Thursday, April 12, 2007


Narita airport is something between 60 and 90km from downtown Tokyo, depending which guide book you're reading, but either way it's a very long train journey or apparently 300 dollars in a cab. So, as we only expected to be here for one night, we're staying at the Narita Hilton, near the airport.

In the bar yesterday evening, I had my first lesson in Japanese culture. The waiters first bowing, then crouching down below my eye-level to talk to me or serve my drink. The seats are pretty low anyway, so this is some big crouch thing going on. I wonder how I could ever strike up any kind of meaningful conversation or relationship with a bartender under these circumstances (which disturbs me.) On top of which, I am feeling for their knees.....

Then this morning I had to become familiar with the ritual at the swimming pool. First there's the bowing, then establishing that I want to swim when the receptionist understands no English, so a bit of swimming miming followed by some more bowing. Then I get a locker key in exchange for my room key and a bow, then some form filling in exchange for some towels and some bowing. Wow. I'd pretty much had a workout by the time I got to the entrance. Then you have to take your shoes off and swap them for some slippers to walk to the changing room, where you take them off again (?) and put them in the slipper basket. Then before getting into the pool you have to walk through a series of about 3 showers and paddling pools until you're really really clean. And only then can you go swimming, but only if you're wearing compulsory swimming cap and goggles. I have to say though, it's all worth it. This is the best pool ever in a hotel, and possibly the best pool ever. Period.

To Narita City. Disguised as a village. Narita is a quaint little place, with two very contrasting main purposes - the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple complex, and the fact that it's an airport City. The former wins out, so despite the fact that hundreds of airline crew are passing through each week, there are still only a couple of English speaking bars and the more traditional shops, restaurants and drinking places are much more predominant. We got incredibly stared at of course. (Not only is there an Afro-Caribbean person in town, but he's with a white person in strange clothes. And they're both really really tall.)

The traditional food was freaking me out. Old men were cooking what looked like large long caterpillars in the front of tiny dark restaurants. Big maggoty things were swimming in buckets before being fried. I was particularly alarmed by all this on account of the fact that our holiday insurance ran out today. The TH was up for it, but I stuck with the only food in the whole City that I recognised.

The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple area is huge and impressive and consists of many different buildings all having a different purpose. This one for instance - the Issai-Kyouzou (House of all Sutras), houses a complete set of the Buddhist scriptures.

Feeling suitably karmic after a long walk around the temples, we headed for the English speaking bar - the Barge Inn. Here we met the wonderful, witty and sharp bartender Bryan. All karmic feelings went swiftly out of the window when the freight pilots came in. A true boys club. After a couple of pints the conversation turned to women and one of them stated pointedly in my direction 'It's our fault - we should never have given women the vote'. Bryan leapt in with a 'Come on guys, there's a lady present', so Mr Pilot added 'no offence - we're simple creatures - all we need from women is a bit of rubby-rubby and a cold beer'.

Eeewwww. Nice guys. Not. Haha. After a couple more happy hour drinks and moans about their ex (quel surpris) wives, they left (as Bryan had predicted - apparently freight pilots don't like to pay full price), and we had a good long chat with B about how to get to Tokyo the following day and what to do there....


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