The flight from Gimpo (Seoul) to Haneda (Tokyo) was uneventful and made pleasant by the relative smallness of the two airports. ANA had an entertainment system, but I wasn’t even able to watch an entire 91-minute movie.
Little did I know that my hotel had a movie channel that plays an odd selection of movies in English. I have since seen parts of “You’ve Got Mail,” “Revenge,” “Ghostbusters,” “Speed,” and “Conan the Barbarian.” Yes, I have yet to see anything outside the 80s or 90s.
For those who’ve never been to Japan, you probably don’t entirely appreciate how unusual it is to have even an English channel in a business hotel. But then, my hotel is unusual: they offer free soda in the lobby, they bring the breakfast to the room at a time I pick the previous evening, and they have a bevy of hair products stocked in the loo. They also have a “day use” rate, which makes me wonder and then immediately suppress my curiosity, because as far as I’m concerned I’m just happy with the bigger bed. Finally, the hotel is called “City Hotel NUTS,” which, given the Japanese tendency to say “shee you later” instead of “see you later” earns it the distinction of funniest hotel name in my limited experience. (NUTS stands for New Urban Time and Space, but I’m not sure that makes things better.)
On Friday, I did laundry in the next coin laundry because the cleaner won’t take underwear. I then went to the JAIMA show and marveled at the things companies come up with when trying to market their stuff: mostly young women in short skirts, but also stuff like croissants in a can. Maybe if we hand out free pizza at our next show…
In the evening, I lay in my bed and suddenly felt this shaking. It took me a while to realize that it was an earthquake. It subsided, then shook again, the building gently shuddering. Mizuho would tell me on Sunday that a guy who claimed to be a prophet said that a big one would hit on September 13, so I asked if he had also indicated the time of day because I was flying out in the morning. (Apparently he did get the Hanshin earthquake and the Niigata earthquake right, though who knows.)
On Saturday, I took a train into Kanagawa and met up with Olivier and his family. He had brought back cheese from their recent visit to Switzerland, and invited two other Swiss guys married to Japanese wives, along with their kids. It turned out that I had already met one of them during my stay in Japan in 2001/2002 because we’d both been in touch with the SJCC for scholarships. We joked that I’d really missed the boat – all the guys in Japan snag a Japanese wife, except for me! (It’s easy to joke when you know what lies in store.) It was a good time of chatting and exchanging experiences, and after the two families left Olivier and I took his son Léon for a walk. He was in good spirits all the time and particularly indefatigable on the swingset. Etsuko says he’s the liveliest of his age group, and she’s glad that the next one’s a girl!
That night my internet was slow and Janet and I only exchanged brief messages. I didn’t think to do what I did the next morning: unplug the LAN cable routerside and plug it in again. If only real life was that simple: when a conversation goes sour, you’d stop it, walk ten steps away from the person, turn around, walk back, and it’d all start again with “Hey! How are ya?”
Today I was still in the shower when breakfast came. I felt a bit bad for them having to wait, but when I saw that they were early, not me late, and that they tried to open the door, I stopped feeling bad. I almost missed the train for watching “Speed,” but managed to turn the thing off. It was Uchida-san again, preaching on in his series on 1 Corinthians, this time on verses 1-5 of the fifth chapter. I wish I could understand him, because I’m sure he is saying interesting stuff about this difficult passage I’d have a hard time explaining without some serious study. A good number of friends were there; I got to catch up with Mizuho, whose English is loads better after just one year in California – if anyone knows of a job opening for a Japanese linguist with English skills, let me know and I’ll pass it on! Tim, one of the missionaries on the team, and I went to the supermarket for cheap Japanese food and ate it outside on the smokers’ bench. It’s muggy and hot right now, and the bench was in the shade, so we kept on chatting about Japan and cultural differences in general and the dynamics of family size and adding people to a family. I remember the first time I met Tim I felt I didn’t know what to talk to him about – I didn’t sense any common ground – and now it flows so naturally it’s a joy. His time’s up in December, so I may see him again, but it’ll be sad to say goodbye.
Back in Tokyo, I went to Harajuku again to get more socks, and got to marvel yet again at the propensity of the Japanese to use and purchase umbrellas at the first drop. It had started rumbling, and lightning flashed in the distance; a few drops were indeed falling from the sky, but just moving made them evaporate off my clothing almost as quickly as they wetted it.