Monday, June 11, 2007


I'm not sure, dear reader, if by insisting on any other carrier than Air France, I shot myself in the foot or made a complete fool of myself. One or the other applies, though which, I'm yet to decide. The vile and disorganised French airline could have taken us to Tokyo and back with a far more streamlined itinerary than Lufthansa, but considering the frogs' past record, I put my foot down. No way was I taking off for France.

On a trip
to Paris in the 1990s, Air France lost my luggage, their check-in staff treated me with contempt, a member of their cabin crew spilled hot coffee on my head (yes - my HEAD!) and I found a tissue loaded in snot in the seat pocket infront of me.

Furthermore, I find difficulty in supporting anything with links to a country I often find myself at odds with politically, whether it be the anarchic burning of live British sheep in their ports or the testing of nuclear weapons in the pacific ocean.

Air France might have cleaned up their act in the fifteen years or so since I last used them, but they still fund the machinery of a government which I detest and I wonder if my prospective enjoyment of an eleven hour flight was a worthy sacrifice. Yes, I know, I'm shallow. I am. And if I'd known how awfully Lufthansa were going to be, I'd have willingly funded a French company and the French regime. Clearly, I'm a selfish little cunt with no conscience.

I'm sure my fir
st day in Japan on previous trips was not such a blur as on this last holiday. I felt utterly detached from reality and in some kind of dream-like state. Nightmare-like state, even.

Having left the airport limosine bus, we were greeted at the root of the Shinjuku Park Tower by Park Hyatt staff who whisked our luggage away and escorted us to reception. I felt totally supported, Mothered, even, by the hotel staff. I'm sure, if I'd put one of those trust exercises modern employers' training programmes are so keen on into practice, falling backwards would have resulted in me being caught in the arms of a member of staff.

A lift took us approximately two thirds up the Shinjuku Tower to a coffee lounge with impressive views over the city of Tokyo. From ther
e, we walked, still accompanied by charmingly camp hotel staff to one of four reception desks. En route, I realised I'd left my hat on the bus. My heart sank. After the completion of a registration card, a note of passport numbers and credit card sweep, we were then told, our arrival being so early in the day, that our room was not yet ready, but would be by 13:00.

A brief visit to the locale was, then, in order. Eating in a British train station would be something to be sneered at. But not in Japan. They almost always double up as huge shopping complexes with restaurants and food areas. Eating is always a delight in the land of the rising sun, whether it be Okonomiyaki down a back alley or a banquet in a five star hotel. Our first Japanese meal of 2007 did not disappoint. Almost exclusively vegetarian in the UK, I become a ravenous carnivore in Japan and devour all kinds of delicacies with ardour. Prawn katsu was the order of the day, served with miso soup, barley rice, cabbage salad (it tastes much better than it sounds), Japanese pickles and chilled green tea.

The meal eaten, the time almost one o'clock, we returned to the hotel, window shopping on the way and with the next day and breakfast in mind, keeping an eye out for a bakery/café.

Back to our base... A lady at reception was very sad to learn of the loss of my hat. Her expression was a picture, as if I'd just told her that her Mother had committed hara-kiri. She promised to do her personal best to get my hat back for me after which we were escorted by another member of staff to our room on the forty ninth floor. It was beautiful. The room itself was as large as the entire ground floor area of my home here in Edinburgh, the bathroom as big as the first floor of my house. The beds were beautiful, sumptuous, comfortable and came with the largest and fluffiest pillows. I adore comfort, especially in bed. If the view from the coffee lounge was impressive, a similar vista as seen from room 4909 blew my tiny mind. I spent quite some time looking out onto Tokyo, almost transfixed, hypnotised, before coming to and exploring the bathroom.

I adore Japanese bathroom facilities and was not let down at the Park Hyatt. A walk in shower, huge basin and a bath so deep, the water came up to my waist on standing inside it
. Oh, and a telly overhead enabling me to watch BBC World while soaking! A room within the bathroom housed the pinnacle of aquatic entertainment, a Japanese Toto washlet toilet with air-freshener, heated seat, bumwash and warm air dryer! I was sure, the hotel staff being so attentive, that if I'd used the telephone housed directly next to the toilet itself, someone, immediately upon request, would have come to wipe my bottom. But no need! I didn't even have to touch myself, a visit to the crapper being totally automated! Heaven - and something Uncle Harvey would have died for!

A brief lie down on one of the double beds was a mistake. I could feel my eyes rolling back into my head and sleep taking ahold of me. A shower, a change of clothes and a trip back out into Tokyo, specifically the metropolitan government/municipal buildings for the views they afford of the city. Why, with our room on the forty ninth floor of the Shinjuku Tower, we chose to go there, I'm not sure, but I blame our state of fatigue and excitement.

The Japanese idea of security checks is, with their penchant for good manners; being polite and relative lack of terrorist experience considered, still bizarre. Before entering the lift for the top of the municipal buildings, our bags were examined. I say examined, a very zany man in blue uniform and cap gestured to me to open my bag. He took, I'm sure, only for the sake of appearances, the briefest look insi
de my camera case. He did not wish to see if anything was hidden beneath the camera itself or, indeed, if the camera was actually a camera. The Japanese are either very trusting in these respects or blissfully ignorant. Either way, it's a welcome departure from the suspicious police state I'm used to.

