Wednesday, October 04, 2006
11th September: Okinawa - Yokohama
"Speed and efficiency."
I think the Japanese mumble this in their sleep.
Our taxi was waiting for us at 0600, as promised by the guy on the desk in the hotel the night before. The taxi driver was only about 4'2" and with all the will in the world, he could never have lifted our suitcases into the boot of his car. I could see the look of shame on his face. He bowed really low before gesturing us into his car. The doors shut automatically. No poltergeist, just Japanese gadgetry at its finest.
Our ride to the airport was quite uneventful. The scenery was nice, but, I hate to say it, I was too tired to care. I did notice, though, that everything was new. Nothing, absolutely nothing is/was old. I then remembered where I was.
We were soon at the airport. Paying the taxi driver made me feel uncomfortable. Tipping just doesn't happen in Japan. I'm not sure why, but it must have something to do with their perception of money as a vulgar topic and the necessity to reciprocate with a gift if they're given one. So the guy didn't get a tip. He wasn't bothered. It was normal to him. He couldn't see the pain in my heart. The whole thing felt so ridiculous, but it did play on my mind for the rest of the day. I felt mean. I was riddled with guilt. I should have been a Catholic. Or Jewish.
Checking in went without a hitch. The staff, as ever, were the epitome of politeness and treated us with courtesy and a genuine smile. It's so wonderful. All the more wonderful when you come back to the UK and experience our home grown customer service, or lack thereof.
We had breakfast before boarding our Boeing 777. I had eggs benedict and gave Ian the ham.
Perhaps I am Jewish?
The flight was good and the plane was full. The fact that it was 11th September had no effect on the flight or security at the airport. A case in point: a bag was left unattended. No-one batted an eyelid. Then we looked around and noticed unattended bags everywhere. Security staff in the UK would have had a fit. Incidentally, I should mention this: On taking a flight from New York to Washington DC two or three years back, I found an unattended bag at our gate. I immediately notified the airline staff at the desk. She wasn't worried at all, saying, "Oh, I expect someone's just gone off to the restroom." Unbelieveable. What was even more unbelieveable was that absolutely none of our luggage was scanned before going onto the plane.
The guy came back from having his rest and simply sat next to his bag. No-one said a word to him. My heart was pounding! No-one seemed to care. I think he should have been told off. Oh, hang on, perhaps no-one was afraid because they saw a white man walk off and leave his bag there.
Sorry for going off course...
Naturally, our arrival in Tokyo Haneda was on time. I love it. It's amazing. Almost to the second. How do they do it?
Five minutes after picking our bags up from the carousel, we were in receipt of our tickets for the bus bound for Shin-Yokohama. This bus, like everything else, arrived at the airport on the dot, left on the dot and arrived at its destination on the dot.
Once within Shin-Yokohama train station, we exchanged our JR voucher for two fourteen day rail passes, called Alan, arranged where to meet and patiently waited. He is not Japanese. He was late. By five minutes! How shocking!
It was great to see Alan again, sporting an ultra trendy haircut. He made me feel quite old. Still, I felt somewhat superior in the knowledge that he has far more grey hairs than me. He was keen to see my blonde mop and after kissing and hugging, he removed my hat. My sense of superiority was soon replaced by inferiority on him seeing how much larger my bald spot has become. Oh, dear, let's face it reader, it's hardly a spot anymore.
Yokohama Metro took us out to the suburbs. We left the train at Nakagawa station for Tsuzuki-ku. Alan now lives in a nice wee house with two bedrooms and two toilets! That's one more bog than me. And to think, I used to have three... Alan's coming up in the world, I'm going down. And going off course again. Sorry! Where was I...? Oh yes: It's much quieter than the area he used to live in, in his wee flat with that outrageous dyke, Eleanor. And her girlfriend, Chris. It wasn't just the streets outside that were noisy. Eleanor and Chris were notoriously loud when having sex; banging, slurping, moaning, whimpering. Thank the lord I'm not straight. It would have been any heterosexual man's dream.
Why do straight men get off on lebianism? Do straight women get off on the thought of two gay blokes having it off?
Gosh, my brain's all over the place tonight. And I haven't touched a drop!
Getting back on topic... Junya was at home so we had an afternoon of washing clothes (and ourselves) and chatting before going out for a meal. Within about a ten minute walk from Alan and Junya's house, we found a fabulous Yakiniku restaurant. The food was wonderful and we were soon full. I has some sake (what a surprise!) and Ian, being quite butch, had some beer.
I was glad of the sake. Our odysey was to beging the next day, starting in Matsumoto. I was determined, after several nights of broken sleep, to get a good night. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow.
As I remember, I had a very wild dream. Mary, my dog, laid and egg. It soon cracked open, as though something was inside. On closer inspection, it was empty. Mary was crying (dogs do not cry) and Meg (my other dog) was laughing. That's all I remember.
What could it mean?