1 - March 21, 1999)
I was scheduled to leave Tokyo on Sunday, 3/21.
30 year old daughter of my dear friend Dave died last Monday in
Poughkeepsie from the cancer she was battling since last October.
Since we were just about done with the work, I sent my boss a note and
said I had to leave if I could make the arrangements. Thank
goodness for Delta. As they did for me in 1996 when my dad was
about to die, they were able to get me and Diane out of Tokyo on an
earlier flight. So we left on Wednesday for home. Delta was
also able to find a frequent flyer seat for me to go to NY. The
trip home was 20 hours door-to-door and we got home at 6PM on Wednesday
evening. I hopped a plane to NY on Thursday and came home again
on Saturday. It is Sunday morning as I start to write this final
note about Japan. My body is just now figuring out where it
is. I find the Asia trips to be much harder on my body than the
European trips. It takes me a few days to get back in synch when
I return from Japan.
Last week was a pretty tough week for me from the time I received the
note about Dave's daughter on Tuesday morning (Monday night in the
US). Nick was still in town on Monday and it was his last night,
so he picked the restaurant. He decided shabushabu was the
choice, so we went back to ShabuZen. On Tuesday, Diane picked the
last meal and she decided on kushiyaki. So we got to eat our
three favorite meals in our last three nights in Tokyo (monja on
Sunday, shabushabu on Monday, kushiyaki on Tuesday). What I want
to do in this final note from Tokyo is to wrap it up with some final
impressions, those memories that will stay with me forever.
Before I do that, though, I had forgotten to mention in the previous
three notes from Japan anything about the building we were working
in, specifically, the elevators. I had never been in a
building that had 'tandem' elevators, one on top of the other.
You got off on odd or even floors. It was kind of slick.
For one, it certainly eliminates having people take an elevator up or
down only one level. They have no choice but to take the
stairs. It was a bit weird when the elevator stopped and the
doors didn't open. The first day there it took a while to figure
out that they were tandem elevators and someone was getting on/off on
an odd floor (we were on 18, so we got on at 2).
Now for some final impressions of Japan:
* the Hotel New Otani -
this became 'home' for the 20 weeks I spent in Tokyo from 1993 to
1999. From my very first impression when I walked into hotel in
1993 and spent 8 weeks there, to the return in 1994 when my friend
Peter met me and said 'welcome home', I always looked forward to a trip
to Tokyo. I talked about the hotel in
a previous note, so I won't say anything else except that I know I will
miss this marvelous hotel. It was the best one that I stayed at
during my assignments in Audit.
* public transportation -
the subways, trains, taxis
- subways and trains - you can definitely set your
watch by these systems. But the lasting impression is how
SPOTLESS they are. The stations are spotless and well lit.
No garbage all over the place, no graffiti on the walls. The
trains are immaculate and have upholstered seats, and people don't slit
them open with knives or destroy them. There is no graffiti on
the trains. And probably one of the things that I found most
incredible is that there is no garbage on the tracks. No bottles,
papers, cigarette butts, newspapers,
etc. I never saw a person throw garbage down on the tracks in
subway or on the JR (Japan Railway).
- taxis - thousands of them, all over the
city. Lined up in front of office buildings, hotels, restaurants,
shopping areas. They are also immaculate. And the drivers
white gloves. The seats have embroidered covers over the top of
the seats, and they are WHITE. The drivers are
pleasant and want to please. On one trip, the driver got confused
about where we told him we wanted to go and we knew he was not going
the right way. Now one might think that he thought we were
tourists and would run up the fare. However, when we got to our
location and he realized his mistake, he cut the fare down to what it
should have been.
* the school children - I
will never forget the first time I saw little kids, maybe 6-7 years
old, traveling by themselves on subways and trains to school.
ALONE. Now in which USA city would a parent allow their 6-7 years
olds to travel on a subway to school alone? Japan isn't crime
free, but one doesn't read about multiple crimes every day. You
really have a feeling of being safe in such a big city.
* Yoyogi Park - I also
talked about this in a previous note. I will never forget Yoyogi
Park, especially the first impressions with Peter back in 1993 and then
watching Diane's reaction when she arrived in Tokyo six weeks
later. Once we got over our first impressions after spending a
couple of Sunday afternoons there, Peter and I enjoyed watching other
tourists taking in the sites. The people watching at Yoyogi was
* Oriental Bazaar - we
spent lots of yen in our favorite store buying stuff for ourselves and
* temples and shrines - I
never got tired of visiting a new temple or shrine.
* the food - if you have
followed my notes, need I say more? Marvelous experiences.
* the respect - Japan is
a culture of respect. You can see it everywhere you go.
They respect each other and respect their country. Not many
litterbugs in Japan (a real hot button for me when I drive in the USA
and see people throwing paper, cups, cigarette butts, bottles, etc. out
of car windows. Pigs.). It is not uncommon to see some
serious bowing going on in hotels, stores, the workplace, all
over. The higher in stature the person is, the lower one bows to
that person. I once asked one of the two ladies at the hotel who
moonlighted as greeters for people getting on the elevators how they
learn to do the bowing. She told me they learn it all their lives
and it is then part of them. They just know how to bow to
different people they meet. But the key is that it is all based
There are many other memories of Japan, but those are the highlights
that come to mind.
I thought in 1996 that it would be my last trip to Japan since I was
ending my audit assignment and going back to a desk job. Little
did I know that I would re-join the audit group and be back in Japan
once again 2 1/2 years later. This time I think it will be my
last trip to Japan unless we take a vacation there sometime down the
road. But who knows? Life is strange. However,
assuming that this will be the last visit to one of the two places on
the planet that I have loved visiting the most, I will say good-bye
Japan, SOYANARA NIHON.
Until next time.
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