Why, yes, I *am* in Japan

Tokyo Travel Blog

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I got several replies to my last posting that reminded me -- many of you didn't know Jeff and I are in Japan. Jeff has to be here for a month on business and Alcatel very generously volunteered to send me along as well, to make things easier for Jeff.


I couldn't swing a whole month but I will be here for 2 weeks. Jeff's here till October 7. I'm here till September 25.


So, I finally did forego American food last night and we went to a sushi bar. Oh my goodness, that was an adventure!


When you go in, you can sit at a table or at the bar. Both are connected to a conveyor belt, one end of which disappears into the kitchen. Both have automated displays (it put me in mind of the scoreboards at a bowling alley for some reason) at each seat. You get food two ways:


1. Pick something off the conveyor belt as it goes by if it looks good to you. These are small plates with two items on them, usually. When you've eaten them, you put the plates through a small opening in front of you, where they drop into a running trough of water and get whisked away to the kitchen. They are also added to your tally, so the restaurant knows what to charge you.


2. You can also use the automated display to page through the options. You select what you want, indicate whether you want wasabi with it, and place your order. In a few mintues, your order will come around on the conveyor belt. You'll know it's an order for someone because it's placed on top of a red bowl. You'll know it's your order because your order board will start pinging right before it gets to you.


If you want green tea, there is a box between each setting with green tea powder in it (I thought it was wasabi powder). You put that in a cup and then add very hot water from the little spigot at every place setting.


Pretty slick, huh?  Except, it was all in Japanese and Jeff and I couldn't figure it out to save our lives!  We poked and prodded at things and tried to (very surreptitiously) figure out how to work things by watching other people. Finally, we broke down and asked the staff to show us how things worked (one of our neighbors showed us the green tea trick).


That's the thing about being a Caucasian American in Japan -- it's simply not possible to blend in. That's very frustrating for me. When I travel, I like to do things as much as possible so I don't look like, well, a tourist. The highest compliment to me when I travel is when someone walks up to me and starts asking questions in the local language because they don't know I'm a tourist.


I need to get over that. I *am* a tourist. I can not possibly pass as Japanese. I enjoy helping tourists in DC when they look lost. There's nothing wrong with accepting that hospitality here. I need to get over myself and let that happen.


But I do hate standing out this much. I feel so...ungainly.


Because of that, I didn't tackle public transit again today. I spent a lot of time in the train station trying to figure out how things work and gave up. I *will* go tomorrow. You all hold me to it  :)


I did get a massage today. Little place off a side street that the concierge booked for me. They didn't speak a work of English. The only Japanese I know is "thank you" (which isn't a bad word to learn first).


For all you MTs on this distribution list, it turns out they use exactly the same little bald-headed figure on their intake forms that we use on ours!  You know the one where the client circles where it hurts?  I may not have known what anything else on that form said, but I knew EXACTLY what to do with the little bald-headed figure!  I felt so at home. :)


The entire massage was done clothed -- very similar to what I do when I work onsite at a corporate office. They still covered me with a towel, which didn't quite make it from one end of me to the other. She never touched skin-to-skin except when she was working on my forearms and hands. She just pulled the towel up to my neck or down to my feet as she needed to.


The table had non-adjustable legs (I peeked right after my massage). God help you if you're a tall therapist!  It was all in a small room with the different work areas separated by curtains hanging from a ceiling, sort of like in some emergency rooms. In my "room", they had secured a blanket over the top of the work area so you weren't looking up into the fluorescent lights when you were lying on your back, which was a thoughtful touch.


It was all very quiet but there wasn't much in the way of "decorations".


The work was good and was quite helpful. A lot of compression and I'm not sure it was specifically shiatsu (except for the work on my scalp, which probably was). I'll book an appointment at another place I know of next week for a shiatsu session.


It's hot here this week. High 80s with humidity. It makes me appreciate the building height restrictions and all the trees in DC. That gives you shade and maybe lowers the temps a degree. Not a lot of shade around here.


You see many women wearing hats -- not fancy hats, casual hats to give them some eye protection. You often see women carrying light umbrellas to block out the sun too. It is not unusual to see a man pull out a small washcloth to wipe off the sweat. It's seriously city-hot here.


Dinner tonight was at a yakitori. It's kind of a grill version of tapas. You order skewers of meat or vegetables. They are priced per skewer. The grill man grills your order as you place it. You have a few, see what you like, order a few more things.


It's a slow way to eat.


The food was good. We tried a few things each we weren't fond of (chicken skin, quail eggs) but you can't hardly go wrong grilling (oh my, the grilled vegetables were superb!). We had a pleasant, leisurely dinner and we took a picture of the grill man (see, I'm working on my "tourist comfort zone" issues!).


Another day, another adventure.



karulm says:
Great blog! I totally agree that the highest compliment while traveling is being mistaken for a local. It happened to me in Egypt (with my head uncovered mind you) and it gave me the warm fuzzies everytime a local stopped to ask ME something in Arabic. I'm enjoying your writing very much.
Posted on: Jun 03, 2007
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