I’m in Japan
July 26, 2009
I expected the flight over to Japan would be a welcome period of relaxation before being flung into the insanity that was “life in Japan.” Eat some delicious American-made pretzels, drink a little Diet Coke and watch a mindless movie or two. I prayed I would at least sleep for an hour or three. Alas, most of these wishes didn’t come to fruition on my 14-hour Japan Airlines flight. Thank goodness Diet Coke transcends all cultures.
You aren’t just stepping onto an airplane with JAL. Once you make sure all overhead baggage is stowed correctly, you’re overwhelmed by Japanese culture. No pretzels, only rice crackers dashed with some kind of fish powder that lingers in your mouth for half-a-day. They show an “in-seat exercise” video, featuring a Japanese woman stretching her feet for what feels like forever, two times. The in-flight magazine has to be read from left to right, for god sakes. Instead of offering you one last gasp of non-cultured air, JAL wants you to know exactly what you are getting into with this, one warm hand towel at a time (don’t ask)
It isn’t all terrifying. The two meals served were actually really good, and the Japanese style salad easily trumped its American counterpart (hint: it had a lot of croutons). The safety video shown at the start of the flight also shined, mostly because all human actors were replaced with adorable Nintendo Wii-ish characters who could buckle their safety belt and deploy the emergency slides. And though it was completely over-the-top, the cameras attached to the outside of the plane were kind of cool in a “I’ve made way too much small talk, I need to look at something else phase.”
The worst part of the flight wasn’t JAL’s fault though. It was me not being able to sleep for more than an hour on the flight, resulting in me hunched over for most of the flight speed-reading through books. The flight attendents even asked if I was OK, wondering why this lunatic was still awake, starting to read his third book of the flight. Upon arriving in Tokyo, I wanted to sprawl out on the floor, swine flu check be damned. So, obviously, I’ve chosen to stay up even later to write. Blame that bad decision on the lack of sleep.
I’m in Tokyo, but can’t really sum up what it’s like…still need to experience a lot more of it. But here are a few quick observations on the Japan I’ve seen:
– Tokyo’s apartment complexes would be as drab as any other chunk of concrete if it weren’t for there secret weapon: laundry. Everyone dries laundry by hanging it up, and the resulting blanket turns otherwise boring apartments into big, colorful quilts. Quilts made out of beach towels and pants.
– The homeless people in Tokyo don’t just pass out on benches or on a subway platform. They have boxes. Actual cardboard boxes. That they straight up live in. I swear I saw some dude just chilling in a refridgerator box, no shirt. And he wasn’t alone – there appeared to be an entire commune of these guys. Thrilling times.
– They do, in fact, have Burger Kings in Japan (just discovered, yessssss).
– I heard one Pink song and a couple J-Pop tunes playing in the street today, but the clear winner was…none other than Michael Jackson. I caught five of his songs played over the course of the not, and not one was “Thriller.” Also played: “99 Luftballoons.”
– They have wi-fi on busses here. Hold me.