Postcard 4

Issue Number : iv
Date : January 11, 1996
Period Covered : 12/07/95 - 12/15/95
Current Location: Beijing
Future Stops : Japan(Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima), London

Having spent my last day in Australia tanning myself on Bondi
Beach, I wasn’t prepared for the winter weather in Japan.
Tokyo was cold and I didn’t have any warm clothes. I froze my
butt off my first day and was not looking forward to the
weather on the slopes for my weekend skiing trip.

I wanted to do some winter clothes shopping in Tokyo before
heading off skiing, but that proved to be too difficult. Japan
was very alien to me. I felt out of place and very disoriented
in Tokyo. Jetlag, cultural differences, and the language
barrier overwhelmed me my first day there.

My ski trip plans were made at the last minute so things were
pretty disorganized. We were all supposed to crash at the
place where I was staying so we could all head for the airport
the next morning. Things did not look good when the girl that
had all the plane tickets and travel plans did not show up.
She got drunk at her company’s Xmas party and never made it to
my place. She didn’t call to tell us and when we called her
house, she had passed out. I was very pessimistic that this
trip was ever going to happen but eventually everything worked
itself out.

I was surprised at how good the skiing conditions in Japan
were. When you think of places to ski, Japan does not
immediately come to mind. The mountains weren’t very steep but
we had fresh powder and nice big moguls. The Japanese were
very strong skiers and there was a large snowboarding culture
present. Snowboarding is mainly a young person’s sport in
North America, but I saw a wide age range of shredders in
Japan. The skiers have a tendency to wear the same outfits and
ski together in big groups. When going downhill, you had to
watch out for and weave around these ski caravans.

Skiing in Sapporo felt like skiing in Europe. There are long
lift lines at the gondolas, everyone smokes on the slopes and
everything is frighteningly expensive. I spent over $700 for
just 1.5 days of skiing and that was considered a good price
too! The weather wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to
be. We had fresh snow during our 2 days but it wasn’t too
cold. Dressing in layers of t-shirts kept me warm enough, but
my sweatpants were frozen solid by lunchtime. Overall, it was
a good experience and a nice way to break in the ski season.

Back in Tokyo, I spent a lot of my time getting lost. The
subway system is simple enough, but finding your way around
after you get off the subway is difficult. There are multiple
exits at every station and you have to figure out exactly which
one to take. Addresses are organized not by street names but
by numbered blocks in each neighborhood. I had to consult a
local map frequently to find out which way to go. The Japanese
are extremely polite and will go out of their way to help you,
but they have to understand you first. I met a lot of people
that didn’t speak English or if they did, they were too shy to
use it with me.

There are so many different types of Japanese cuisine and I did
my best to sample them all. I didn’t like sushi or sashimi
before I got to Japan. I don’t like the idea of eating raw
fish but now I have been converted. They have these sushi
places where you get to choose your food from a revolving
conveyor belt that passes in front of you. I love pasta and
Tokyo was perfect for me. My mission was to try as many noodle
shops as I could find, sort of my own version of Tampopo. The
ramen shops were my favorite places for a quick and cheap
snack. (Cheap is a relative term in Japan. Ramen was not the 3
for a dollar variety you get in the supermarket. In Tokyo its
about 8 bucks for a bowl. More for udon or soba.)

I was staying near Roppongi, one of the nightlife districts in
Tokyo. I didn’t like hanging out there too much because it was
crawling with gaijin. Most of the bars were dead but that was
probably because we were only there on weeknights. One place
that I did like was Bauhaus. It is a very tiny club with a
live band. You sit on sofas and the band cranks out loud
covers of guitar driven rock from the 70’s and 80’s. The guys
in the band are all excellent musicians and the lead guitarist
is a cross between Alice Cooper and Angus Young. I think the
band owns and manages the club. They play about 4 sets a night
and in between sets they wash dishes, bus tables and serve

The Japanese are known for being great copiers or imitators.
This was no exception. The music sounded great. They could
play each song note for note. Very impressive since they were
doing covers of Clapton, Floyd and Zeppelin. But from the way
they were singing, I could tell they did not speak English.
They learned the songs phonetically and you could hear their
accents. It was a funny to hear impeccably played songs like
“Jumping Jack Frash” and “Rive and Ret Die”.

The crowd include some local Japanese businessmen that were
going bonkers. They knew all the words, were whooping it up,
played air guitar, did that head banging motion and were
getting hammered. A very strange and hilarious sight. This
must be the place where the reserved Japanese salarymen let
their hair down. Highly recommended if you’re ever in the

My stay in Japan was only a short one. I wanted to stay longer
but I had an unchangeable flight on the 15th. I was planning
to spend Xmas in Hong Kong, New Year’s in China and then come
back to Japan. I said sayonara to Japan for now.

Random Thoughts
During my week in Japan I experienced and saw some
inventions/ideas that were ingenious, bewildering, strange and
funny. Here is a partial list:
vending machines that talk
lockers outside buildings for shoes and umbrellas
condoms for different blood types
toilets tanks with built in sinks
toilet seats with built in bidets
pens with anti-bacterial coatings
cars with side mirrors on the hood
taxis with automated doors
anti-fog mirrors in the bathroom
tv screens in subway cars
door-to-door baggage delivery service
Japanese women do not know that it is wintertime. They wear
the shortest miniskirts I have ever seen. I’m definitely not
complaining but they must be freezing.
You never need to buy tissues in Tokyo. There are people
handing out packs of tissues on every corner. The packaging
contains adverts so you are constantly bombarded with tissue
I still don’t get sumo wrestling. Maybe its my phobia about
fat people. Some of these guys are HUGE. Seeing mounds of
flab on men in diapers jumping on each other is not a pretty
Hotel telephone surcharges are killing me. I spent over $200
last month just to check my email.
I am trying to minimize the time that it takes me to download
my messages. If you are replying back, please don’t include
the text of my postcard in your reply. TVM
** Sundeep – Thanks for the .pic file. Too bad my palmtop
doesn’t have the memory to view it. Did you find it in
Luckytown? Are u a closet fan? **
** Tracy – Are you in HK now or has that been delayed until
Apr? Too bad we can’t meet up. So close yet so far. **
** Rob – You were right about Japanese women. I have a new
appreciation for them. Now if I only could take a crash course
in japanese. **
** Gary – I will be your nanny only if I get to do it in a
foreign country with housing and cost of living allowances.
😉 **
** Sonia – I saw your blurb on the Web. Who made you write
that propaganda? **
** Julia – I hope we can save Ernie and Bert. **

Quote of the Day
the snow is falling down
it’s colder day by day
I can hear people singing
it must be Christmas time
– C. Hynde

The views expressed in this postcard are solely my own. They
may not be politically correct and may even be exaggerated.
Names may be changed to protect the innocent or guilty parties.
I do not have a spell checker so typographical errors will be
common. Reproduction or rebroadcast without the expressed
written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly