First Impressions of Japan

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“He’s back!”

Japan. I can’t believe I’m here. Until now you were just the land of samurais, sake, and sushi. Godzilla and earthquakes. Walkmans, and six-sigma. Capitalist invaders (Rising Sun) who succumbed to a lost decade. Robot toilets.

You’re known for being disdainful of foreigners (gaijin), but you’ve been completely nice to me. You have TGI Friday’s, Starbucks, and Legends sports bar. Your toilets don’t make sense.

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Press the wrong squiggle and it calls Godzilla to devour you…

My first day was a sleep-deprived blur. While I managed a good three hours nap in the lie-flat bed on the flight over, it was still only 2pm Italy time. I was having an omelet with bubble and squeak for breakfast somewhere over Russia while my body clock read 10pm. Thank you “D” for the explaining bubbles and squeak. You’re the cutest flight attendant who has ever suggested I pass myself off as Mark Zuckerberg in Nippon. (You did ask if you would appear in my blog…)

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Best EZ-Boy ever!

You’re also the land of a thousand hospital masks. Does that really work? It makes it so much harder for me to understand you. The customs agent wore a mask while he asked what I had done in Anghelind. Oh, you mean England.

I expected Japan subways to be crowded, but they were practically empty compared to New York. What’s that you say? It’s golden week? Everyone is out of town celebrating three holidays in a row. Maybe I’ll come visit Tokyo every year for golden week. It’s a nice I can move around in peace.

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Nope, didn’t even pay the $20 to go to the top.

After three months of visiting churches and museums, I’m touristed out. All I want to do is see the Apple Watch. So that’s what I did. I went to a beautiful glass Apple store in Omote-Sando neighborhood using my unlimited subway pass. I hate subway tokens.

I tried on the watch, which is on backorder for six weeks. I quizzed them on pre-paid phone providers. There aren’t any. And I talked to a genius about adding a Japanese keyboard to my iphone. So now I have English, French, Italian, Japanese hieroglyphs, and emoji hieroglyphs. Maybe Japanese will completely convert to emoji. It would be easier than learning Japanese. By the way, there are three different sets of Japanese hieroglyphs. Thanks for making this easy.

Here’w another trade-off. I can get amazing sushi. But the best coffee out here is at…Starbucks. I’m not proud. I’ll go there everyday.

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Move over Starbucks. I’m going for chocolate.

I may have beat jet-lag after all. By the way, if I could have super-power, it would be that my body clock automatically adjusted to the time zone I was in – take that, jet lag. I turned into a zombie at 3pm yesterday and slept until 8pm. Then I went out and stayed up until 3 am, and still slept a full 8 hours. At this point I’m on track to stay up all day without a nap. (Update – now I’m on college student time – going to bed at 1 am and waking up at noon)

While at Starbucks today I met a couple who have lived here for thirty years or so. (K, that’s you.) BTW – my new favorite game is watching the barista wait for me to speak English, then switch to high-speed Japanese after I say “konnichiwa” (hello), and then have to switch back when I order in english. I then leave with “arigato, ja mata” (thank you, see you later).

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This couple invited me to Spanish Tapas with some friends. (What else do you eat in Japan?) At dinner I learned that you can just say “domo” (very) or even “domo domo” to express “to the max”. Over dinner we all geeked out on process improvement, health care policy, language learning, and the iPhone airdrop feature. (Don’t judge.)

I started learning Kanji today (the true hieroglyphs, not just the squiggles). There’s a really cool book that tells it as a story. This Kanji means “sun”, which also means “one day”. This one means tree, which became root, which became rises in the east, etc. TO-KYO means eastern capital. Just one big decryption puzzle, that’s all I’m thinking.

Yeah – I only have to decode 2000 of them to be considered high-school literate. I better get back to studying. Or drinking.

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Or eating more sushi

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