Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 30, 2012

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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I arrived in Tokyo late tonight, and haven't yet seen anything but the airport and its vicinity.  Just before you enter the Immigration/Customs area, there is a sign warning you that the mat you're stepping on is slippery, and that it is specially treated with disinfectant to clean the soles of your shoes.  I suppose they want to avoid the introduction of foreign germs....

I'm staying at Toyoko Inn Haneda Kuko (Kuko = Airport) #2---there are two apparently identical Toyoko Inns across the street from each other.  I'm in the one that serves an American breakfast; if you want a Japanese breakfast, you can just walk across the street to the other Toyoko Inn, which serves a Japanese breakfast.  A bit reminiscent of the old Miami Beach "stay at one, dine at any of the hotels in our group" all-inclusive package deals.  The American breakfast includes soup and choco rolls, which are addictive.

The hotel is making some concessions to the energy crisis and/or global warming.  They offer a discount if you forego new sheets on the 2nd and 3rd night... but they couldn't conceive of letting it go longer.  And no matter what you do, you will get clean towels every day.  (They will hang them on your doorknob if you ask for no room cleaning.  Have you ever seen a rap music video where the featured artist is shown vacuuming and dusting his room?  It was made in Japan and posted on YouTube.)   Instead of putting a pajama (yukata) in each room, there is a self-serve cabinet with yukata in the lobby.  (I think they stole that idea from SuperHotel, their competition.)  (Inside the cabinet, there's a germ-killing blue light.)  The little refrigerator in the room is switched off, with a note on the door to turn on the switch if you want to use it.   And there are no English instructions for the use of the remote control for the air conditioner in the room, which limits electricity use by Americans. 

A note on social order:  The extensive list of hotel rules includes a prohibition on guests who are members of "gangster organizations under the Act on Prevention of Unjust Acts by Organized Crime Group Members," and the ban extends to members of "any other antisocial group."  I'd better be careful!


Yesterday, I went to Yokohama and did not get lost at all, except for not being able to find the subway entrance which is next door to my hotel.  In Yokohama, at the headquarters of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, there is a small Japan Overseas Migration Museum, which focuses on Oregon (who knew?), Hawaii, California, and Brazil.  There is also a section on descendants of migrants who return to Japan to study or live.  So it seems to be partly an effort to preserve the history of Japanese out-migration, which included a lot of laborers and a surprisingly heavy concentration of migrants from the Hiroshima area in the early 1900's. 

Next door is the Cup Noodles Museum, one of those privately-funded museums that dot Japan.  Funded by the Cup Noodles manufacturer, it's a tribute to the importance of their product, the cleverness of its founder, and his persistence in creating and marketing the product despite his advanced age.  There did not appear to be anyone over 30 years old visiting the museum without being accompanied by small children, so I limited my visit to the gift shop, which is full of commemorative items encouraging youth to dream big, work hard, and follow their calling, even if it is a salty cup of noodles.  

It rained all day yesterday, and this morning there were strong winds.  I heard someone at the hotel, looking out the window, say "kaze."  I knew from my previous visit to the Laketown Mall in the Tokyo suburbs that "kaze" means wind.  The Mall has environmentalist pretensions, so they named one wing "kaze" to show its link to nature.

On TV last night, they had a travelogue about Banff, Canada, partly in English and partly in Japanese.  It was actually a combination of a travelogue and an English lesson.  It was followed by a similar program about France, with a section on French verbs.  I'll have to wait until Saturday night for the televised calculus class (this is for real!).

Another note on Japanese television. I saw an educational program about how to protect your home from flooding.  They had some scientific portions, with diagrams to show how much weight water has, and if you have a couple of feet of water in front of your door, the water's weight may prevent you from being able to open the door.  Then they did a simulation of a sewage backup, going room by room as they increased the pressure of fluid coming up the drains.  And there was a horrified housewife going from room to room as they did this experiment, looking more terrified with each drain backup.   

More Japanese TV:  A very cute reality show about a Japanese wedding where members of the J-Pop group SMAP go undercover and serve as waiters, photographer, etc., finally revealing themselves to the surprised bride and groom, and ending the show by singing a love song to the couple.  Not to mention the prime-time TV show about wood joinery and furniture-making.

A less cheerful note on racism in Japanese television:  There was one show where a black man and his daughter are treated vey badly.  The TV host tells the child that she must consume a special drink that will make her look like a gorilla.  The father, joining in on the trick, drinks the potion so that his daughter can pretend to have taken the potion.  Later that night, the father changes into a gorilla costume while his daughter is asleep.  When she wakes up, it appears that her father has been transformed into a gorilla. 

*Your opportunity to learn Japanese from someone who doesn't know the language.


I made a day trip to Kamo, the town where they make the traditional tansu chests.  I wasn't very well prepared, so I walked around the town for a couple of hours and was unable to find any tansu showrooms; I think the work is all done in garage workshops and the marketing is not done in town.  I really didn't want to bother struggling craftsmen who are barely making a living trying to save a dying craft, so I just had lunch and took the train back to Tokyo.


Thanks to the Keikyu Electric Railroad, a private railroad (not part of the Japan Rail System) which runs trains between Tokyo and Yokohama.  Some of their trains sound exactly like the first bit of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" by the Stylistics as they leave the station. 

Watch this YouTube video and you'll get the idea:

Train haiku:

The tote bag says "Rich."
It's owner isn't American.
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