Japan: Day 1

Akachōchin lantern outside an izakaya; the cha...
Akachōchin lantern outside an izakaya; the characters read “izakaya” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I arrived at the hotel thoroughly exhausted yesterday, which I suppose is to be expected.  Fortunately the check-in process was smooth and simple, and I got into my room within five minutes.

If I had to pick a single word to describe Japan so far it would be Efficient.  Certainly it is clean and everyone is polite, but those could both be turned off in a heartbeat.  The country just seems to be designed with an efficiency second to none, and from the ground up.  Most of that is wonderful; as it pertains to the size of the guest rooms in hotels, less so… but that is fine, because it may be small but it has everything that I might need.

I have had my first two meals.  Dinner last night was absolutely delicious – Mark-san met me at the hotel shortly after I got settled (okay, maybe settled is the wrong word; after I dropped my gear in my room), and took me to the Izakaya in the lobby for dinner.  Fortunately he ordered… everything was delicious, but there was no indication that anyone there spoke English, nor was the menu translated.  It’s a good thing there are pictures on it!

I was asleep by 9:00pm… I could have stayed up later, but it would have involved using toothpicks to hold my eyes open.  I woke up refreshed after eight hours plus, but that still had my eyes open at 5:30am.  I got onto the computer and caught up on my emails, then called my wife before showering and heading down for breakfast.

I have said many times before that the only three things I need in a hotel are a comfortable bed, a good shower, and decent Internet.  This hotel absolutely delivers on all of those.  Something I might add to my list however is sufficient place to unpack my suitcases, which this hotel is severely lacking.  I have never been in a hotel without a chest of drawers… or even a useable single drawer anywhere.  Okay, everything that hangs has been hung, but for everything else it looks like I will be living out of a suitcase for the duration.  Not a cheery thought, but not terrible.

I had heard weird stories about the toilets here, but sure enough it is a contraption unlike any I have ever seen.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that it is very hygienically helpful.

Breakfast was (and will be every day) in one of the hotel restaurants.  It was a simple but complete buffet (making it easy for me to not make too much of an ass of myself).  The food is excellent.  In addition to the things I cannot begin to identify, there is also cereal, yogurt, sausages, croissants, juice, tea, and coffee.  I skipped all of that today and had a bowl of miso soup, some grilled salmon, a couple of dumplings and meatballs.  Yum!

Following breakfast I went for my first (of many) Japanese walk. People were right – I am by far the tallest person I have seen since I arrived.  It was raining but I didn’t mind – I wasn’t going too far.  I walked about a kilometre out and back down one main street – it wouldn’t do for me to get lost when I have a 10:00am meeting – and just enjoyed watching the people, looking in shop windows, and stretching my legs.  I even found one of the Rakuten Towers – I don’t know which one I will be working in – and Mark was right… it is definitely a close walk.

I don’t know why I was surprised to see people smoking in the restaurant last night… I know the non-smoking craze is chiefly North American.  However I was more surprised to see that there was not a single cigarette butt on the street anywhere.  As I mentioned, this is a VERY clean city.

I haven’t been able to get any Yen yet… I am told there are CitiBank machines that i will be able to use, the two that I tried this morning very apologetically could not use my cards.  Fortunately my Visa card worked at the train station yesterday!

I spent the morning at the office meeting what felt like everyone… Japanese offices, or at least the ones at this company, are very different from the ones I have seen.  They have an open concept – no cubicles.  Every floor has rows of tables, and people seem to work with their team, with the manager sitting on the end.  I will not be discussing much about the company, but I am told this is typical here.

The lunch room was jammed… wow, all I can say.  I had a great meal with miso soup, noodles, fish, salad, beans, and orange yogurt for desert.  It was great, and yes, I did eat it all with chopsticks without making a fool of myself!  (Okay, the yogurt I ate with a spoon… as did my Japanese colleague.

More tomorrow… the advantage of having a hotel right next to the office is that when I have two hours between meetings and am suffering from jetlag I can come take a nap.  More tomorrow! –MDG

P.S. For those of you waiting for pictures I assure you they are coming… I haven’t taken any yet, but this week-end I will!


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