We arrived at Narita at 2pm, and waited in the Gaijin (ie non Japanese) passport lineup for 45 minutes. On leaving the baggage area, we walked 50 feet, and bought a ticket on the Narita Express. The escalator was right there, down to the station, signs were in English, and we found our car with the pre-assigned seating - we left the baggage area at 3:03, and the train departed, with us at 3:13. There are security and cleaning staff everywhere - at Tokyo station, there were 5 men holding cleaning cloths on the escalators handrails! The organization of these people, and their focus is amazing.
We found a taxi (no linups) immediately, and the driver with white gloves and a nice smelling taxi with lace and special seat covers took us to our hotel. $13.50-- not the $20.00 predicted, and very polite and helpful. His receipt was printed out on a printer in the taxi - no tip expected.
The Prince Hotel Roppongi - a small room, but very clean. The hotel is supposed to be able to sustain an earthquake of 9.6 - the biggest in the last 100 years. It is a very well built building - utilitarian, but very nice. My girl agrees, for the first time in 2 years, to go swimming with me at 7 am, and the pool is closed! The lovely swimming pool with a tree in the area only is open from 9 am to 8 pm - who could ever use it! They obsessively vacuum and clean it for an hour before it opens. I had an opportunity to use the swimming pool at the Hotel Okura in Tsukuba - same problem with hours early in the am and late evening, and they empty the Jacuzzi every evening. Water temperature in the pool - about 32 deg Celsius!
We managed to struggle with English through our meeting with the sponsors for the trip, and they helped us find the Alanon meeting - very inquisitive about why we stay in Roppongi, and what meeting we need to attend. Darlene told them. We attended a small meeting with a wide range of Recovery in the participants. Once again, we are impressed with the strength of the meetings we attend in Calgary. Regardless, it is a gift that we are able to find others who share experience in the fellowship, so far from home.
The water is great, and the toilets are a pleasure to use. Everywhere, there are toilets with a heated seat, with a bum shower to use after you poop, and a special bidet shower for the girls. Sometimes, there is even a blower to dry a person off. We found these in hotel rooms, in conference centers, and in private homes. My girl kept going into the bathroom!. We have never had such consistently clean bottoms, anywhere!
At the Kodokan, I saw an early Japanese toilet and urinal. The squat toilet is designed so that you hang on to the handle, and poop. Some of the modern squat toilets have a similar handle, and some do not. For t hose of us with western training, we worry about having bad aim. When the toilet is flushed, the poop washes down the drain. On entering a Japanese house or room, you must put on your slippers. When you go into the bathroom, you put on different slippers. Once we had a chance to use one of these toilets, we understood how the "toilet slippers" became necessary. In addition, one cannot leave on one's pants or underwear without soiling them. This is the downside. I personally tested one of the traditional flush toilets when an unexpected event occurred, and it works well. It is a struggle to remove and put back on one's pants in a less than hygienic environment, but it is no more offensive than a western toilet with a dirty floor.
The up side is that the western style toilets in Japan are a major advance - toilets that prepare for your sitting, a warm toilet seat with adjustable temperature. Your choice of a bum spray, a perineum spray, and sometimes, even a "blow-dry", taking the concept of blow job to a whole other level. These toilets are found everywhere. Even in rural Japan, next to the vending machines with canned excellent coffee. One anticipates the next visit to the washroom.
Tokyo and Mito with Mari and Masao
We were met by Mari at our hotel - she took us, with our luggage, to the Hotel Okura (where General MacArthur stayed, after the occupation), and then on a bus/boat tour to Asakusa. Tokyo is about 12 Million people, and Japan is about 125 million - all crammed into an area less than the size of Alberta. The pictures show it.
We stayed with Masao and Marie, visited the market, and had lunch with the parents of Masao. It was tough to leave them - as Seiryo, the dad, is currently 90 years old - in good condition, and addicted to the digital camera, -- but 90.
Gerry's professional commitments were well received. - no major faux pas. He thanked them with a reminder about the war. Masao's dad was in the army for 8 years. Many good people died, and many families lost loved ones. And we all can now get on with our lives. I learned about Japan and the Japanese through their invitation, and I thanked them for that.