Face in the crowd

July 3 2007

My travel reading this week is Devil in the White City, a non-fiction page-turner about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a murderer in its midst.  But as I have traveled around Tokyo in the last 18 hours, I feel more like "white devil in the city"... not in any derogatory way, but in that there are simply very few gaijin to be seen, anywhere.  It seems like there were more foreigners around during my last visit in 2003, though much of everything else -- down to the recorded voices on the subway and in the airport -- looks and sounds the same.  The subways have been helpfully updated with station numbers (as in M-12 or Z-10), making it much easier to figure out which train to get on in which direction, but one still has to avoid the "women only" car, watch out for the "no cell phone" zone (not a problem this week for me), and ensure that you've paid the right fare for distance traveled.

I had also forgotten just how hot and humid Tokyo is in July.  Don't know where my towel is, either -- that is, the ubiquitous hand towel that Japanese men carry with them at all times.

Last night, I took the subway to Shinjuku for a walk around and a bit of shopping.  I could not avoid the temptation of a snack from the "Bagel & Bagel" kiosk in the subway.  Dinner was excellent sushi in the hotel's sushi bar, where the sushi chef introduced me to the wonder of using sea salt and a bit of lime juice, rather than soy sauce, as the enhancer for pieces of squid and eel.  Fantastic.  I even ate the uni  -- so as not to offend -- which I never would at home, and that was pretty good, too.

Hardest adjustment so far -- can't find any Diet Coke, only Coca-Cola Zero...and I can't bring myself to drink something with the word "sweat" in the brand name.  Second hardest -- I still wish I better understood the Japanese ritual of bowing better.  It feels like I am experiencing that more this trip than on prior ones.  (Slight update for Pocari Sweat reference)

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