.
In the afternoon we went to the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center to finish the booth setup. By late afternoon everyone else from the States arrived, and we headed out finally for real Japanese food - sushi in our host's neighborhood place. Incredible stuff - toro, shrimp, squid, salmon, cod, yellowtail....washed down with Kirin draft. Incredibly fresh . Outside the restaurant were some young women in long white dresses. "Conversation girls" who would talk to you for the evening for 20000 yen. We passed.
Reading back it seems like the day was all about food. I guess that's true more or less. Breakfast was a slightly Japanese take on American food, lunch was a blend of Japanese and American, and dinner was certainly what I think of as Japanese food. As it turns out it's only a small part of Japanese cuisine.
Japan, Day 1
Tuesday, October 8, 2002,06:08 p.m.
Not much to report on Day 1. All told, I spent thirteen hours on an airplane and three hours in a car. The plane was late taking off and, thanks to Typhoon #21, late in landing. I did catch up on my movie viewing, with About a Boy, John Q., and Spiderman. The first thing I noticed about Narita airport was how incredibly quiet it was. No shouting crowds, no annoying music. Even the alarm on the luggage carousel was a gentle tone instead of the "nuclear alert" buzzers in American airports.
The drive to Yokohama was smooth going for the first hour. Then we got to the traffic. The Rainbow Bridge connecting Tokyo and Yokohama was closed due to the high winds, and the trip ended up taking three hours. My driver Taro did not speak English, so no passing the time in idle conversation. The radio was a motley mix of Japanese and English. Every ten minutes the promo rang out: TOKYO FM, BOOMERANG SATELLITE. I was surprised at the omnipresence of romanji (Roman alphabet) on road signs, buildings, etc. Turns out there are four alphabets in use in Japan. I have enough trouble with one.
Eventually we got off the expressway and into a gas station. You haven't experienced full service until you've filled the tank in Japan. One guy guided us in to the perfect stopping point and he and two others greeted us with a deep bow. One filled the tank while the other two cleaned the windows--unnecesary in the driving rain of the typhoon, but whatever it takes. Apparently they'll also run out into the street and stop traffic to let you out of the station, but that wasn't needed this time.
Finally I got to the office and did some actual work, updating some software and diagnosing some problems my host was having. He drove me to the hotel and as I had been up about 30 hours at that point I crashed right away.