Monday, November 14, 2005

Mo' Better Life Extension

In homage to the Japanese's random use of English, post titles will bear little to no relation to the content therein.

So. We begin before the beginning.

This is what happened the last time I went to Japan:

After a round of anger-management classes combined with a daily regimen of yoga, I was able to move beyond the rage of my youth and return with peaceful intentions.

Mount Fuji seen from the plane.

Day 0: After a three-hour nap to Dallas and a 13.5-hour nap to Osaka, I arrived in Japan, where I discovered that it's true what they say: It really is dang hard to find international ATMs in Japan, even in the Osaka airport. But I did find one, and I also managed to turn in my rail pass voucher for the real thing. More on this marvel later. The rail pass voucher form asked for the number of my return flight, which I didn't know. I told the guy "wakarimasen," which led to confusion on both our parts until I remembered that I was saying "I don't understand," instead of "I don't know" ("shirimasen"). Oops. In my Japanese class we only learned how to say "I don't understand," never "I don't know." (Presumably because to not know would be rude.) We also never learned how to say "left" or "right." But we did learn how to say "Kyoto no shisha ni ikimasu" ("I'm going to our branch office in Kyoto"). It ain't called Japanese for Busy People for nothin', folks. Phrasebook consulted and mistake now corrected, I set off with what Socrates tells us is the most important knowledge we can have: the knowledge that we don't know.

First surprise: The Japanese drive on the left! How did I not know that? Whoops. Sorry, Socrates.

My friend D (who was in Paris) had arranged for a friend to let me into her apartment. Which is probably the best apartment in Kyoto. It is definitely on the best street in Kyoto.

Best street in Kyoto.

Other end of best street in Kyoto, the part with the sketchy clubs. So worst part of best street in Kyoto. Still pretty great.

Best vending machine in Kyoto. On best street.

Best toilet in Kyoto. When you flush the toilet, the water in the sink starts running, both washing your hands and refilling the tank. For five days, I washed my hands with that orange thing in the sink. It was really hard to get the soap out. When D came back, I asked her about it. It's an air freshener.

A word, if I may, on Japanese toilets. There are still a lot of squat toilets in Japan, always a delight for the ladies. However, when you chance upon a non-squat toilet, you're in for a treat (and not just because of the drastic reduction in the chances of peeing on your pants--something I once did on Mount Sinai, but in my defense this was not a squat-toilet situation. This was a no-toilet situation. A no-toilet-I-climbed-a-mountain-all-night-and-now- I'm-peeing-while-balancing-on-craggy-rocks situation). Now that I've established my urinary credentials, allow me to continue. First, the seats are heated, which is disturbing at first because you think that the previous person had a shockingly warm posterior (and given the air freshener incident, above, and my tendency to see technological advances where there are none, it's possible that this was in fact the case). Second, when you reach for the toilet paper, the motion activates a sort of "flushing machine," designed to cover any embarrassing noises. You can adjust the volume. There are three settings: loud, soft, and off. In the sink, not only is the faucet motion-activated, but the soap dispenser is as well (real soap this time). If you can't find the hand drier, look in the sink. The drier is inside it, on the opposite end from the faucet.

Coming up: geisha, attempts to buy compasses, and lots of monkeys.


baj said...

BRILLIANT! i can't believe i've been writing up all these travelogues for us when you've had this sheer genius up your sleeve the whole time. it's almost 4:30am and i'm cackling like a banshee reading about your air freshner incident.

Blanqui said...

Aw, Baj, you know you're me inspiration!