Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 6

Hachiko Statue at Shibuya Station, Tokyo Japan

Golden Week

Continuing the story of my time in Japan as a 20 something. Michael and I both worked a lot while we lived in Kyoto. Although Michael did not work on the weekends, the weekdays were completely absorbed by work responsibilities. As mentioned before, Michael took two trains to work, so he had to get up early in order to be to work by 7:30am. I worked many nights, and there was no way I was going to get up early to see him off (I'm pretty selfish that way). Michael worked regularly until about 6:00 or 7:00pm and then there were the almost nightly Konpa's: after work drinking parties. These parties got very expensive too as everyone split the bill evenly. Even though Michael did not drink and was probably the lowest paid person there, he had to pay the same as everyone else for the Konpa. Sometimes the founder of the company would rescue him and pay for him and then take him home in his Mercedes limousine, but that was rare. It is not appropriate to decline going to an after work drinking party and totally unacceptable to quibble over the bill. Whether I had to work on Saturday or not, Michael slept a good part of the day. I am not sure if it is true what they say, that you cannot make up for lost sleep, but Michael sure gives it a good try.

As a "Salary Man" the Japanese vacation is a real double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are guaranteed certain vacation time because there are universal days off in Japan, namely New Years (first few days of the calendar year), Golden Week (roughly the first week of May) and Obon (a week in August). On the other hand, everyone has the same time off, so everything is incredibly crowded and expensive. During my time in Japan, Golden Week allowed Michael and I the opportunity to spend a whole seven days together. I was also very excited to ride a "bullet" train to Tokyo, see Michael's friend Bruce, visit the Tokyo Tower, experience Japanese Disneyland, visit Ueno Koen (big park with a great zoo), and hang out under King Kong at the Roppongi Hard Rock Cafe.

The bullet train, as it turns out, is just a really fast train. Yes, very practical, but actually not all that cool. Everything goes by in a blur and you get to where you want to go faster. That's it. I'm not sure what I was expecting? The Tokyo Disneyland was interesting. I have now been there 3 times and I for sure prefer the California Disneyland, but it was an experience. Again, we were there Golden Week and it was excruciatingly crowded. The line for the Michael Jackson exhibit (this was 1987) was over 3 hours long. I don't know if they ever had this show at any of the other parks, but suffice it to say Japanese people LOVE Michael Jackson. We did not wait in that line. It was interesting to see all the Japanese Disney princesses and there were far fewer rides, so the lines were crazy long. Michael, having grown up in LA, is really not a huge fan of Disneyland, so let's just say we didn't close out the park.

I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Tokyo. The one thing I did not thoroughly enjoy however, was waiting in line for approximately one and a half hours at the Ueno Park Zoo to see the famous Panda Bears. I am not an altogether patient person, but I will definitely wait to see Pandas. I did my best to remain calm even with my 23 year old exuberance at the possibility of an imminent sighting of one of the cutest animals in the world. I am not a huge fan of keeping wild animals locked up in cages, but since they were already there and I knew me boycotting the situation would mean nothing with the thousands of visitors they were welcoming each day, I decided to see these pandas for myself. So, as the anticipation builds, so do the number of signs all around the pandas that say "NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY" in nearly every language imaginable. I understand the words no FLASH photography. I know the difference between with and without flash. So, in a literal sea of asian faces, Michael and I stand out and when the Japanese girl next to me snaps herself a nice FLASH photo of the pandas, guess who gets kicked out... YEP, you got it, ME!!!! After standing in line an hour and a half, I manage to get about a 30 second glimpse of the pandas... and this is what I saw:

Fei Fei the Panda at Ueno Park Zoo

Yeah, I don't think she cared about the flash photography and clearly, since there is a glass wall in front of me and a flash would certainly leave a reflection, I did not use my flash. But once a mean old Security Guard has escorted you from the premises, there is really not much else to do other than get really mad at the person standing next you... in this case Michael. I believe a temper tantrum ensued and possibly chocolate was required to calm the whole situation down.

Speaking of getting really mad, as my time in Japan grew longer, my patience for our situation grew shorter. Even though I had learned to love Japan, I needed to finish my education and I became impatient to return home. In June, all hell broke loose.

Until next time... bye, bye.

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