Sunday, March 7th I left for Tokyo Japan. My work sent me to attend Japan Shop, a retail merchandising materials and manufacturing trade show and also to get inspired. I like working for a company that invests in its employees in this way.
What a wonderful experience! This is the first of four blogs that will give an overview of my stay, my observations, and the extremely brief role reversal of becoming the minority in one of the ‘world’s most populous metropolitan area‘ over the span of 5 days.
I left my bed at around 6am to catch the commuter flight from PDX to SEA. I got to the airport pretty quickly so I was glad to find that they had an earlier flight I could hop on to prepare for transit to the appropriate gate in Seattle*.
I got to my gate and had just enough time to mentally prepare myself for the 9:52 flight to NRT (Narita Airport). Once aboard, way back in seat 34B, I sat next a very nice, but extremely talkative human named Kristyn. She immediately barraged me with the details of her work life within the Washington State Legislature and her night job as a bar tender for some bar somewhere. I watched When Harry Met Sally, Family Guy, and a bit of the in flight GPS system. Fast forward, past the over-sauced flight meals, touchdown in Narita. “I lost a day.”, thinks the time traveler in his head.
When we deplane the craft, the first thing I noticed was the wonderful usage of iconography to help an ill-prepared visitor like myself. I followed ‘Yellow‘ to get to international arrival customs. The lines and customs lobby were clean and super efficient. When I got to the officer, he pointed to my head and softly said “cap”. I removed my cap, surrendered my fingerprints and a pretty awful face photo of myself to the Japanese government before heading to bag inspection. One in the bag inspection area, I kept noticing how amazingly fluent the iconography was. I could navigate with barely any effort. The officers were dressed in the most beautiful blue uniforms. So spotless you’d have thought that the officers themselves were rolled off of a manufacturing line 15 minutes before I arrived. The female officer I was prompted to approach softly welcomed me with a “hello” and then briefly glanced at my papers and bag before bowing and sending me on my way. I’ll never forget those deep, beautiful, welcoming eyes. Kindness and authority can go together. Who knew?
The whole time leading up to the trip, I felt my biggest hurdle was going to be getting from Narita to Tokyo. Thankfully co-workers informed me about the awesome limo-bus system. 2,700¥ or about $30. It was the only moment of culture shock I felt when I pointed to my destination of the Ariake Washington Hotel to the limo-bus counter clerk. She looked at the destination, quickly printed a ticket, collected my yen, and sent me on my way. Painless. I then felt much better clutching that ticket. I sat next to a girl I recognized from the flight while I waited for my bus.
On the bus and the fastest hour of my life passed by, I was getting off of the bus when my co-worker Ed Toler was sitting in the front row and said, “Hey, are you Gabe?”…I was kinda caught off guard, and continued off the bus before turning around to greet him. We made plans for dinner and I checked into my room.
Once I got into my room, I noticed a little card holder on the wall. Brilliant. You put your room card in to hit a switch to power the room. I assume it only works with the room card. I didn’t try any other cards, but still good stuff. Great way to save on power consumption. I gave my room a brief scan before unpacking and laying down for a moment.
I called Ed and we met up to have dinner in the hotel. We played elevator lottery trying to get up to the 21st floor where the restaurant was located. Finally, we found out that the restaurant was closed. However, the 20th floor had a killer Chinese restaurant. We split all sorts of yummy dim sum, rice dishes, eggplant and dumpling soup. It was really delicious and just what my body needed after that long journey.
After dinner, Ed and I parted ways, and I went up to my room to sleep.
Next up: “Arigato!”
Want to see more photos? Head on over to my flickr page. Always adding, never ceasing.
March 7th Play-list:
- The Fountain Original Score
- Led Zepplin_Babe I’m Gunna Leave You
- Carbon Based Lifeforms_Abiogenisis
- Juno Reactor_Pistolero (radio edit)
- Juno Reactor_Rotoblade
- Ryan Adams_Love is Hell PT.1 & PT.2
- Sigur Ros_Flugufrelsarinn
- Sigur Ros_Glosoli
- Sigur Ros_Happipolla
March 8th Play-list:
- Cake_Prolonging the Magic
- Blue Foundation_Self Titled
*I should note I am not a huge fan of the Seattle/Tacoma Airport as the “N” and “S” terminals are separate from the other terminals. As a visitor, my first few attempts were pretty rushed and frustrating. WAY better than LAX though. Oh wow do I despise LAX.