Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tokyo: Day 2

It took me two days to figure out that cars drive on the opposite side of the road here (look both ways when crossing the street or you could get clobbered from the left) and that when you are walking in the trains VERY fast, you should keep to the LEFT, not the right, as in the case for stairwells/passageways/sidewalks in NYC. I was like a salmon swimming upstream with no luck. And I may be semi-retarded.

The airport buses and commuter trains run with shocking efficiency. People get in a proper line and wait for people to exit before boarding. There are workers to assist and make everything run on schedule. Things run on schedule. And they are clean, clean, clean beyond belief. It's all very novel. Since I am going out of the center of the city each day, I have yet to see the infamous white-gloved attendents shoving people into subway cars or any opportunties for the even more infamous Japanese gropers (chikan) in packed subway cars. The train lines are a bewildering spaghetti of colors, with routes going off in every direction you can imagine, each of them owned by a different company and and with separate types of fares. Fortunately, all the announcements and signs are in English as well as Japanese, although that didn't prevent me from losing 1450 yen (US$12.60) buying a ticket that should have cost 210 yen (US$2.00). Ah well.

I think the best meals I'm going to get are going to be when the guys at the printer take me out to lunch to places I would never be allowed in if I wasn't with them. Traditional seating, no English spoken, don't even know the names of the places. Yesterday, Mr. Kai (a 60-year old color specialist who lived in NJ working for Toppan for 25 years and who knows his printing in and out...I love these kind of guys, and always want to find one at every printer I work at. My "father-figure" at plants, if you will) took me to a place that only did unagi teishoku i.e. freshwater eel grilled on sticks on a tiny grill fed by small bundles of hardwood . Tiny, amazing and so delicious. Eel is traditionally eaten during the hottest days of the summer to provide strength for the rest of the year. Kai claimed the owners said that I used chopsticks better than some of the young Japanese. I doubt it, but thanks for buttering me up! You get a mention on the Know-All: Go to the grilled eel place in Itabashi.... That one with the name written in Japanese.

My favorite moment of yesterday was when the printer was talking to me about schedule (we have 3 final forms printing on the 16th, the day I am leaving for Hong Kong) and I said "Can't we be flexible? We'll see how it goes and make up a day as the schedule goes along". "Flexible" does not seem to be a word used in Japanese.

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