Friday, August 26, 2005

A traveler's journey to Japan, take 1

Cursing Microsoft in his mind, the weary traveler rebooted his laptop computer, wishing that he could have the 20 minutes back that he just apparently wasted preparing a vaguely clever and even perhaps entertaining synopsis of his 24 hours of travel. Resolved to provide you good people w/ the pleasure of travel prose, he waded in again.

Inside the bullet train rocketing thru the Japanese countryside, he was hot, sweaty, and thirsty. Admittedly, it could be worse, he thought - he could be lost, could have been robbed blind (and runs that risk at time of writing), could have hurt an ankle or shoulder carrying his heavy luggage up the stairs, or a dozen other things. As it happened, the worst thing so far was having missed his originally-intended train and having to wait for one 40 minutes later. But first things first...

Having bid a fond farewell to a very close friend at the DFW airport, the traveler swallowed a lump in his throat that had treacherously returned (said lump having been banished w/ difficulty upon saying good-bye to his family the previous evening) and put on his traveling game face. Boarding the plane to the capital of the ALF (American Lunatic Fringe, to the uninitiated), San Francisco, he made pleasant conversation w/ a pretty Indian lady in her early 30s, one of 4 sisters, 3 of whom had been disowned and deemed incommunicado by a family upset at their marrying non-Indians or Indian men outside of their higher caste. After watching the inflight movie, the traveler resisted the urge to fatigue the carpet on the already well-worn mental path of reflection on the hopelessness and pointlessness of the postmodern dating scene, where a viable relationship begins w/ a glance and a sexual tryst inside an airplane lavatory.

At SFO, the traveler settled down for a 3-hour layover, spending half of it slumped in the chair w/ an MP3 sermon in his headphones and most of the other half flat on his back on the floor w/ said sermon playing, a fresh pocket-pack of Kleenex serving as a pillow (as said traveler has a flair for the functional and unassuming). Disheartened at the sheer volume of fellow passengers in the huge 777 that would convey them all to Osaka, he boarded, only to be further disheartened to find his seat in the middle position of the 5 part of the 2-5-2 configuration of each row. Settling into the ridiculously long flight, he made the acquaintance of a young Japanese lady returning from vacation in Arizona and (you guessed it!) Las Vegas and a U-Dub student on his way to visit grandma in Japan. The flight passed more quickly in his mind than did his previous overseas flight – that returning from France. It was still long though; he passed it reading, watching an in-flight movie, and dozing (which caused him almost to miss a snack fly-by from the flight attendants as well as the second meal).

Last into a tram from the gate to the immigration terminal, the traveler was first down the stairs and in line. Wisely resisting the urge to laugh when asked if it was OK if a young immigration official searched one of his suitcases, the traveler passed thru w/o incident and set about the hard part of the journey – traveling in-country. First, he exchanged his wad of American cash to an equally large wad of Japanese cash, which made him antsy, as he prefers flashing a credit card to a wad of bills. Directed by helpful airport employees, he found the train to the train station easily and grabbed a water bottle from a nearby snack kiosk. Finding it pleasantly Gatorade-flavored, he turned to a nearby man who had bought the same and ventured an “E desne?” To which the man nodded, saying “Yeah, ‘s’good.”

Watching the Osaka cityscape whiz by w/ feelings of trepidation, the traveler reflected that the houses looked in many ways European in style and in their proximity to each other and to shops. Missing from the European cityscape are all the rice paddies present at random spaces throughout this quarter of the city. Having spied a casino and liquor store, the traveler decided to make good use of his time by praying for the city – doing the prayer-walker one better as a prayer-rider. Top that, Eric and Melanie! Well, I guess they have but to prayer-ride in a Beiruti taxi to top it. Never mind.

Into the Shin-Osaka train station, the traveler recognised a few Americans from the airport here and there but was truly become a stranger in a strange land. Kiosks with expensive and malnutritive snacks as well as numerous gates for train quays and ticket windows were the order of the day. Everywhere, Japanese! Hmm, what did you expect, right? Older men in Western suits w/ no tie, a surprising number of young men in snappy black suits, girls in pants and sharp-pointed pumps, other guys w/ bossa-bossa hair (for bossa-bossa, see here) and tank tops w/ English slogans: “The Last Supper;” “Energize the night;” “Disko, swing, house, Berlin;” and a surprising number of cross necklaces. The traveler felt like he had been re-transported to the Paris Metro station of Chatelet-les-Halles, to be frank. And lugging his luggage (‘cause that’s what one does w/ luggage, right?) around the station, he found the correct gate for his train and found the train about to leave. Hurrying to the non-reserved cars, he found to his dismay that the cars were packed full of people, standing-room only, and no standing room left. Casting a despairing glance downward at his large suitcases, he calculated the following:

Another person + two big suitcases + guitar + the obvious attitude from the other passengers of “don’t even think about it, gaijin boy” = no dice.

1 comment:

Ka Ki said...

good job alan....I especially like the part that you said to the man next to you "e-des?" That was classic! I love it! WEll, I'm proud of you.....go fish! from Kaki