2005.02.26 Tokyo, Japan

Birthday Princess

I'm not sure if it's legitimate to use Tokyo as the dateline: I'm really just passing through for a couple-hour layover. On top of that, I believe I'm actually in the Chiba or Narita prefecture--wherever this international airport serving Tokyo is.

Still, even just being briefly in Japan is bringing back all sorts of memories. During my last job I spent several months working in Tokyo. Prior to that, Japan wasn't a country I planned on visiting. However, having the stay paid for by my employer was all the incentive I needed to experience life here for some time. Getting to know the culture and people turned out to be wonderful. Perhaps because Japan is so developed I had the preconception that most other areas of Asia would be more interesting. I hadn't realized how unique modern-day life there might be.

Narita airport (where I sit typing this) is nothing unusual. It is fun to see aspects of daily Japanese life that used to be so familiar: A frighteningly high percentage of adult women go about in miniskirts and pig-tails. Employees stand around the entrances to terminal shops entreating customers to come browse. Polite nods and frequent cries of, Irashemase, or Dozo... occur every few seconds.

Everything seems so efficiently run. The bathrooms are spotless and gleam. I just finished a bowl of ramen at the Fa-So-La restaurant. The taste was mediocre but still brought back pleasant memories of various ramen-houses I used to frequent. Seconds after I finished the noodles a restaurant worker came by and cleared the bowl and utensils away. I'm surprised by how familiar the language sounds and that I'm still able to comprehend snippets of conversations I eavesdrop on.

Flying is not such a chore anymore, at least on planes like the Airbus 330 I came in on. Each seat has a personal video screen with a surprisingly sophisticated entertainment system. A broad selection of films are available for viewing on demand. Music playlists can be put together from dozens of categories. Various games can be played which make the flight pass much more quickly. My favorite was a trivia quiz which challenges players from different seats simultaneously. Questions appear on the screen with multiple answers to choose from. Selecting the right answer more quickly scores a higher number of points.

It's possible to see the other competitors' seat numbers as well as whatever name each player has typed in at the beginning of the competition. High-scores with names, flight numbers, and seat locations are maintained. I was disappointed to see the multiple top-ten scores I achieved on my January flight to America had been edged out. Those were all under the name "PIMP". This last flight has seen not only the return of that particular competitor's glory, but that of "MR.YUK", "MORON", and, "STINKY". The latter name is currently number one on the Northwest Airlines charts.

My flight is about to board; I should touch down back in Beijing in a few hours. Joyce should receive me at the airport, I'll be staying with Aaron.

Life has been really good. I hope to relate the last of my time in America in my next entry.