Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tales from Japan

This was definitely the longest short trip I have ever taken. Confused already? Two full days of traveling, three days in a new country working long hours, and a 13 hour time difference can really tire you out. That said, it was my first trip to Japan and I am glad I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Asia.

Passing through the Japenese countryside on the train to Tokyo

Taking a taxi from the office to the train station
We had tons of work to get done in our short time there, so every day was long and busy. The commute to the office took nearly two hours - one on the train and a half hour by taxi, plus any waiting time. We could have stayed closer but then we would likely have been in a hotel where almost nobody spoke English, so we stayed in the city of Fukuoka and made the trek. It did afford the opportunity to relax and watch the country pass by, plus I was able to get some aviation reading and studying done on the train. On Thursday, we took the N700 Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo and stayed the night there. It's the fastest in Japan and reaches 300 km/h (186 mph) while still managing to ride very smoothly along the rails.

Rice paddies are everywhere!

The N700 Shinkansen pulling into Fukuoka Station

All the food was excellent and I ate plenty of things I'm sure I would have never tried here in the US. I had true sushi for the first time (tuna, halibut, and one other) and it was delicious with a special sauce that the restaurant was supposedly well-known for. We went out for Shabu Shabu one night, which is where you have a pot of boiling water on the table in front of you and cook meats and vegetables in it. They served Kobe beef at that restaurant and the meal was again absolutely delicious. Over the course of the short week I also ate duck liver, sea urchin, prawns, possibly some octopus, and who knows what else. One night they also bought sake that had a slight anise (black licorice) taste to it that I really liked.

Riding on the Shinkansen to Tokyo

Looking out over Tokyo

The safety video on the Japan Airlines 737 I took from Osaka to Fukuoka was the kind they play on the LCD screens instead of the flight attendants speaking over the intercom. Except it was animated in a sort of anime, but really more like a Nintendo character style. The people looked very similar to Miis, to be honest. When they did the part about an emergency evacuation all these people were shown jumping down the slides and then frantically running away from the plane with their arms in the air. Good stuff right there. Or maybe I'm just easily amused.

Tokyo at night from my hotel room

Culturally, the country is indeed about as close to another planet as you can find on Earth - this being a statement I have heard from others who have traveled to Japan in the past. I really liked the country and the people were all extremely friendly and accommodating. But it was hard to not feel a little awkward at how male-dominated the society felt at times. It's just not normal for us Americans (or Westerners, for that matter) to watch a tiny woman struggle to push a heavy cart loaded with 8 suitcases and unload them in your hotel room. Yet that is normal and accepted and it would actually be rude to try to help out. So a few interesting cultural differences aside, I'd say that Japan is a really neat place and hopefully I have a chance to spend some time sightseeing there in the future.

A video I took of the ride on the N700 Shinkansen


  1. Sooooo jealous! Japan and Ireland are two places on my Bucket List!

  2. Japan wasn't on my "must go" list but I'm certainly glad I made it there. By the sound of things, I might be making it back again soon. Hopefully I'll have time to do some traveling and maybe visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Let's see, I've now been to Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the West Bank and have flown through the Netherlands.

    My "must visit" places are Australia, Egypt, Greece, New Zealand, and possibly some places in Africa.

    Yup, I like to travel. :)