Living in Japan
My First Day Living in Japan!
I had, of course, seen Shogun on the telly but had never been to Japan before so when, at the age of 30, I found myself queuing at the departure gate at Heathrow on May 30th 1996. I kind of felt that I was in for a culture shock. I was surrounded by swarms of immaculately dressed, very small (I am 6’ 3”) black haired people, politely chatting, bowing to each other, clutching their Louis Vuitton bags and many wearing quite strange hats. I was right.
After a 12 hour very comfortable business class flight I landed at Narita airport in Tokyo and congratulated myself on correctly navigating my way to the right bus terminal. Apparently costing over £200, I had been warned that it was one of the most expensive cab rides in the world from the airport to the city centre! So I began my one year executive secondment to one of the most fascinating countries in the world in some style, with a 2 hour bus ride!
I think the hotel was called the Shinagawa Prince in the centre of Tokyo which was a very smart business class hotel but memorable only for charging the equivalent of £5 for a grapefruit juice. It was about lunchtime and I was due to meet my new boss the following morning so had the rest of the day to myself. I proceeded to take a walk for about an hour all along one street petrified that I might get lost and have to ask directions. The scenery did not change it was high rise after high rise, quite literally a concrete jungle. Surrounded by yet more small black haired people and feeling very much the ‘gaijin’ or alien as the Japanese like to refer to non Japanese people, I quickly sought the comfort of my hotel room and, with no BBC, reluctantly put on Sky News. For dinner I repeated the order of what I’d previously eaten for lunch, which was essentially a pretty uninteresting beef and rice which, as was the case with my lunch, was also delivered to my room, I was not yet brave enough to eat in the restaurant. At this point I had yet to appreciate the real wonders of Japanese cuisine, which I would very soon grow to love and respect and as I lay on my bed listening to dulcet American drawl I began to wonder what the bloody hell I’d done! I began to imagine Odajima-san, my new boss, arriving in the hotel reception the following morning complete with several courtiers, strange haircut and a long sword at his side…