Mark's Japan Journal

Japan Hotel bidet

(I went to Tokyo for a couple of days. I'l be posting excerpts from my journal here.) It's 4am in Tokyo (noon LA time). I just went downstairs to call my wife. First, I had to get change for my 5000 Yen bill. I like the way the desk clerk spread the 1000 notes in a pretty fan shape and offered them to me on a tray. What other country gives you that kind of service?

The flight from LAX to Tokyo was 11.5 hours and uncomfortable. I can never sleep on planes. I tried to nap, but I just fidgeted.

The good news about being stuck in an aluminum tube for hours on end is that I managed to write four pieces for my upcoming book. I used a Moleskine notebook (thanks, David!) and a Pilot Gel pen, which works well with the Moleskine. I'd be interested in hearing about other pens that are good on Moleskine's paper.

I had a window seat on the plane. The 20-year-old guy next to me was really tall for a Japanese and gangly. He was a nice guy, but his elbows and knees frequently crossed the line into my side and bumped me, especially when he was playing Grand Theft Auto on his IBM ThinkPad. He slept a lot, the lucky son of a bitch. The Japanese girl sitting next to him in the aisle seat cried silently and drank cans of Miller beer. She kept her eyes closed and I saw tears falling down her cheeks.

Once we landed in Tokyo, it was smooth sailing. I hadn't checked any luggage, so I breezed through customs. Fortunately, the day before, I went on the Web to find the best way to get to the Shinagawa station from Narita airport. I used the Narita Express. You have to buy a reserved seat from a stall on the main floor before taking the escalator down to the train station under Narita. The girl working at the Narita Express counter was wearing a neat little uniform with a matching cap. She, like all the counter workers I've seen so far, was impeccably groomed, polite, and professional. It's fun to make transactions here!

At the train station, I asked a guy in a uniform to look at my ticket and tell me where to go. He said "Car two." I walked to car two sat down in my assigned seat. The train left the station. At the next stop, a guy walked on and said I was in his seat. I showed him my ticket, and he said "you are supposed to be on car seven." I looked at my ticket, and he was right. I blame it on sleep deprivation.

I got my bag from the storage area and carried it through all the cars. The smoking car was pretty rowdy, and smoke was hanging thick in the air. A middle-aged salaryman, drunk, was standing in the aisle, laughing with a seated friend. His eyeglasses were enormous, and his comb-over was a work of art. Another guy had his shoes and socks off and his feet were dangling in the aisle. I manuevered around them and got to the first class car, number six. It didn't seem much different from the other cars. Less crowded. Slightly nicer seats. You pay to keep other people away from you.

When I got to the end of the car, I couldn't open the door to car seven. I looked through the window and discovered that there wasn't any way to get to the car. I stood there for a moment, wondering what to do. I finally went back through the first class car and the smoking car and sat in an unoccupied 2nd class non-smoking seat. When the conductor came through the car and checked my ticket, he didn't say anything about me being in the wrong seat.

My hotel was right across the street from the station, a nice surprise. The room is tiny. Six feet wide and about 15 feet long. The bathroom is molded from one piece of plastic. There's a tiny desk, a chair, a bed, and a TV. I like it, but it smells like stale cigarettes.

I went to sleep close to 4am Pacific time (8 pm in Tokyo), and woke up at around 10:30 am Pacific (2:30 am in Tokyo). I think I'll try to sleep a little more.