Back in Japan—for the 11th time

     I think this is my 11th time visiting Japan, so brace yourself for some heavy reckless generalizations peppered in my posts throughout my time here.
     I slept in the Bangkok airport for a few hours as my flight was early this morning. My usual place by where the distressed airlines (Druk Air, Royal Nepal Airlines, Bangladesh Biman) have their check-in counters was taken, but I was resourceful and found a decent, quiet, soft place.
     I used 10,000 United frequent flier miles and paid $22 in taxes to fly 6 hours from Bangkok to Tokyo one way. That’s a great deal. I have a hunch that my frequent flier miles page is the least-viewed page on my website, which is a shame because there is some good information.
     I had thoughts of trying to hitchhike from the airport all the way up to Nagano prefecture, but since Japan doesn’t have daylight savings time, it gets dark early and I decided to go the way I know, which is too boring and complicated to explain.

     One of these days I will make a post with the title, “Japan Is Not Expensive”, but I am still in shock at the incredibly awful exchange rate at the moment: 83 yen equals one dollar.
     But I say that it isn’t as expensive as one would think because Japan has stagflation or even deflation and prices never change. The train from the airport to town has been 1000 yen forever. (The 1000 yen, 80 minute Keisei limited express train isn’t well-publicized, but I am still chagrined so many people take the 2000 yen, 60 minute non-stop train.) I might change my mind with this horror of an exchange rate; we’ll see.
     I have a friend who wants to visit Japan because of its architecture, but if she took the train from the the airport to town, she would be in for a shock. Japan can be incredibly ugly. Most houses are made to last only 20 years or so and are simple and boxy but not in an artistic, minimalist way. The initial feeling you get is that Tokyo must be an inhumane place.

     Shio insisted on treating me to a miso ramen

     At the first highway parking area out of Tokyo I made my way through a back employee entrance to where I got a highway map and was walking out to hitchhike when a guy who had been eyeing me said something and we got to talking and he gave me a ride. Easy. It is very unusual for a Japanese to approach me, even in their cautious way where they mumble something, propelling me to be the first one to speak.
     His name was Shio and he is a master gardener/arborist. He drives over 100km once a week just to do a famous folksinger’s garden. More interesting to me was that he has to carry all the clippings and waste in his car all the way back to where he lives because in Tokyo you can’t just leave that stuff anywhere.
     I waited a long time for the next ride. Maybe it was too dark or my clothes were too dark or I looked like a zombie with my tired face. The ride was from two guys who had decided to stop after they had already driven 200 meters past me, but they didn’t back up. I have seen it so many times by now that I am convinced that the Japanese are unable to drive in reverse. The driver sent his poor friend to run over to talk to me and after some protracted consultations with the map and my rusty Japanese, he called back to see if it was OK to take me.
     I’m dead tired.

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Back in Japan—for the 11th time — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: An open letter to the Japanese National Tourism Organization: hire me. |

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