From the municipal buildings, we took a walk around Shinjuku, trying to familiarise ourselves with what would be our home turf for the next few days. On finding a public telephone, we called Alan and Junya's house. Alan was still at work, but Junya was home. Ian confirmed our meeting for the next day. Hungry and tired, we crawled back to the Shinjuku railway station and shopping centre, stopping en route for a photo opportunity on a pedestrian bridge. While snapping the Shinjuku Tower, the bridge began to bounce. Looking for and not finding the jumping elephant, I wondered if I'd just experienced my first earthquake. Subsequently, Alan could find no reports of seismic activity, though I have convinced myself that, for the first time in my life, I felt the earth move under my feet, though the sky did not tumble down, Carole King fans.

Back in the Shinjuku railway station and shopping centre, Phyllis and I indulged in our first sushi meal of the trip, washed down with sake. Our oishii comment was greeted with a surprised smile by restaurant staff.

"Come on, I'm knackered. I want to go to bed," said Minge.

Back at the hotel, I stayed awake long enough to take another shower before climbing into bed at around eight o'clock. Why, I'm not sure, but with Fuck Me Pumps on my mind, I drifted off to sleep within seconds.

The bed seemed to envelop me. So soft. Neither hot nor cold, but warm and verging on ecstasy, I slept through until three or four in the morning. Turning from one side to another, I immediately went back to sleep, relaxed, looking forward to breakfast.





japanesewhispers said...

I love the Toto article on Wikipedia. It comments on the "Pacific Rim" lol

That friend Alan of yours sounds like a dirty ride!

Moncrief Speaks said...

Wonderful and evocative. More, please!

Lewis said...

My dear, there are truly things to hate in this life. But, the French? An airline? And a snot-infused tissue?

japanesewhispers said...

Not that I wish to split hairs and although I have never travelled Air France and never will as I've heard nothing but shitty reports about them. Plus coffee on the head may be the French way of doing things but it's just not cricket darling!
However, burning sheep and all. I agree are reasons not to give money to France. However, the Lufthansa did bomb us for quite an extended period at one point in time. Why not boycott them? ;P Just as you arrived, or returned, they found an old Lufthansa bomb near a Dumbarton school and had to blow it up.
To be honest with you though as far as service goes there isn't much a choice in Europe. All the staff seem surly and pissed off for having a job. I thought it was KLM, then I went on BA! Jesus!
I count the nice airlines as;

Virgin (though never flown with them, I've never heard a bad comment)
Emirates - Just amazing! Beyond amazing! They pour the Gin down your neck while you watch 500 pausable entertainment channels
Thai - Those ping pong balls were fabulous
SAS - You told me they were great, so did Liz
JAL - Nice and you get sake!


Where do we begin;

Northworst erm west! - Horrid
BA - Sorry for making you do the job you're being paid for BUT get me a fucking G&T. Oh and thanks for the £30 compensation for the £700 broken fucking seat that put a crick in my neck for 12 hours! NEVER AGAIN! Oh and old planes
KLM - Just miserable AND fucking rude, plus the planes are shite. A pull down screen (that was broken - black and white) for a 12 hour flight ... PAH!
Cathay Pacific - Bitchy staff that talk back, again fuck up and get my G&T!

Well there's ma wee rant over. I hope this helps you make future decisions on when you fly. Please boycott all my shitty airlines, especially the British one as they're just awful, lying cunts!

Phew! But they have an amazing voice!

Moncrief Speaks said...

I think you've confused Lufthansa with the Luftwaffe. Both do contain the German word for "air" in them, it's true, and both are, well, German, but the idea of a "Lufthansa bomb," in the context of unexploded World War II explosives, made me chuckle.

japanesewhispers said...

LOL Same difference if you don't speak German! I'm sure they would of if they had the chance ;P But would BA rise to our defence? Hmmm ... you're more likely to get a G&T from them and that's difficult at the best of times! :)

Moncrief Speaks said...

The war would have been much more entertaining if European national airlines were bombing each other -- or at least dumping out their lavatory contents over each other's countries.

Salty Sailor said...

"and I found a tissue loaded in snot in the seat pocket infront of me"

Are you SURE it was snot? That's why I wear rubberised gloves when checking the seat pockets!

Salty Sailor said...

Oh, and I can I just say to the fabulous Japaneswhispers..... I also LOVE Emirates as an airline, I've flown with them 6 times and they are the best.

Glad to see my employer, easyJet, aren't on your Bad Airlines list. I take it you don't fly "lo-cost" lol

japanesewhispers said...

I'll fly low cost when the whim takes me. However, at least with low cost you don't have any expectations short of getting there. If they're nice and pleasant etc that's an added bonus. I guess Minge is right, we should all be pessimists. Althoug I'm a natural optimist and life can be such a dissapointment!
I wish we had low cost in Japan. Although we do have trains that go faster than planes and you should see the leg room on them! You have to lean forward to eat. Fabulous, but expensive(ish)!