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Saturday, April 4, 2009

My post trip entry: A retrospective

It has been a while since I returned from Japan and I thought it was about time to do a final entry for the trip. I will keep updating the blog as I go along because I am moving to Japan later this year.

My initial goal for going to Japan was to figure out if I could live there on a permanent basis. My verdict: without a doubt! I have to say that I think there are a LOT of people who wouldn't be able to do it for long. It does seem to be a higher stress lifestyle. You always see people running here and there. The only thing I ran for was to get out of the street!

The flight back:

After I get through the security check and to the terminal I was told that my flight was overbooked and that if I waited an hour they would put me on a flight direct to Detroit and upgrade me to a World Business class seat. Even though the flight left an hour later I wouldn't have a stop over in Tokyo, so it came out to be about the same time but with an upgraded seat. So I took the option and I was extremely glad I did. I had remembered reading about the business class seat on the Northwest web site and it sounded nice. I was unprepared for just how nice it actually was. A real blanket and pillow, an electric reclining seat that would go down into a bed with the push of a button, a personal entertainment system with fold out LCD screen and anything food and drink wise they could supply you with. They even gave me slippers, a toothbrush and clean socks! With dinner they served me a great glass (or two :P) of red wine. Now wine usually has very little effect on me but for some reason, whether it be the airplane or drinking the first glass before I was served dinner, I was flying higher than the 747-400 I was in! Weeeee!

Alcohol and Japanese people:

So Sanae and I were returning from Shinjuku (I think) one evening and got on a train to return to Tachikawa. I was amazed to see drunk people on the trains already as it was only around 9:30. I had read about drunks on trains in one of my travel books but I thought it was exaggerating...nope! What I can't figure out is how a guy can walk through a train station down on the platforms with his eyes closed and not fall down on the tracks.


What else can I say...I love Japanese food. I didn't eat a single thing the whole trip that I didn't like. And I tried a lot of new things. Surprisingly, my insides only disagreed with my culinary decisions once. Luckily I was in a shopping mall and was greeted in the bathroom by a western fixture and not the dreaded 'squatty potty'.

Tokyo and Beyond:

Tokyo and all it's suburbs rocked. I am looking forward to exploring these areas in greater detail wen I return. I never really pegged myself as a city guy, and I do love the country, but there was just something about it....

Cars that I saw:

2x Skyline R34s

Skyline R32

Mitsubishi FTO

Mitsubishi Evo III

several nicely modified Toyota MR-2 Spyders

Recent Evo's and STi's
Mistubishi Galant VR-4

Subaru Impreza STi sedan (GC8)

Subaru Impreza STi coupe (GC8) - was this the fabled 22B??

Toyota Supra

Mazda RX-7

Ferrari (not sure what model)

Maserati (not sure what model)

and probably others that I have forgotten about.

My return:

My goal for returning to Japan in July. This will be 'the move' trip, the one where I do not come back for quite some time. I will likely be staying in or around the Tokyo area.

The good, the bad and the WTF? :

The Bad:

Ok, we are starting with the bad because it is easier. What's bad about Japan? The first week I hit my elbows, knees, hips, shoulders, head and feet on just about everything.

The lack of personal space on the trains when everyone is trying to get home.

The train stations when there is nothing in english and they decide to change the name of the train from a 'local' which stops at all stations; to an express, semi-express or one of the other hundred labels they have for it and it flies past the station you needed to get off at. They do this at rush hour. I guess it is something that you are just supposed to know. It is surprising that a country that is so educated and seemingly logical would do something like this. It almost landed in the WTF section.

I had jet lag and insomnia when I returned to the US. I think my body and mind returned to the US but my heart and spirit stayed in Japan

Ok, I like to cook but most apartments don't seem to have grand cooking facilities. I have figured out creative solutions to some of the problems like counter space and storage, but there is one thing that still bothers me. I NEED AN OVEN TO MAKE CAKE, CHEESECAKE AND ANYTHING ELSE I BAKE WHICH IS JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING! I went to an electronics stop and eventually made my way up to the appliance level to look at and price things. In looking for ovens I was like"what are these things, 'Easy Bake Ovens'?" Bah, I guess they will have to do...Now I just need to find a place to put one.

Earthquakes. Sanae said that she had experienced several earthquakes. I have some light search and rescue training but that doesn't mean I want to search and rescue myself. I better take my CERT helmet!

The WFT? :

The old guy on a bicycle who almost ran me over in Nagoya at about midnight because I was maybe walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk?? WFT, old man...I could have picked him up with one arm and shook his teeth loose while sipping coffee with the other. He was really the only rude guy I met on the whole trip.

The good:

Everything else. Ok, ok...I'll list some specifics.

The food; you better like seafood if you live here...or noodles and rice. Trust me, you can't live on bean buns! Oh, the bean or white, I'll have both please! Arigato! Mmmmmmmm. The Japanese tofu is amazing. I don't know what gutter they scrape American tofu out of, but it sucks!

The big cities are very clean (except Shinkuku) and safe (except Shinkuku). Why can't the Yakuza clean it up a little??

The people; they are generally kind and as helpful as possible. I have heard that Japanese people are shy, but I had several people come up and start talking to me...maybe because I was a white guy or something. Naw, most of the time people were very sincere and honest. You gotta love that!

Hanging out with Sanae in Tokyo; you made me a believer!

What I will miss about the US:

There is actually quite a lot to miss here. The US is a wonderful place to live and raise a family and there is plenty of things here to miss.

Cheap dairy and produce. Some things cost a lot in japan, like dairy products and some fresh fruits and veggies.

The coffee...I mentioned this earlier in the blog. Definitely going to have to import some of this from home. Maybe I should just kick the habit instead.

I will miss my cars a lot. I am not sure I can even afford a car in Japan. Maybe I will buy a moped and equip it with NOS and some Micky Thompson slicks :D Hey wait..this is Japan. Where are all the transporter systems and jetpacks? I guess the shinkansen will have to do ;)

My house. Yeah, I said it. Even though I don't like this particular house it is OK and has more space than what I will be able to afford in Japan.

BIG Thunderstorms...I am still waiting to use my CERT training. Ahh, there was one tonight.

And finally, my friends and family. Skype can only suffice to a certain degree.


Shinkansen passing another shinkansen. These trains are about 1300 feet long (almost a 1/4 mile). Watch how fast they pass each other!

Some video from local trains. Watch the Japanese countryside!
(Can you spot the modified Supra?)

Video 1:

Video 2: