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Sushi. Sake. And 100 FT'er's...

Sushi. Sake. And 100 FT'er's...

Old Mar 23, 13, 10:42 am
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Sushi. Sake. And 100 FT'er's...

Can I ask a small favor? I need you guys to cut me some slack. Because I hope this report (if thats what you want to call it), which is just over a week from starting, has more than me contributing to it.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, the Japan Do is about to start.

The Japan Do participants all think I sound like a broken record, because I keep banging on about how I think Tokyo is my favorite city in Asia. Quite possibly my favorite of all. And it's true.

You know one of the best things about what we do with this thing called travel is that we build a bank of memories - both good and bad. Japan for me is one of the warm happy places in the back of my small one dimensional brain.

There are others (ie happy places), but we might leave that for later. You might be trying to eat. Or your kids might be in the room. You know what I mean.


I'm not sure why, but last May, I had the silly idea of suggesting that a group of equally silly FT'ers all get together and arrange a Do in the land of the Rising Sun. I mean, in the famous words of Jeremy Clarkson, how hard could it be?

Actually it hasn't been hard at all. Mainly because like a good Dictator, I have delegated all the hard work to people far more dependable and capable than me. Which suits me fine. We'll thank them later.

When we started talking about it, I thought maybe 20-30 people would roll up. At most. But when we kicked off the thread, it sort of went a bit karaoke and a lot of people joined in just because the guy beside them had joined in. The list swelled to 50. Then 75. Then 100. Then amazingly it kicked over the 125 mark.

But human behavior being what it is, 30% of the "yes, definitely count me in, I will be there with bells on etc etc" decided that when they saw where Japan was actually located on a map, they had second thoughts and sent me one of those quirky emails which went something like this…

"Hi Simon this is nonamehandle. I cant attend the Japan Do as much as I would have loved to. My goldfish has come down with a fever and the antibiotics I have to give it, I cant administer to it orally, which is causing quite a bit of concern in our family"

Or something like this.

I might hand out an award for the most creative excuse. There have been some crackers.

So at T minus 6 days, were at just under 100 people. Which is sort of a little embarrassing really. I mean think about it. 100 people, who for the most part, don't know each other, all converging on a city which for many, this will be their first visit. Only a handful of the participants speak Japanese. The rest speak American. Or worse - pidgeon Australian.

It's not like they will all arrive at the airport, catch the shuttle to the nearby hotel and then meet in the lobby bar for a burger and a beer. Japan doesn't let you off that easy.

What on earth are all these people going to tell their families when they head out the door next Tuesday or Wednesday and head to NRT? Some are students. Some are stay at home parents. Some people, like yours truly, have convinced their employer that "this is a work trip and several very important meetings have been lined up". Some are simply wanting to get away from their wives or husbands for a week. Understandable really. One member is already there. I think he mucked up the dates of the Do but I don't have the heart to tell him.

Crikey. Holy Cow in fact.

* * * * * * *

Sometimes - no matter how many times you visit a country, you can never quite work out why they do the things they do. Or like the things they like.

I'll give you an example. When I used to live in Melbourne, we had these funny little hook turns in the middle of busy city intersections. Still have them in fact. No matter whether your international visitor was sober or drunk, they could never quite work out the logic of them. Neither can most Melbournians if I'm honest. Taxi drivers simply ignore them altogether.

They're designed so that you don't get impaled by a 40-ton tram (they're like a San Francisco Trolley car only bigger). And often driven by very agitated people who can curse in several languages except English. Melbourne tram drivers invented arm waving. Don't believe me? Look it up on Wiki whatever. See I told you.

Then there's Aussie Rules Football. No, it's not that butt sniffing rubbish some people call Rugby. And it's not soccer. It's real football. Most watched game in the country. Visitors are always fascinated when they see this game unfold before their eyes. No one understands the rules. Except for the locals. Which is the way it should be.

Often when you go to a job interview in Melbourne, the person will ask you 2 questions. What football team do you support. And what school did you go to.

In the US, its more common to ask about which college your divorce attorney went to. Which brings me to the US of A.

Where do we start?

How about Country Music. Now don't get me wrong, I love Country Music. Remember, I'm married to a girl from Michigan. Country Music is a religion in the midwest.

But come on. Think about it for a second. Lets just say for a moment that Mork the Martian landed his spaceship in Texas, walked into a bar and on the big screen was CMT. As in Country Music Television. Pick your song. Any song. They're all the same. You know, about a guy who comes home and finds his wife sleeping with his cousin.

I mean how do you explain the style of country music to Mork. That nasal drawl. The swooning. The stagger. The hats. That sly dog like look in the eyes of most of the male country singers like Toby Keith, Alan Jackson and others which basically let you know that they are in fact, sleeping with your sister.

Mork the Martian would ask:

"Do they talk like that in real life?"
"Then why do they sing like that?"
"Well, wouldn't you if women threw their underwear at you at a packed concert"
"Fair point" says Mork

I'll tell you how far things have come with Country Music. Do you remember a band called Hootie and the Blowfish? Years ago - back in the nineties. Some of you are too young. Or were still in diapers. But I remember it well. The lead singer was aptly then called Hootie. I have no idea who Blowfish was because as far as I could tell there were 3 people in the band. But I digress.

Like many good bands, Hootie and the Blowfish sort of lost their fizz and drifted off into the music wilderness.

But then I see a guy on CMT the other day and his name was (or is) Darius Rucker. Singing a song called Wagon Wheel. It's a cracker of a song. Real boot scootin stuff. I embarrass my kids all the time with this song because when I pick them up from school, I sing along and dance in the car. The kids complained to their mother so now she picks them up. My son has even resorted to catching a cab.

Anyway, Darius Rucker was Hootie. Or is Hootie. He re-invented himself. Probably when he worked out that if Taylor Swift can earn a cool $50M a year struttin her stuff, then maybe he can pick up a little coin as well. Can you believe that????

And just to finish this pointless analogy off, let me tell you another thing. If Mork walked into that same bar in Texas and yelled out at the top of his Martian lungs that George Strait was in fact not that straight and had a boyfriend called Hamish. Or Roger. Well, put it this way. Mork would look like a piece of Swiss cheese by the time the Texans had riddled his little green body with good old fashioned hollow point.

But none of this really matters. Because Japan makes all of this seem like childs play.

Since you asked, I will give you an example. Many years ago, when I first started going to Japan for work, I had trouble understanding the local business customs. Most of the meetings were in Japanese and often we would have an interpreter. You would think this would help. But it doesn't because all it does is slow things down to a snails pace. I mean, you don't have to speak Japanese to get the drift of how a meeting is going. If your client starts waving his arms furiously, bangs both hands on the table, and then storms out of the room in a fit of rage, you don't have to be a Harvard graduate to work out that things aren't going so well, and your customer is in fact, quite cross.

But the real work doesn't really start in Japan until after hours. Over a meal. With much alcohol. One day, we ended up in a bar in Roppongi. Weird place. My colleagues told me that I should just trust them and simply follow their lead. Sounded simple enough. But that was the first mistake.

If I'm honest it wasn't really a bar.

You waited in this large room full of sofas. Then a very attractive woman would announce something in Japanese and these doors would swing open, revealing a large rectangular room with a bench seat running around it. That didn't concern you because more importantly the room was full of stunningly beautiful women. Millions of them. Ok, maybe 30, but you get my point.

So you walk into this room, and within seconds, everyone is standing on this bench seat. The music starts and the girls clap and all yell something in unison. It's sort of like dancing class. 30 guys. And 30 girls.

What happened next was a bit blurry but I will try and remember. Another command is yelled out and moments later, your pants are around your ankles. You look around in bewilderment and notice that every other guys pants are around his ankles as well. There's much cheering and clapping (from the guys) and the girls are oblivious to the whole thing. There you are, in a shirt and tie, standing in your underwear, with a whole bunch of men you don't know.

Most guys will tell you that having their fishing tackle fondled by a gorgeous female is a good thing. Which I suppose it is. Now lets get one thing clear. Nothing happens at this club apart from dancing. Ok, weird dancing. But dancing all the same. The song finishes and you pull your pants up and move on to the next gorgeous girl. Music starts again. Command is yelled out. Pants go down. Up and down. Up and down. All blooming night. Like a brides nightie. Until you have met each and every girl.

By the end of the night, you are walking like John Wayne. Most men need a Paramedic to help them get off the bench seat.

I realize that this is far more than you wanted to hear on a Saturday. And that I may have just had some guys trips cancelled as their wives read this last part. But it's all true. And its what I love about Japan. There's wonderful tradition and culture, spectacular food and amazing courtesy. Then there's freaky stuff. And everything in between. Visiting Japan for the first time causes sensory overload.

Tag along. It'll be fun. I promise. And given that my Japanese is limited to "please bring me 2 beers. Quickly" or "can I have your underpants and bra", it's guaranteed to be an interesting Do.

Now I need to figure out what the word "hentai" means…its what the girls from my office in Japan used to call me.

Talk soon...
eightblack is offline  
Old Mar 23, 13, 11:38 am
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Fantastic start, once again! I have just purchased my ticket to Toyko...thanks for the motivation!
mmbryan is offline  
Old Mar 23, 13, 3:36 pm
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An Eightblack Trip Report I can be a part of!!
SQ421 is offline  
Old Mar 23, 13, 4:27 pm
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Originally Posted by eightblack View Post

Tag along. It'll be fun. I promise. And given that my Japanese is limited to "please bring me 2 beers. Quickly" or "can I have your underpants and bra", it's guaranteed to be an interesting Do.
My english teacher at school (15 years ago) told me, that my english is only good enough to ask where the toilet is and to order a beer. My answer was: Good enough for me ...

