Jaunt to Japan

 

Pat’s view from the Sky Tree observation tower in Tokyo

Pat’s view from the Sky Tree observation tower in Tokyo

The Tokyo seafood market is touted as the largest in the world

The Tokyo seafood market is touted as the largest in the world

Cinnamon buns on display at a mouth watering bakery in Kyoto

Cinnamon buns on display at a mouth watering bakery in Kyoto

The Tokyo subway is filled with cell phone toting zombies

The Tokyo subway is filled with cell phone toting zombies

The obvious “Women Only” sign that we missed on the subway

The obvious “Women Only” sign that we missed on the subway

Moss lined trail to the temples in Nikko

Moss lined trail to the temples in Nikko

The sleek bullet trains are a model of speed, comfort and efficiency, just like Amtrak!

The sleek bullet trains are a model of speed, comfort and efficiency, just like Amtrak!

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto is covered in gold leaf

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto is covered in gold leaf

The bamboo grove was like a magic forest

The bamboo grove was like a magic forest

The remains of a building in Hiroshima mark ground zero

The remains of a building in Hiroshima mark ground zero

Hiking up a stream to a waterfall with Randi and Aaron in Okinawa

Hiking up a stream to a waterfall with Randi and Aaron in Okinawa

The mini conveyer brought sushi to the table after you ordered on the screen

The mini conveyer brought sushi to the table after you ordered on the screen

An F-15 ready to land at Kadena AF Base in Okinawa

An F-15 ready to land at Kadena AF Base in Okinawa

Pat’s Marriot points landed us at this beach resort the last 2 days

Pat’s Marriot points landed us at this beach resort the last 2 days

I got to dive one day in Okinawa with this curious clown fish

I got to dive one day in Okinawa with this curious clown fish

Konnichiwa Japan fans,

            Pat flew in a few weeks ago to hang out in Colorado a bit before we hopped a plane across the Pacific to visit Japan. It was originally planned back in 1991, but finally 24 years later we were ready to hit the streets of Tokyo. The city sights and sounds were reminiscent of many places with 10-20 million folks running around, and part of the appeal was visiting Peter and his family, a friend I’ve known since I was a kid in New York, who has lived and worked in Tokyo for over 20 years now. Pat and I took the subway around the city, and one morning Pat noticed that I was the only guy in the train car. Then she remembered that she had read about “Women Only” cars because of men groping the ladies during the packed, rush hour commute, and of course then we noticed the large notice posted on the wall. No one said anything though since it was obvious I was just another clueless male foreigner, so I kept my hands to myself and we slipped off the train without attracting too much attention.

            The bullet train to Kyoto that zips along at 200km/hour was a treat in itself, and we spent a few days there visiting temples and gardens. The bamboo grove in one corner of the city was especially scenic, and we were continually impressed with the clean, efficient and gracious nature of the people in such a crowded environment. It was as if the whole country took customer service lessons from Neiman Marcus or the Ritz Carlton, and it was easy to get used to having everything work and run on time. I also took a side trip to the now thriving city of Hiroshima to try to comprehend the devastation of standing at ground zero of an atomic bomb, and it was a sobering experience.

            The final part of the trip took us on a discount flight on Peach airlines to Okinawa to visit some Air Force friends I had worked with in Antarctica a few years ago, and the beaches, scuba diving and relaxed atmosphere of island living were a nice change. We got the local scoop on some great sushi, shopping, and tasty ice cream along with a hike up a stream to a waterfall. Hanging out one night with a few US F-15 pilots  was interesting too, and we learned that the Chinese and Russian pilots do not buddy up to our guys when they find themselves at an international air show the same way the Europeans or Israelis might share in the brotherhood of elite masters of the skies.

            All in all another good reason to add a pin to the map in the basement and return to work with a new sense of efficiency and purpose. Hope your summer is warming up and you remain somewhere safe between the floods and drought across the country.

Cheers,

Bullet train Bob