Since the 80’s, I’ve had a thing for Japan.  Kind of started with James Clavell’s Shogun and the mini-series with Richard Chamberlain.  I was hooked.  I revived it again in college by taking Japanese. I thought for a while I would get my degree in international finance and take Japan by storm, but I never did quite make that trip.  Briefly after college, I went back again by reading Clavell’s trilogy (Shogun, Noble House, and Tai-Pei), but again never made it over (t)here. Going to Japan now has been a bit of a fulfillment, but it wasn’t quite enough.  Something tells me I’m not done with JP (how the local Microsoft folks abbreviate their country) and Asia in general.  Time will tell and it’s why I don’t say “Sayonara.”

Anyway – the Japanese I took in college is pretty much gone.  It’s so different from English and Romance languages in general that without using it regularly, it goes away.  Particularly writing.  In college, I knew the Katakana and Hiragana phonetic alphabets and about 500 Kanji (the single symbol for a word, just like Prince).  I could still recognize the difference between them, but their meaning isn’t there anymore.  I also couldn’t understand most everything being spoken, but I could hear the individual words.  I did recognize some words as ones that I used to know, but it’s also different hearing a language spoken natively than in a classroom.  Case in point:  I kept hearing people say “ohayou goziamasu,” or “good morning” when I would leave a restaurant after dinner.  Confused me quite a bit until I really listened closely and realized that much like you’ll never hear a native of Louisiana say “new” when speaking of New Orleans, they were swallowing the middle part of “arigatou” when saying “arigatou goziamasu” or “thank you very much”.

Tokyo is massive in a different way than Shanghai.  While Shanghai boasts the largest population by city limit, Tokyo has the largest by metropolitan area at close to 40 million people.  The buildings in Shanghai are also generally taller, which means Tokyo spreads out more – enough so that it is also one of the world’s largest cities by land area.

I am now officially a sushi snob.  I made it to the Tsukiji fish market early in the morning and had a sushi breakfast.  The plate I ordered is in the carousel and I also put it on FB.  I do have to admit, I ordered that tray just so I could take that picture.  It may not seem like much, but it was difficult to eat that much.  The last few pieces, I had to abandon the rice and just do sashimi so I could finish it.  We also went to a conveyor-belt sushi place not too far from the office where after I had already eaten it, I was informed I had just eaten fugu.  I was sorely disappointed because the thrill of eating it was missed.

The Japanese are also very conservative when it comes to their business approach, including dress.  While I didn’t take the train to work, I had to walk through a train station to get there.  Suits, suits, suits.  Everywhere I looked, suits.  80% black, 15% Navy, 5% other and by other I mean charcoal gray.  And all the men were wearing white shirts.  There were a few oddball stripes here and there, but they were far between and even those were a white base.  Kind of made me think of Homer Simpson going to work in his pink shirt.  “Smithers!  Who is that rabble-rouser?  Judging by his outlandish attire he’s some sort of free-thinking anarchist!”  I digress…  There are people working the subway who have the sole job of pushing as many people onto the train as possible.  Since I walked to work while there, I didn’t get to experience that, but it might be a job I would have success with:  Mongo fill train!

Great seafood, great people, great time.  More stories with the pictures below.