- I write to you from Narita Airport, where it is 4:04 p.m. local time on Monday, May 8. I’ll board a flight to Toronto at 5:30, where I’ll change planes and, after around 14 hours of flying, I’ll arrive in Chicago at 7:00 p.m., on Monday, May 8. When you see the zombie on Dearborn later, that’ll be me.
I left April 29 and arrived in Tokyo April 30. My time here has been exhilarating, exhausting, and just a bit magical. This due in large part to our generous nephew Brian Miller, who teaches English here. Brian shepherded me around Japan to two baseball games, a heavy metal concert, temples, shrines, hostels, hotels, sushi joints, ramen joints; somehow he got all the right trains and all the right platforms.
We walked on average about eight miles a day. Brian worried more than he needed to about whether I was seeing everything I wanted to see. He’s been in Japan for several years—so he couldn’t fathom that pretty much every mile we walked and everything I saw was mesmerizing.
I could do a blog about every half day here—and I may—especially about the two Japanese professional baseball games Brian treated me to.
But I need some time to process it all. Japan—most of my time was in Tokyo—is at once completely familiar and utterly foreign. It is organized and regimented—and chaotic. All these things at once.
For example, baseball is the same as it is here. But it isn’t. There are organized cheering sections that shout cheers, pretty much constantly, as fans do in in a soccer match. They know every player and they know songs for every player. Forget walkup music, these people have it covered.
The trains, well. They ride on rails, but that’s about it for similarities. Clean. Comfortably upholstered (including the subway). Quiet. Passengers are extremely well behaved. And one of the damn trains went 200 mph.
And the bathrooms. They have toilets—they no longer have the squat holes. The toilets—porcelain and everything—are largely the same. But the seats, well, that’s another story.
To start, they’re heated. And you can adjust the temperature. And you can also adjust the water pressure. The water pressure for the little spray that you can activate to give yourself a little spritz in the places that count. The first rule of Japanese toilet seats: find the stop button before you press any other buttons.
And the TV. Oh my God, the TV. Take the craziest Spanish language program you’ve ever seen. Then take LSD and turn the TV upside down. You’re still not there.
And the people. Impeccably polite. They really are smaller. Some of the women are at once so delicate and elegant looking that you’re afraid they’ll break if you bump into them. I didn’t pay much attention to the men.
And the food. Sushi of course. We did one of the keitan conveyor belt things. Oh my. I had the best ramen I’ve ever had, and it was about eight bucks. Pork cutlet that was fried with this perfect panko crust.
I could go on, and I will. But I gotta catch a plane. See you soon, I hope.