Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hello from Tokyo!

It's just past midnight here. It's just past 11 am at home. I just got into my hotel room and am almost settled down for the night.

I don't sleep well when I travel, and last night was no exception.

I met some of the people who are here for meetings for breakfast. The breakfast buffet had surprisingly western options. I took the opportunity to have a hearty breakfast, and lots of coffee.

The landscaping at the office we went to was very Japanese looking. The interior lobby was very Japanese. It looked like an old inn with the sliding doors, the old polished wood, etc.

The conference rooms were conference rooms. I guess they are the same the world over. For lunch they brought in unsatisifying finger sandwiches. I couldn't identify what was on them, but they didn't kill me either.

Our flight from Osaka to Tokyo was at 7pm. The efficiency of the whole airport operation was very impressive. I have never been through check in, security, boarding, unboarding, and baggage claim as easily, as quickly, or without the hint of a hassle as at the airport.

The next step was to board a train to take us to downtown Tokyo.The ride was about 30 minutes. I got to experience a little of what Japanese commuters endure everyday. That is, the ungodly way everyone is packed on the train. Yes, I experienced "the pushers" who are quasi security men whose job is to stuff people into the train cars until you are packed like sardines. Some Japanese commute everyday under those conditions for well over an hour each way. Luckily, we only had to endure it for about 20 minutes.

We got to the station downtown, and were supposed to board another train that would get us closer to the office and hotel which is right across the street. While waiting for the train to leave the station, a co worker from Japan whom one of my companions recognised happened to be walking by. It turned out that the reason the train wasn't leaving was that there was an accident somewhere along the line, and we were going to have to wait at least an hour before we'd be able to leave. Probably longer.

So we left the train station in search of a cab. The problem was that half of Tokyo was in the same situation.

The line at the taxi stand was probably half a mile long by the time we got there, and there were no cabs in sight. They were probably picking up fares upstream somewhere and just weren't making it our way.

It was about 10 pm by that time, so we decided to get something to eat.

In the Trade Center building, there is an area called the food street. We tried several restaurants, but what we were running into was either the kitchens were shutting down or they couldn't seat four of us. After four or five restaurants, we finally found one who could seat us.

The menu, of course, was in Japanese. The wait staff spoke no English, and my Japanese was not up to deciphering the menu. By pointing and gesturing we managed to order some food, but more importantly, by that time of the night, we got some beer.

I'm not sure what it is we ate, but it hit the spot. The only trouble was that the restaurant couldn't manage to accept any of our credit cards. The credit cards in Japan are smart cards, which have a microcomputer embedded in them. Many places can accept an American card, but not everywhere. So we split the bill four ways and paid cash.

By the time we were ready to leave the restaurant, the line at the taxi stand was gone, and there were plenty of cabs.

We finally got to the hotel at nearly midnight.

The place is pretty high class. The room is again very small, but very well appointed. I am sitting by my window on the 34th floor, looking out over Tokyo at night, which stretches all the way over the horizon.

35 million people live here. It encompasses an area, if transplanted to Michigan, would stretch from Detroit to Ann Arbor in the west, and all the way up the Thumb area of lower Michigan.

Well, I'm exhausted. I need to get some sleep. I have meetings in the morning.

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