August 26, 2011
From my limited exposure to Japan, I can say the people that I’ve met have been exceedingly gracious and helpful. It’s rather humbling. I’ve always done my part to help a confused traveler back in the States. Now that I’ve been one of those confused travelers abroad, you can count on me going even further in my efforts to assist those lost souls back in the States.
My first stop on this Asia/Pacific trip was the Tokyo Narita area. I thought we might be closer to Tokyo itself but in fact, we were approximately a fifty-minute train ride into the city center. If you look at the map below, you’ll see a little marker on the eastern side of Tokyo. This is the Narita area and you can see why I didn’t venture into the city on a short layover.
I might have been swayed to explore more if the weather had been more cooperative. The skies looked a bit angry so I elected not to walk around with my camera in hand. My crew and I did wander from our hotel into the Narita area at night. It was quaint area with little shops and restaurants all packed neatly into the winding streets. The sidewalks were practically non-existent. The cars and trucks we saw were all very small and boxy by American standards. The drivers drive on the left side of the street and steer from the right side of the car. It’s safe to say, I’m happy we didn’t have to drive ourselves around in this area. I’m sure I’d feel a little odd shifting with my left hand and steering with my right hand.
Yesterday, we flew from Tokyo Narita to Taipei, Taiwan and then returned to Osaka, Japan for another short layover. The view from my hotel was probably the nicest thing I saw in Osaka.
The weather has been much more cooperative than our Narita day. The skies are a little cloudy and the air a bit humid but it feels nice. I went walking around the Namba area in the morning. The people were just starting their commute to work. As in most large cities where space is in short supply, I’ve found the people to be a bit more distant than in the smaller cities. Osaka seems to be as congested as New York. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I line myself up on the right side of a sidewalk, much like you would drive on the right side of the road in the States. The Japanese drive on the left and thus naturally line up on the left when they walk on the sidewalk. Thus, I find myself consistently realigning to the left once I realize I’m on the right. This does take just a few minutes to notice. By the way, the bike riders around here are insane. I’ve been bumped and cut off by these guys and I’ve only been here for 24 hours. One guy turned right in front of me and only missed me by six or so inches. It’s really insane. Once I navigated through all of this mess, I found a little coffee shop with a menu that a “round-eye” could read well enough to make an educated order. This is the first time I’ve been in a country where I couldn’t read the language. I now have an appreciation for those with reading disabilities back in the States. At least those in the States speak the language, something I cannot do here in Japan. Thus far, my smile has been working and I’ve yet to get into any real trouble. I did walk into this one building and immediately was escorted out by a security guard and pointed in the direction of my hotel entrance which was just two doors down. What can I say, it looked like the entrance to my hotel.
As mid-day approaches, I find myself hungry once again. It’s time to venture out and get into more trouble. Tonights flight will take us from Osaka, Japan to Guangzhou, China. I’ll be there for two-days. I’m not sure what awaits me but from what I understand, I won’t be able to tweet or facebook while I’m in China. Hopefully I’ll be able to Skype and blog. Time will tell. If you don’t hear from me for a few days, you’ll understand why.