May 31st 1998, a Sunday
The next morning, I awoke around 4:00 AM because of the notorious jet lag. I did manage to sleep longer, at least until 8:00 AM when we had to leave to go touring with Tanaka and his Mom.
It was beautiful outside. Warm breezes and dry air felt great when compared with the weather in Omaha. Our touring started with our first experience on a rail system. We went seemingly all over town, first to a wooded Shinto (?) park where we gave a small donation and prayed for prosperity, and then to many tall buildings' observation decks to view Japan from above. The panoramas were mind boggling as the city spread solid all before you until one could see no further. Tanaka's mother said we had great luck because there was hardly any smog. Tanaka-San's Mom was very nice, and reminded me of my Mom. I couldn't really tell, but I think she set up all of the touring for the day and Tanaka-San was just here for the fun of it.
The Tokyo rail system generally covers the entire city, but for short means of travel, the subway is the way to go. At 2:00 PM we arrived in the Tokyo Bay area where we ate lunch at McDonald's. I was amazed at how many people knew English, and it made things easier. I ordered a Teriyaki McBurger and it was great. This is when Sensei left with Tanaka's Mom to go see his in-laws (his wife is Japanese). We then left for a boat ride down a river with many bridges. At a certain time of year, each bridge competes to have the best fireworks display.
Our next stop was the marketplace. It was packed with people. From the best I could discern, it seemed that a Buddhist Temple was somehow integrated into the shopping portion of the area. This would be like a church where JC Penny's is in the mall. I pretty much hung with Larry and Ryan the entire time. We never purchased anything except drinks, yet we still managed to have a great time.
Five o'clock rolled around and everyone returned back to the hotel (via a packed subway). It is Sunday night, but we all left to wander the neighborhood for something to do. James and I went to Denny's and an AmPm store (convenient store). We ordered, not very successfully, a chicken sandwich at the Denny's and reflected upon the trip so far.
After a while, James got his chicken but I did not get mine. Suddenly it hit me. The waitress had asked me "1?" and I said "yes". We only ordered one meal. James ended up splitting it with me and we went home. I need to get some sleep. It is 10:00 already. Hmm, I still have yet to call home.
Tomorrow I will for sure. My phone card, for some reason, did not work so I have been reluctant to spend money on a new one from here.
So far, the experience has been wonderful. It is just like one huge Japanese class to me, and it kinda makes me want to get to know a lot more Japanese to be able to get around more easily. I am going to try to get a more objective view of Japanese culture, but so far, I have noticed that although everyone here is a conformist, the country itself, is quite liberal. Fads spread like wild fire (the Tomogotchi, for example) and everything is new or high tech. The cars are inspected every two years with very tough standards so one will ever see a junker car anywhere. Even the people are all hip with new styles in both clothing and hairstyles [on the last day I even saw an old woman, probably 75, with purple hair!]. This is one point in my mind that the U.S. needs to work on. Everyone feels they have to go against the flow, when it seems that Japan is totally the opposite. Bottom line is, Japan has their aspirations in a different place from the US, and they seem illogical as to their lax in some laws and fierceness in upholding others. Ryan said it best: "Japan has things to learn from the U.S. and the U.S. has a lot to learn from Japan."