Note to self: Getting up early does not mix well with late night drinking. The good news is, I think I’m on track for setting a new personal record for consecutive days with a hang over… wait…is that good news? It’s amazing to me that you can buy beer in vending machines everywhere here. Ugh…it’s 6:30AM, I’ll pass on the beer….for now.
My legs are sore from walking about 2,000 miles yesterday and my feet already hurt. I love it.
This morning, after crashing a little after 2AM, we got up at 6:30AM to catch the bullet train to Osaka. The train stops several times, so it doesn’t always get up to the incredible speeds other ones do. We’ll be on one this Sunday that tops out at about 180MPH! It’s hard to describe the funny experiences one has on the subways and trains. The crazy visuals of passing another train going the opposite direction when you are only a foot or so apart. Ah…these Japanese are so precise. The trains displace so much air that when we pass another train, there is an appreciable surge from the train pushing a compression wave of air in front of it. The tunnels we go through have extensions built on them that dissipate the shock wave and keeps it from going “BOOM”, not too much different than a jet breaking the sound barrier. There are other odd visuals (hey – I AM a photographer after all) such as moving the same direction as another train. It’s odd because, if you take a photo, the train you are shooting and the train you are in, don’t move (in the image) but the scenery is blurred.
On our train this morning, an older gentleman sits in front of us reading the newspaper. What’s interesting is there are ads for tit bars in the local paper that show girls with their bare breasts hanging out. That sort of thing is such a “no-no” in the States while here, they think nothing of it…literally.
The exchange rate for US dollars is HORRID. For every dollar you give, you get about 75 cents. It’s nice that there is no tipping, anywhere. And on a side note, the Japanese health care system is pretty wonderful.
And can I just say a word about the cops here. They are shining examples of how police SHOULD be. They are SOOOO gracious, kind, and helpful. I’ve had them literally RUN to help me, (crisp blue uniforms, hats, and white gloves) and not just give me directions but take me to my destination. No attitude, no posturing, and always willing to go the extra mile. I admire their social awareness and consciousness of their job.
Speaking of social awareness, if a Japanese person has a cold, they will wear a mask so they don’t spread germs. So it is quite common to see people walking around wearing what looks like surgical masks. Social and personal responsibility is a driving force in this culture. I’m big on taking responsibility for our actions, so it is wonderful to see a culture where the act of bringing a law suit against a business, because YOU spilled your coffee in your lap, does not happen. OSHA would make a mess of this place and would be laughed at anyway.
In writing journals, there is no concept of time. From the last paragraph I wrote to this one has been a day and a half. So this will be “Japan Trip…day five” too.
We enjoyed our time in Osaka. I took photos of the staff, students, and some of the clients of Osaka Mode, a “beauty school” where they teach hair, regular and air brush makeup application. There’s a lot more to it, but I’m not sure what all they do. I understand the government is involved in some form of subsidy, but I was just there to shoot and also for a speaking engagement. It was amusing, after my talk, that several students wanted to come ask all sorts of questions. One girl asked me if, in all my travels and adventures, I had ever thought I was gonna die ! lol I actually had to think about that. I can recall many times I probably SHOULD have died but I couldn’t recall any time I thought I REALLY was. It dawned on me that it was a fairly odd experience of my view of what has happened on occasion. Guess Im just weird.
One of the clients was a young man who claimed to be a palm reader. He was a cheery lad who went about reading everyone in the room. My girlfriend and I are, shall we say skeptical, of the accuracy of palm reading but for amusement she stuck her palm out. He blathered on with flagrant generalities that started to bore her, so she said,”Yea..yea..with all that positive stuff, give me something like I have liver failure or some sh*t..”
I cracked up. He looked positively baffled.
Another of her famous quotes came later that night,”WOW…this is the farthest West I have ever been…….. sober”. Little did we know we were about to remedy that.
We spent the night in a lovely condo of a friend in Osaka. Across the street was a tiny restaurant that had the most amazing beer. SO, of course, we had too much…AGAIN. Geeeez. Such an odd experience to be in a restaurant with about 10 people, knowing we will most likely never see them again. We crashed about 2AM but were had to clear the cobwebs at 6:30AM to catch the train to Okayama.
The stewardess on the train is so lovely and she bows on her way out the door of our car thanking us all. Americans could learn a lot from the respect and work ethic of the people here.
In Okayama, we visited the Koraku-En castle and the amazing garden there. We sampled rice beer, grape beer, and had the most amazing white peach ice cream. Oh crap….not more beer….and this early!
There was a kiosk where you could buy bread to feed the koi in the lake, so we did. We were somewhat amused that the bread was a long skinny loaf that looked VERY VERY phallic. I, of course, had to make every conceivable comment about it. I turned toward the lake and accidentally broke it into what now appeared to be a decidedly obvious bread dildo. My girlfriend and the 3 other friends with us laughed our asses off. To make matters worse, when we threw pieces of it into the water, the koi would swim up, look at it, then turn away. This of course, inspired my friend Jim to comment about the Koi wanting nothing to do with “dick bread”. Basically, it went downhill from there.
I staggered into a restroom – we sampled LOTS of beer – and was having a satisfactory relief moment, when to my astonishment, a cleaning lady walked in. She ignored me and went about doing her thing, so I did too, but I must admit to a certain momentary performance anxiety. I was glad she wasn’t all that attractive.
We stayed that night at a friends parents house. I wasn’t really looking forward to it because I heard he was pretty well off and I didn’t want to deal with … well, having to behave and mind my manners.
It turns out he was HYSTERICALLY funny and we all laughed so hard we hurt. He told crazy stories about stalking his wife before they got married….for EIGHT YEARS!! On his first date, he took her swimming in the ocean, even though she couldn’t swim. They both almost drowned. He kept telling story after story that had us completely breathless. He spoke of learning how to properly apologize to his wife, so I asked him to teach me. Everyone howled at my ineptitude, but I think I finally mastered it. It’s a sort of bowing, shoulder collapsing, groveling move performed on one’s knees.
We had unbelievable sushi that we made hand rolls out of, and drank beer and sake til we were blind. I decided it was a good time to take photos of them, so I set up some lights. All went well until toward the end when I knocked over my tripod and it punched a hole in their shoji screen. I was HORRIFIED, HUMILIATED, and EMBARRASSED beyond belief. I thought my host was going to have a heart attack, he laughed so hard. Instead of even attempting to make me feel better, he told me (truthfully!) they had just replaced the shoji THREE DAYS prior to our arrival. I’m not sure I have ever seen human beings laugh so hard and long…and unfortunately, at my expense. He thanked me for bringing such good joy and laughter to his home, and then handed me a pen and asked me to SIGN IT! He added that he thought it might be a good idea to punch MORE holes since it brought so much joy into his home! ugh….I could crawl under a tatami.
He was truly one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever met. He and his wife were so gracious, warm, and wonderful. The epitome of what a host should be.
The banter between he and his wife was legendary. He turned to her and said, “Well…you know you are the sunshine of my life!” COMPLETELY DEADPAN, she looked at him and quipped,”It’s always about you, isn’t it!!” The house just shook with laughter.
Off to bed we went around 1AM, heads spinning with booze and revelry.
We had to be up at 6:30 AM… again…. I have completely crushed my previous record for consecutive days with a hangover. When I get home, I’m not gonna drink for a month…whew. But it won’t be on this trip…we tour a Sake Brewery tomorrow!