Sunday, February 1, 2009


I left for the Airport at about 6AM Saturday, January 31st. I arrived in Japan around 3:00PM Sunday, February 1st. While a layover in New York and major time shift don't allow for it, I felt like I was actually on a plan for 33 hours. Fortunately the flight wasn't crowded and they had on demand (sort of) videos in the headrests. Max Payne sucks, but probably not as badly as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which the older Japanese guy in front of me chose to watch.

Immediately upon arrival I find myself falsifying documents. The disembarkation form requires that you mark an intended address. I have a directions for a taxi that presumably has this information in it's Japanese form. I try to explain this to the customs guy, hoping he can decipher the address for me. He instead tells me to put my hotel. Assuming there's a Marriott somewhere in Tokyo, I mark that down. Apparently this is Kosher and I am granted 3 months in Japan as a tourist.

I find my luggage and manage to procure a bus ticket to the Tokyo City Airport Terminal. I can tell I chose the best bus company by the logo printed on the side of the bus. It's an anthropomorphic bus with wings for ears, a red bow on its head and a vaguely sinister grin giving me a big thumbs up. The excitable baggage handlers all bow to the arriving bus.

I get on the bus and am reminded that "portable phones are not to be used on the bus as they annoy the neighbors". Another passenger asks how long the bus ride will be. 1hr 20min. I'm not sure what I expected, but it dawns on me that I have no idea where I'm going and know absolutely nothing about Tokyo or, for that matter, Japan.

As we leave the airport, I'm surprised that people outside are often wearing surgical masks. Many of the customs agents were, but I had just assumed that was because they had to be in contact with disease-ridden foreigners. They're not worn by quite enough people to make you suspect some sort of plague had broken out, but they're more common than I would care for.

The bus ride is boring. The scenery is pretty non-descript. I peruse a flyer for Japanese cultural activities, apparently organized by the bus company. You can learn 'Samurai Sward Action' from a guy in Kill Bill for 12,000yen. Better yet, a 'Sumo Stable Visit' or 'Ninja'- which apparently needs no further description beyond a picture of some Ninjas. But my favorite is 'Wear a Kimono around Asakusa'- I mean, when they sell it like that, who can resist? and for only 19,800yen.

Catching a cab from the TCAT is simple. The automatic door on the cab is amusing, but the crochet-esque seat covers are better. The directions work and I arrive at the house I'll be staying in around 6PM.

Since the owner of the house is in California through the end of the month, he has arranged to have Ms. Gomi to meet me. I'm greeted at the door with much bowing. Ms. Gomi's English is comparable to my Japanese, but she manages to convey that I should take of my shoes and wear the small slippers that my heels hang off the end of. They are not comfortable, but whatever.

I'm lucky in that, Leo, the French student who will also be staying here, arrived ahead of me. This meant that he already spent the afternoon going over various aspects of the house w/ Ms. Gomi. Since he is far from fluent in Japanese, this took a long time and many phone calls to the Mr. Miyake in California. I am spared this experience since Leo speaks English well and quickly conveys to me the inner workings of the dryer's lint trap and the location of the vacuum.

As we wrap up the house tour (the house is big by any standard, from what I understand of Tokyo it must be ridiculous) another lady arrives. I don't recall her name, but she takes care of Mr. Miyake's cat Pablo, who is old and blind. Her arrival results in a frenzy of bowing and polite chattering between the two women. Leo and I are amused by the spectacle.

Leo and I are both hungry and tired from our day of traveling. Ms. Gomi leads us to a nearby supermarket before departing. After flying 6700 miles halfway across the globe, I select ramen noodles as my first meal in Japan. and by 9, i'm asleep.

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