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Monday, November 3, 2008

Arriving in Japan

November 3rd, Monday 7AM

Steph, Casey and I woke up early today without an alarm clock and are taking turns in the shower before we set out to explore the city. The t.v has CNN and is bilingual so we’re looking forward to maybe watching some election coverage. Meanwhile, I am writing this long hand since we don't have internet in our room and the guys are still asleep.

It’s hard to believe that we all started this trip at 7AM on November 1st. It took us about 23 hours total, but because so much of the journey was in the plane, time lost all meaning and last night we agreed it either felt like days ago, or just that morning. I feel like a time traveler because we’re in the future now, lost an entire day but never felt it. I never felt it because I stayed up all Friday night after Gorefest and then slept… so I was almost in synch with the time zone when we arrived.

Dave showed up at Mike Morrell’s house at about 7am on Saturday in a taxi. Casey and I piled our bags in and enjoyed a discussion with the cab driver about a song in his native language (Haitian) about a woman who is sick of her man. We met Steph and John and went through check in.

The first leg of the trip was Boston to Detroit was pleasant. We all sat in the same row, I sat with Steph and a friendly German woman who works for MacAfee.

We had a layover in Detroit, so John began doing some recordings for the NPR segment that will be aired sometime after our trip. Then we went to a bar where we met a sassy bartender who loved “erigami,” and the guys got buzzed just in time to board Flight 25 to Tokyo.

We all had separate seats. Dave, Casey, and John were able to finagle seats together, but Steph and I were away from them, and she was in the row ahead of me. It ended up being alright because we each made friends with our seat mates. Mine was named Rishard, and he is a grad student at Cornell University. He was on his way to Japan for the very first time because he was going to spend a week studying under a sensei in his school of martial arts. Very exciting. I did a lot of sleeping and eating on the plane. The meals were all complimentary and really good. There were some movies shown. One was "Baby Mama," which delighted me. The other was "Swing Vote" which prompted a discussion with Rishard about the election and how one country could have so many different opinions. I feel that Japan is the same, and although I will have gone to Japan, I will not be able to really wrap my mind around JAPAN in just 10 days.

At the airport is when it really sunk in that we were in another country. It was soo quiet. No one talks out loud here. Dave got detained at customs which was really scary. He was taken into a small white room with no windows and left there alone and we couldn’t find him. He kept asking if he could at least send a message to us to say where he was, but he kept being put off. It had something to do with him listing his occupation as “comedian,” but other people did that too and none of us were in trouble. We were finally reunited, but the delay was unsettling for a while.

When we had all our bags, (and Dave), we were on our way to The Sunshine City Prince Hotel. It was about an hour long bus ride. One of the first things we noticed was how quiet everyone is on public transportation. Very polite, very reserved. An announcement in English asked that we refrain from talking on cell phones because it “tends to disturb the neighbors.”

We had a long and elaborate check in. Something had been glitched about our room arrangements. While Dave and Casey sroted things out John had a bathroom experience which confused and scared him due to the many buttons on the toilet. We have two rooms, they are four doors apart. We washed up after laughing at how the girls’ room has three beds and Dave and John’s room only has… one. The view from each room is amazing though. And Dave and John are going to man up and cuddle for the week. After we were settled Casey opted to sleep and the rest of us set out to explore Sunshine City and find dinner.

Walking through the neighborhood surrounding the hotel was like being on a carnival boardwalk. Everything was blinking! There were tons and tons of people of all ages walking around, meeting one another and laughing. Even though it was a Sunday night. People here all dress very well, and dress to stand out rather than fit in as it seems many people in Boston do. Even the older women and men had hip fashions on.

Pachinko is everywhere in Sunshine City. And all the old men sit and play it and smoke their cigarettes. And MAN do people like their cigarettes. Cigarette vending machines are everywhere and they come in all flavors. Smoking is allowed inside restaurants and malls. We found a side street with highly stylized store fronts, and no English to be seen. Luckily, almost everywhere has picture menus or plastic food outside showing what is available.

We put my Japanese to the test and between me and Steph and the phrase book we at least communicated what we wanted. I am always amazed at how much people understand me saying, but I am also amazed at how little I need to say due to body language and facial expressions being so universal.

We caught the attention of a manager, or maybe owner of a small izakaya and we ordered our meals outside with him. He was pleased to help us order, and to recommend things on the menu. I enjoyed ramen with chicken and greens as my first meal in Tokyo. The owner liked us a lot and tried to teach Steph to use chopsticks . Our neighbors at the next table also tried, and I got the whole thing on video tape. We went back to the hotel and then Steph and I wandered around, found the place to connect from the lobby to the mall, and then we also went to bed. The mall was very creepy because it was open, but empty and dark.

I had enough energy to change into pajamas and brush my teeth before climbing into bed.

1 comment:

liz said...

Those toilet photos are amazing. "Seat temperature?" I didn't realize I was living in the third world!