So, with that in mind, try "Watashi ni motto bīru o motte ki o kudasai!"
That was quite handy for my girlfriend an mw where we were in Japan in 2010 ...

I am wondering which stories will be told about one of my favourite countries in the world ...
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Old Mar 23, 13, 5:01 pm
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Hmm, crowd-sourced trip report? This could be fun.

So is that "bar" you mentioned part of the unofficial evening activities?
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Old Mar 23, 13, 5:22 pm
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Originally Posted by eightblack View Post
Now I need to figure out what the word "hentai" means…its what the girls from my office in Japan used to call me.
This reminds me of an English guy (don't know what's happened to him or where he is now... haven't heard from him in years) who went to Japan to improve his karate, earned good money teaching English to Japanese executives and ended up as a professor in one of the prestigious private universities in Tokyo. He also taught himself Japanese in Kabukichō bars, which by the way might have been better than a guy who learned Japanese from his girl friend but that's another story, and I used to give him and a German guy informal Japanese lessons. The German guy wanted to learn Japanese so he could communicate with his future in-laws. Their deference to grammar couldn't have been more different.

When he was finally leaving Japan (for the first time as it turned out) to return to the UK to finish his PhD, the English guy went to a TOTO showroom in Ginza and asked a bewildered receptionist for a supply of stickers of matchstick men standing in front of and sitting on Western-styled toilets to bring back as souvenirs from Japan for his friends in England. One of the words he learned but never had a chance to use until one day when he was in a Kabukichō bar where he was a regular was 'seitenkan', which confused other regulars who didn't know he spoke any Japanese.

I've been awake since 5am and am already sleepy. Not sure if I should adjust to Japan time or stick to GMT which might give me a better chance of making it to Tsukiji on Friday or Saturday morning. I'm off to Chidorigafuchi probably tomorrow (likely to be too crowded today) to take some pictures so you guys know what you have missed by the time you get there next weekend.
NewbieRunner is offline  
Old Mar 23, 13, 7:47 pm
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Guys, enjoy yourselves! I will be visiting the historical Kyoto and Osaka instead
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Old Mar 23, 13, 9:14 pm
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Now THIS is writing! eightblack, your ability to bring joy to so many without benefit of even a single picture or video is without equal here on FT. Others would do well to emulate you - if they could, which of course they can't. You're an original!

I'll be looking forward to this report as it unfolds in the coming weeks. ^^
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Old Mar 23, 13, 9:16 pm
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Subscribed.. this sounds like one for the ages!
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Old Mar 23, 13, 9:47 pm
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Just finished reading through all your previous TR's this week. I was beginning to go through withdrawals! But now, I have got my fix of eightblack writing and satire.

Keep 'em coming!
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Old Mar 23, 13, 11:11 pm
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This DO is hilarious already and most of us haven't finished packing our bags, let alone left for Tokyo! So looking forward to it all.
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Old Mar 24, 13, 12:31 am
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Great, another week of productivity at work shot as I stalk this thread for new updates. You all enjoy yourselves, and be kind enough to let everybody else know what they are missing. Precisely, succinctly, and with great flourish. Otherwise, it's not an Eightblack (and others) trip report!

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Old Mar 24, 13, 12:49 am
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What a great start eightblack!

I was one of those FlyerTalkers kicking back enjoying some complementary wine at a certain after-after party in a diplomatic suite at the Park Hyatt when the Japan do was born. Some ~10 months later and it is all about to happen.

This will be a big week for me. I shall be driving around Melbourne trying to work out hook turns tomorrow, then Hong Kong for some noodles and champagne with SQ421, then onto Singapore for a global "meeting" and finally arrive in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon for the do.

Looking forward to it. I may post some updates here, if this thread doesn't get too crowded
penegal is offline  
Old Mar 24, 13, 1:32 am
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Originally Posted by penegal View Post

I was one of those FlyerTalkers kicking back enjoying some complementary wine at a certain after-after party in a diplomatic suite at the Park Hyatt when the Japan do was born. Some ~10 months later and it is all about to happen.
Yours truly was another, along with *A Flyer, everywhere, upup&away, FriendlySkies and a couple of others. We need a picture of those in attendance, along with the organisers, for keepsake.

Originally Posted by penegal View Post
This will be a big week for me. I shall be driving around Melbourne trying to work out hook turns tomorrow, then Hong Kong for some noodles and champagne with SQ421, then onto Singapore for a global "meeting" and finally arrive in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon for the do.
Bah, hook turns. If you'd learned to drive in BOM, it'd just be another usual thing you do while driving. I still need to work out just where to meet you in HKG.
SQ421 is offline  
Old Mar 24, 13, 2:13 am
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^ Can't wait for the rest!
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